pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 3)

2 : the act or occasion of receiving money or material gain especially as compensation or as a bribe
3 : the climax of an incident or enterprise specifically : the denouement of a narrative
4 : a decisive fact or factor resolving a situation or bringing about a definitive conclusion



Definition of payoff (Entry 2 of 3)

: yielding results in the final test : decisive

pay off

paid off; paying off; pays off

Definition of pay off (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to pay (a debt or a creditor) in full
b : to give all due wages to especially : to pay in full and discharge (an employee)
c : bribe
2 : to inflict retribution on
3 : to allow (a thread or rope) to run off a spool or drum

intransitive verb

: to yield returns

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Synonyms & Antonyms for payoff

Synonyms: Noun

earnings, gain, lucre, net, proceeds, profit, return

Synonyms: Verb

ante (up), balance, clear, discharge, foot, liquidate, meet, pay, pay up, pony up, quit, recompense, settle, spring (for), stand

Antonyms: Verb


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Examples of payoff in a Sentence


You'll have to work hard but there'll be a big payoff in the end. We expected more of a payoff for all our hard work. We made a lot of sacrifices with little payoff. Several city officials have been accused of receiving payoffs from the company. He lost his factory job but received a payoff and a pension.


I finally paid off the loan. she paid off the security guard so that she could steal whatever she liked
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But the big payoff for the conference’s 12 schools comes over the next six years, a windfall of at least $6.77 million that starts in 2020 with a $1.1 million payment from the NCAA. Larry Fenn, The Seattle Times, "Money Madness: AP analysis shows growing gap in NCAA payouts," 27 Mar. 2019 The payoffs not just for those CEOs but for their shareholders, executive boards, and even early employees have been seldom enjoyed by anyone else in human history. Bridget Read, Vogue, "The Inventor Misses Elizabeth Holmes’s—And Silicon Valley’s—Most Insidious Crimes," 19 Mar. 2019 Today, the challenge remains the same, and the payoff just as large. Chuck Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The State of American Trade Schools," 13 Mar. 2019 For those who start out on the technical side of the labor market, the payoff for adding social or creative skills can also be large. Lauren Weber, WSJ, "The ‘Hybrid’ Skills That Tomorrow’s Jobs Will Require," 21 Jan. 2019 Negotiating skill mixed with a bit of luck helped Preiss land the elusive payoff. Washington Post, "If you get bumped off a flight, make it worthwhile," 30 May 2018 In 2018, the Coyotes can look back at their efforts and already see the payoffs. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Tucson Roadrunners' improbable, fast-tracked inception has them poised for success," 16 May 2018 Then Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey; this sheer shade gives lips depth without a lot of color payoff. Jessica Matlin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle's Makeup Artist on How to Look Like a Modern-Day Duchess," 17 Apr. 2019 To amplify its vibrant color payoff, Mayo spritzed his brush with a setting spray before dipping it into the shadow. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Lizzo Paired Drugstore Lashes With Neon Green Makeup at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards," 29 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Tyler Baltierra can testify that hard work pays off. Natalie Stone,, "Teen Mom OG's Tyler Baltierra Shows Off His Abs After Dropping 40 Lbs.," 12 June 2018 The time had come for his music alter-ego to make his hard work pay off. Joe Robertson, kansascity, "Gentleman singer gunned down in Raytown parking lot was L.A.-bound," 10 June 2018 But Smith points to another trick that might pay off sooner for human medicine: The salamander can also heal large wounds without scarring. Malcolm Ritter, The Seattle Times, "Science Says: Why scientists prize plant, animal genomes," 3 Apr. 2019 Still, having a full complement of players didn’t pay off for the Raptors, who surrendered 18 points on 13 turnovers. Ian Harrison, The Seattle Times, "Lamb hits winning 3, Hornets down Raptors 115-114," 24 Mar. 2019 Those decisions largely paid off for Berkshire during subsequent market declines and recessions. Nicole Friedman, WSJ, "Warren Buffett Can’t Find Anything Big to Buy," 21 Feb. 2019 Inspired by the Madea star, Kid Rock paid off $81,000 in layaway balances at a Nashville Walmart. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Tyler Perry paid off 1,500 Walmart layaway accounts, but the service can be risky for low-income shoppers," 12 Dec. 2018 Despite his cover being blown by the hiring manager, Cash’s innovation pays off., "Sorry To Bother You," 10 July 2018 The fund also pays off lunch fines for children in Minneapolis. Dan Simmons,, "2 years after Philando Castile's death, programs aim to transform relations between police, residents," 8 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'payoff.' 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 payoff


1905, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1932, in the meaning defined above


1607, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for payoff

Last Updated

23 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for payoff

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

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More Definitions for payoff



English Language Learners Definition of payoff

: a good result : the advantage or benefit that is gained from doing something
: something valuable (such as money) that you give to someone for doing something and especially for doing something illegal or dishonest
British : money that a company gives to a worker who is being forced to leave a job


pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Legal Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act or an instance of paying someone off : bribe — compare kickback
2 : the act of paying a debt or creditor in full would release the lien upon the payoff of the balance

pay off

transitive verb

Legal Definition of pay off (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to pay (a debt or credit) in full the loan was paid off
2 : bribe

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More from Merriam-Webster on payoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with payoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for payoff

Spanish Central: Translation of payoff

Nglish: Translation of payoff for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on payoff

What made you want to look up payoff? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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