verb (1)
\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce paid (audio) \ also in sense 7 payed; paying

Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to make due return to for services rendered or property delivered paid the pizza deliverer
b : to engage for money : hire You couldn't pay me to do that. paid a teenager to mow his lawn
2a : to give in return for goods or service pay wages
b : to discharge indebtedness for : settle pay a bill
c : to make a disposal or transfer of (money) paid a few dollars weekly into a savings account
3 : to give or forfeit in expiation or retribution pay the penalty
4a : to make compensation (see compensation sense 2) for His trouble was well paid in the end.
b : to requite according to what is deserved pay them back
5 : to give, offer, or make freely or as fitting pay attention pay your respects
6a : to return value or profit to it pays you to stay open
b : to bring in as a return an investment paying five percent
7 : to slacken (something, such as a rope) and allow to run out used with out paid out the rope as it jerked taut

intransitive verb

1 : to discharge a debt or obligation I'll pay when I have the money.
2 : to be worth the expense or effort crime doesn't pay
3 : to suffer the consequences of an act He paid for his crime.
pay one's dues
1 : to earn a right or position through experience, suffering, or hard work He's paid his dues and deserves a promotion.
2 or less commonly pay dues : pay sense intransitive 3
pay one's way or pay one's own way
: to pay one's share of expenses She took a part-time job to pay her own way through college.
pay the piper
: to bear the cost of something You have to do what they say because they are paying the piper.
pay through the nose
: to pay exorbitantly or dearly I found the perfect dress, but I had to pay through the nose for it.



Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : something paid for a purpose and especially as a salary or wage : remuneration
2a : the act or fact of paying or being paid
b : the status of being paid by an employer : employ
3 : a person viewed with respect to reliability or promptness in paying debts or bills
4a : ore or a natural deposit that yields metal and especially gold in profitable amounts
b : an oil-yielding stratum or zone



Definition of pay (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : containing or leading to something precious or valuable
2 : equipped with a coin slot for receiving a fee for use a pay telephone
3 : requiring payment


verb (2)
payed also paid; paying

Definition of pay (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to coat with a waterproof composition

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Choose the Right Synonym for pay

Verb (1)

pay, compensate, remunerate, satisfy, reimburse, indemnify, repay, recompense mean to give money or its equivalent in return for something. pay implies the discharge of an obligation incurred. paid their bills compensate implies a making up for services rendered. an attorney well compensated for her services remunerate clearly suggests paying for services rendered and may extend to payment that is generous or not contracted for. promised to remunerate the searchers handsomely satisfy implies paying a person what is required by law. all creditors will be satisfied in full reimburse implies a return of money that has been spent for another's benefit. reimbursed employees for expenses indemnify implies making good a loss suffered through accident, disaster, warfare. indemnified the families of the dead miners repay stresses paying back an equivalent in kind or amount. repay a favor with a favor recompense suggests due return in amends, friendly repayment, or reward. passengers were recompensed for the delay

Examples of pay in a Sentence


He has been suspended without pay pending the results of the investigation. Each pay period begins on the first of the month. Workers received a $4,000 pay increase. I took a significant pay cut when I took this job, but I think it was worth it.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the mid-1950s, 63 percent of all income generated by American business was paid out to labor and 37 percent to capital. David Webber, The New York Review of Books, "Labor’s Last Hope?," 17 June 2019 It is run by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy pays the museum's lease, which is up in three years. Fox News, "National Atomic Testing Museum in Vegas looking for new home," 16 June 2019 The best way to find those workers is paying attention during the interview process, Wolfe adds. Jenna Schnuer, Fortune, "Turn Remote Worker Pains Into Possibilities With a Pairing of Tech and Talk," 15 June 2019 The fund will pay dividends to employees, while also giving them the same say as other shareholders. The Economist, "The winner (no longer) takes it all," 15 June 2019 The students' attendance did not go unnoticed by several in the crowd, who thanked them for paying tribute to the flag. Erin Sauder, Elgin Courier-News, "Old Glory gets its day in holiday ceremony held in East Dundee," 14 June 2019 Lovett has also been paying close attention to the current Mississippi State team, which is still alive in postseason play. Alvaro Montano, Houston Chronicle, "From Westfield to Mississippi State baseball, Xavier Lovett ‘very excited’ to continue winning," 14 June 2019 Under that arrangement, the city would pay $10 million to nine property owners to buy nine parcels of land totaling 50 acres along the south side of Bilter Road. Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora looks at $10 million purchase of land near outlet mall," 14 June 2019 Two years ago at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Koepka won the U.S. Open by four shots after stewing over the attention paid to two of golf’s fair-haired boys, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. Karen Crouse, New York Times, "Brooks Koepka, Seeking a 3rd Straight U.S. Open Title, Could Be the Star Golf Needs," 13 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Morrison called time's up on equal pay in the 1970s. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "New documentary reveals all about Toni Morrison, from Oprah's first call to early bad reviews," 17 June 2019 The prospect of higher pay helps to explain their ambition, but so does the greater status that comes with each successive title. The Economist, "The promotion curse," 16 June 2019 The companies dispute the claims about pay getting worse. Liz Alderman, New York Times, "Food-Delivery Couriers Exploit Desperate Migrants in France," 16 June 2019 Miyares said the college has started offering more annual contracts to hundreds of adjuncts throughout the United States and will be ushering in pay raises based on performance this fall. Danielle Douglas-gabriel, Washington Post, "‘UMUC is not like everybody else’: Tensions flare over school’s direction," 16 June 2019 Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, referenced the team’s lawsuit against U.S. Soccer alleging gender discrimination and seeking equitable pay. Anne M. Peterson,, "Carli Lloyd scores twice as U.S. women blank Chile 3-0, advance to World Cup round of 16," 16 June 2019 And now, following the record-breaking victory, Twitter is exploding with calls for equal pay on the field. Anabel Pasarow,, "How Much The U.S. Women's Soccer Team Makes & How They're Fighting For More," 15 June 2019 Will free agents no longer take a pay cut to join a winner? Chris Ballard,, "A New Beginning: The Warriors Face an Uncertain Future," 15 June 2019 Rudolph’s 2019 pay increased from $7.625 million to $9.35 million, and his cap number was slashed by more than $4 million. Ben Volin,, "NFL teams take care of last-minute business prior to vacation," 15 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pay

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1610, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pay

Verb (1), Noun, and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French paier, from Latin pacare to pacify, from pac-, pax peace

Verb (2)

obsolete French peier, from Latin picare, from pic-, pix pitch — more at pitch

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Dictionary Entries near pay

Pax Romana

pax vobiscum






Statistics for pay

Last Updated

19 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pay

The first known use of pay was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for pay



English Language Learners Definition of pay

: money received in exchange for work : money paid to someone for doing work


\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād \; paying

Kids Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to give (as money) in return for services received or for something bought Pay the taxi driver. I paid for a ticket.
2 : to give money for (something owed) I have to pay the rent.
3 : to get even with She wants to pay them back for the insult.
4 : to give or offer freely pay a compliment pay attention
5 : to have a worthwhile result : be worth the effort or pains required It pays to drive carefully.
pay off
1 : to give all of what is owed It felt good to pay off a debt.
2 : to have a good result Hours of practice paid off in a successful show.
pay up
: to pay in full especially debts that are due

Other Words from pay

payer noun



Kids Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of giving money for something bought or used or for what is owed : payment
2 : salary My mother got an increase in pay.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pay

Spanish Central: Translation of pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pay

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