\ 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 outpaid 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
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 Legislature passed a law this year penalizing California employers who don’t pay fees within 30 days. Mallory Moench, SFChronicle.com, "Gig economy companies made workers arbitrate disputes. Then didn’t pay fees to start cases.," 1 Dec. 2019 The contract stipulates that UTSA will pay Wilson his base salary and supplemental compensation through the term of the agreement, which runs through Feb. 28, 2022. Greg Luca, ExpressNews.com, "Report: Frank Wilson fired as UTSA football coach after four seasons," 1 Dec. 2019 The major drugmakers have little incentive to test their products in children because there are so few customers who can pay high prices. New York Times, "New Strawberry-Flavored H.I.V. Drugs for Babies Are Offered at $1 a Day," 29 Nov. 2019 The Glaisher of the film, by contrast, is a shy bachelor who pays dutiful visits to his parents and struggles to persuade his scientific comrades to take him seriously. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "The Fanciful Flamboyance of “The Aeronauts”," 29 Nov. 2019 Our reporting found the hospital had profited by aggressively pursuing patients who couldn’t pay. ProPublica, "This Doctors Group Is Owned by a Private Equity Firm and Repeatedly Sued the Poor Until We Called Them," 28 Nov. 2019 One of Davis' first orders came from an Auburn fan who paid $40 for Davis to wish their Bama fan boss a happy 50th birthday. Jeremy Henderson, al, "Iron Bowl legend Chris Davis will ruin a Bama fan’s day for $40," 27 Nov. 2019 Mayor's new plan Under the new system, anyone who pays the garbage and recycling cart fee would be allowed the curbside pickup. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Cudahy's mayor promised to expand direct access to the dump. His new proposal would reduce it.," 27 Nov. 2019 The brunt of the new tariffs are felt by American consumers and companies, who have paid about $40 billion in tariffs levied by the Trump administration, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. CBS News, "China says top envoys agree on phone to continue trade talks," 26 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended two games without pay and will miss Sunday’s rematch. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland, "Freddie Kitchens wears a ‘Pittsburgh Started It’ T-shirt out on Friday night," 30 Nov. 2019 But an internal investigation found Evans violated the Florida Highway Patrol’s policy on excessive force, and he was suspended for 40 hours without pay, said public affairs officer Kim Montes. Josh Peter, USA TODAY, "10 years after Tiger Woods' crash: Untold stories of some connected to Woods' scandal," 26 Nov. 2019 But the operator never shared those details with the responding officers and later was suspended for eight days without pay. Christina Maxouris, CNN, "Tamir Rice's mom helped create a safety handbook for young people on interactions with police," 26 Nov. 2019 Lawyers for the guards, who are suspended without pay, said their clients were being blamed for systemic problems that plagued the Metropolitan Correctional Center before Epstein’s death. Washington Post, "April trial date set for guards charged in Epstein death," 25 Nov. 2019 Accordingly, he will be suspended without pay for 10 games, including the Lakers game last Friday, and will be eligible to return after the Golden State Warriors game on November 29th. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "NBA union appeals Heat 10-game suspension of Dion Waiters," 22 Nov. 2019 Options include suspending the teachers without pay, terminating them or reinstating them. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, "Alabama teachers who mocked students in leaked group texts to face ‘repercussions’: Superintendent," 20 Nov. 2019 Walton was serving a four-game suspension without pay for violating the N.F.L.’s personal conduct and substance abuse policy after he was arrested three times from January to March. New York Times, "Dolphins Cut Mark Walton After Battery Arrest," 20 Nov. 2019 He was also suspended from his job without pay for 60 days. BostonGlobe.com, "About 3 a.m. they headed for the strip club, which had just closed for the night. The four officers of the court then walked to a nearby White Castle. The magistrate went inside while the three judges waited in the parking lot.," 16 Nov. 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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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

4 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pay%20through%20the%20nose. Accessed 9 December 2019.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pay

Spanish Central: Translation of pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about pay

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