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

Keep scrolling for more

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


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Yet the payoff the movie provides is more than worth the challenge of getting through its most difficult moments. Los Angeles Times, "‘The Babadook’ director Jennifer Kent tackles violence, misogyny and racism in ‘The Nightingale’," 12 Aug. 2019 For most of the patrons of the program, the payoffs will be relatively small and the risk to earn anything is high. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Myracehorse website allows average people to own a piece of action," 26 July 2019 Those federations, those leagues, those nations that are making the effort are already seeing the payoff: successful, profitable teams. Maggie Mertens, The Atlantic, "The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Deserves More Than a Trophy," 7 July 2019 The real payoff here is the songbook of variations on the theme — from easy listening to sensuous R&B to grinding death metal. Michael Andor Brodeur,, "Revolutionary airports, viral nuts, plastic wrap, and more from the week online," 5 July 2019 Enriquez said of his travel plans, rubbing his index finger and thumb together in the universal symbol of under the table payoffs. Dudley Althaus,, "Migration slows in Mexico. But will it last?," 23 June 2019 That birdie put him at 13-under 271 and earned him $2.25 million, the richest payoff in golf. Doug Ferguson, Anchorage Daily News, "Woodland denies history with US Open title at Pebble Beach," 17 June 2019 That birdie put him at 13-under 271 and earned him $2.25 million, the richest payoff in golf. Doug Ferguson, Houston Chronicle, "Gary Woodland claims U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach," 17 June 2019 That birdie put him at 13-under 271 and earned him $2.25 million, the richest payoff in golf. Doug Ferguson,, "Former college basketball player Gary Woodland holds off a surging Brooks Koepka to win the U.S. Open," 16 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The gains are a sign that acquiring a majority stake in Hulu has paid off. Ahiza Garcia, CNN, "Disney's new streaming package with Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu is just $13," 6 Aug. 2019 DeWine’s outreach paid off during his 2018 campaign for governor, in the form of a primary endorsement from the Buckeye Firearms Association, one of the state’s leading pro-Second Amendment groups. Andrew J. Tobias,, "Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine used to favor gun control. So, will he ‘do something’ post-Dayton?," 5 Aug. 2019 The lobbying effort paid off in the Senate as more Republicans voted in favor of the deal than against it. Erica Werner,, "Senate passes two-year budget and debt ceiling bill," 1 Aug. 2019 The lobbying effort paid off in the Senate as more Republicans voted in favor of the deal than against it. Erica Werner, Anchorage Daily News, "Senate passes broad two-year budget deal that increases spending and suspends the debt ceiling," 1 Aug. 2019 The decision to alter Robin’s arc paid off big time, with viewers immediately embracing Robin and loving the way her coming-out scene played during the season. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, "Stranger Things 3 Almost Gave Steve and Robin a Totally Different Ending, According to Maya Hawke," 1 Aug. 2019 Patience paid off for the connections of Gunpowder Farms’ homebred Arrifana, a sophomore daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin who romped to a popular 10-length victory in her career debut Thursday at Laurel. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "Towson football’s Tom Flacco, Shane Simpson named to Walter Payton Award watch list," 1 Aug. 2019 Fast forward to July 2019 and the moves paid off — the USWNT hoisted their fourth World Cup trophy., "Women's World Cup Throwback: 5 Moments Which Defined the USWNT's Four-Year Journey to the Top," 29 July 2019 Many people — like you and your husband — prefer to put the money toward a down payment on a house, paying off credit card debt or travel. Abigail Van Buren, Twin Cities, "Dear Abby: Small wedding at courthouse makes big waves among family," 26 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about payoff

Statistics for payoff

Last Updated

15 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for payoff

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


marked by turns or indirection

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!