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

The $400,000 paid by Peyrek went to a trust fund set up by the Namibian government for wildlife management, conservation, rural development and other activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife. Fox News, "Trump admin to allow trophy hunter to import rare black rhino parts to US," 7 Sep. 2019 Blevins was not paid by Microsoft to stream the game. Patrick Shanley, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Gears 5' Studio Head Plans to "Grow and Flourish" Franchise With Film, Comics, Games," 6 Sep. 2019 But many tech companies offer free products that are paid for by a largely invisible trade in the personal data gleaned from those services. Marcy Gordon,, "States hit Facebook and Google with new antitrust investigations, even as federal probes are ongoing," 6 Sep. 2019 The $400,000 paid by Peyrek went to a trust fund set up by the Namibian government for wildlife management, conservation, rural development and other activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife. Michael Biesecker, Detroit Free Press, "Shelby Township trophy hunter to import body of rare black rhino," 6 Sep. 2019 The $400,000 paid by Peyrek went to a trust fund set up by the Namibian government for wildlife management, conservation, rural development and other activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife. NBC News, "Trophy hunter who paid $400G for rhino kill allowed to import remains by Trump admin," 6 Sep. 2019 So, this means that someone can purchase properties, turn them into Section 8 housing, have the tenants contribute some rent money and the rest is paid by the federal government? Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: So, the government pays homeowners’ mortgage?," 6 Sep. 2019 During a July 11 hearing before Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe, it was revealed that Fierle was being paid by AdventHealth, the hospital system where some of her clients were patients when she was appointed their guardian. Jeff Weiner,, "New guardian of Rebecca Fierle ward who died flags missing funds, accounting issues," 6 Sep. 2019 Inmates, families and advocacy groups have for decades protested the high price of calls, typically paid by family members who open online accounts with Securus and other telecoms. Laurence Darmientostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Troubled companies made him billions. A prison phone investment made him enemies," 5 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Kaiser is also proposing a two-tier system, with new hires receiving lower starting pay, exclusion from the pension plan and reduced medical benefits in retirement. Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, "Kaiser Permanente Colorado, now 50, facing mid-life struggles," 8 Sep. 2019 Union members will receive a 10.5 percent pay increase, spread out over three years, partially off-set by a 1.5 percent increase certain employees will pay into their pensions. Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News, "Silicon Valley light rail, bus drivers reach contract deal after contentious negotiations," 7 Sep. 2019 Yet the monthly jobs report provided some positive signals: Average hourly pay, for example, rose 11 cents in August to $28.11, up 3.2% from a year earlier. Time, "U.S. Hiring Slows But Remains Steady Amid Trade War and Global Economic Weakness," 6 Sep. 2019 Police received a complaint about Forgione, a teacher at Wolcott High School, from a high school student in May. He was immediately suspended, with pay, when the complaint was made, police said. Christine Dempsey,, "Wolcott gym teacher charged with sexual contact with student," 6 Sep. 2019 Power couple Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird get a joint profile, with details and reflections on their routines, life together in Seattle, activism for female athletes and equal pay, and being recognized in public a lot more now. Fortune, "4 Business Leaders on Addressing the Climate Crisis: The Broadsheet," 6 Sep. 2019 South San Antonio Independent School District will pay outgoing Superintendent Alexandro Flores $187,000, or the equivalent of 11 months’ pay, as part of a separation agreement made public Wednesday. Krista Torralva,, "Departing South San ISD super to get $187K in separation agreement," 4 Sep. 2019 But even with a Medicare-for-All system, employers will still wield a massive—and often negative—influence over their employees’ health, through low pay, long hours, few breaks, and little time off. Lena Solow, The New Republic, "The Scourge of Worker Wellness Programs," 2 Sep. 2019 In December, Mortenson, tired of working 50 hours a week for low pay, quit his job as a cook at a vegetarian restaurant and became a full-time member of the gig economy. Matthew Sedacca,, "Cooking eggs in the a.m., shucking oysters in the p.m. — apps help staff restaurants," 1 Sep. 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

11 Sep 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

Comments on pay

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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