verb (1)
\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce pay (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

Noun 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 test will cost $20 during sports physical events at OCPS high schools, with financial assistance available if families cannot pay and for those without health insurance who might need follow-up care. Leslie Postal,, "‘It saves lives’: OCPS students must get ECGs to play sports, school board decides," 4 May 2021 Customers can use a common work lounge in return for a $50 monthly membership fee, and pay extra for private workspaces and meeting rooms. Konrad Putzier, WSJ, "Suburban Homes and Retail Are the Budding New Office Hotspot," 4 May 2021 The Compton native wants to pay it forward and support her peers. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, "This entertainment CFO sees a ‘blockbuster’ year ahead," 4 May 2021 Nearly $33 million was spent to pay emergency medical personnel and buy equipment ranging from medical mannequins to take-home computers as well as cover other expenses such as face masks, advertising costs and cellphone bills. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Minaret vaccination, Rushmore fight, enrollment drops: News from around our 50 states," 4 May 2021 That's frustrating for taxpayers who are banking on their tax refund to pay for essentials or to take care of their debts. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "IRS is holding millions of tax returns, delaying refunds," 3 May 2021 The conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 5 years in prison. Brooke Baitinger,, "Boca Raton telemarketing company owners face federal charges in $46 million health care fraud," 3 May 2021 The transfer and use agreement allowed the city to pay real estate taxes and fees and take over the deed to the building. Steve Lord,, "Aurora agrees to take over East Side center," 3 May 2021 Offer to pay first and a security foregoing a third month payment for a more affordable option. Danielle James, Essence, "How To Secure An Apartment When You Have Inconsistent Income," 3 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There’s nothing at all awkward about black people working without pay for white people. Kyle Smith, National Review, "When Oldie Met Sally," 5 May 2021 Smith, who has intellectual disability and an IQ of 70, was forced to work more than 100 hours per week without pay by Bobby Edwards, who took over management of J&J Cafeteria in 2009. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Black man enslaved by White manager should receive more than $500,000 in restitution, court says," 5 May 2021 Employees who won’t comply will be suspended without pay, and later terminated, a policy the hospital feels key to keeping patients safe. Anchorage Daily News, "Can my boss really fire me if I don’t get vaccinated for COVID-19?," 3 May 2021 Nosalik recommended on April 14 that Sheskey be suspended without pay for the policy violation. NBC News, "Wisconsin cop who shot Jacob Blake had service weapon stolen," 3 May 2021 John Christopher Smith was forced to work at a cafeteria in Conway without pay for years. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "A restaurant manager who forced a Black man to work without pay owes him more than $500,000 in restitution, court rules," 3 May 2021 Campbell, 25, who made his major league debut April 3, tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), according to MLB, and will be suspended without pay. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Marlins pitcher Paul Campbell suspended 80 games by MLB for PED violation, two days after first start," 3 May 2021 Nosalik recommended on April 14 that Sheskey be suspended without pay for the policy violation. Fox News, "Wisconsin cop who shot Jacob Blake had service weapon stolen," 2 May 2021 Through physical violence, threats and intimidation, Edwards coerced Smith, 43, into working more than 100 hours per week without pay, The Washington Post reported. Washington Post, "Black man enslaved by White restaurant manager should be awarded more than $500,000, court says," 2 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Or an expansion of co-pay coupons to Medicare, where they’re now banned? Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of October 12," 16 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for pay

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pay

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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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