\ 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 Under Alaska law and the union’s collective bargaining agreement, unionized ASEA employees have 10 days per year to opt out of paying union dues. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska sues union to block automatic collection of dues," 17 Sep. 2019 To dance on television, he will be paid at least a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars—more each week that he does not get eliminated. Antonia Hitchens, The New Yorker, "Dancing with Sean Spicer," 17 Sep. 2019 Instead of paying, county officials appealed to the Baltimore County Circuit Court, which upheld the earlier order to refund her. Alison Knezevich, baltimoresun.com, "Fighting a $11,500 sewer bill, Baltimore County homeowner wins court case," 16 Sep. 2019 Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings were sick of paying late fees for video tapes rented from Blockbuster. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Can a Mattress Startup Be a Tech Company, Too?—Data Sheet," 16 Sep. 2019 Court filings assert that members of the Sackler family were paid more than $4 billion by Purdue from 2007 to 2018. Geoff Mulvihill, courant.com, "Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy," 16 Sep. 2019 So far, the city has demolished more than 19,000 blighted homes, most of which have been paid for with federal Hardest Hit Funds. Kat Stafford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan seeking $250M bond to eliminate all residential blight," 16 Sep. 2019 Learn the importance of paying bills on time and building a solid credit history. cleveland.com, "11 financial lessons that parents, schools should teach kids: Money Matters," 15 Sep. 2019 According to the city, conservative projections show estimated savings of $58 million over the next 20 years, compared to the cost of paying market rents. San Diego Union-Tribune, "City of San Diego cited for asbestos violations at former Sempra building," 15 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun School Board members have been able to receive some small cost-of-living increases without having to go through a politically unpopular vote to raise their own pay. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, "School Board members face over $3,500 in salary cuts," 17 Sep. 2019 In 2017, for example, a Tyson plant in Union City, Tenn., was planning to expand, and a manager at a nearby Pilgrim’s plant requested future pay rates for the positions, according to the complaint. Los Angeles Times, "U.S. chicken industry accused of conspiring to keep immigrant wages down," 3 Sep. 2019 If he's found guilty, Tucker could face life in prison, dishonorable discharge from the military and forfeiture of all his pay and allowances. Fox News, "Coast Guardsman, 19, charged with murdering fellow seaman in Alaska," 29 Aug. 2019 In addition, the company also violated the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, which requires pay rates to match those in the surrounding locality. Marco Santana, orlandosentinel.com, "Feds order Lockheed Martin to pay $325,000 in back wages," 27 Aug. 2019 Improving officer pay District police officers also received a salary increase this year, bumping their starting pay to $50,000. Kaila Contreras, Houston Chronicle, "Bond funds help Humble ISD police department launch new safety initiatives this year," 17 Aug. 2019 Before, the highest pay rate studied was $13 an hour. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "The $15 minimum wage bill has all but died in the Senate," 16 Aug. 2019 As a result, financial advisors are telling women to negotiate for higher pay rates and to invest in their retirement income as soon as possible. Halley Bondy, NBC News, "In the know: Women in the news 8/5-8/9," 9 Aug. 2019 Ride-hail customers, and to a lesser extent drivers, have feasted for years on promotions designed to make trips less expensive or, in the case of drivers, boost their net pay. Alison Griswold, Quartz, "Uber’s earnings were even worse than investors feared," 9 Aug. 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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Statistics for pay

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

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

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

Comments on pay

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


to engage in dissolute behavior

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