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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant passengers have to pay a fee to bring a full-size carry-on bag on board. Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY, "JetBlue's cheapest tickets are getting cheaper but will come with a major catch: no carry-on bag allowed," 17 Feb. 2021 Previously, travelers who arrived in-state without a prior test had to pay $250 to be tested at the airport. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "As COVID emergency expires, Alaska’s border screening becomes optional," 15 Feb. 2021 Someone has to pay for all those trucks, drivers, and chemicals needed to keep roads clear for those who absolutely must be out. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | EDITORIAL: Just chill," 14 Feb. 2021 Police officers ultimately had to pay more for their health care costs and the evergreen period was shortened to eight years under the 2016 contract. Joshua Fechter, San Antonio Express-News, "Talks begin over new contract for San Antonio police amid calls for reform, upcoming vote on bargaining rights," 12 Feb. 2021 This model also has the same power and great design features as other 50-Pint Frigidaire models, like three fan speeds and convenient handles—you’ll just have to pay slightly more for the Wi-Fi connectivity. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Dehumidifiers for the Muggiest Rooms in Your Home," 9 Feb. 2021 Most insurance companies do not cover the cost, so patients have to pay the full $15,000 out of pocket. Norcal Marketing Llc, Chron, "5 Best Male Enhancement Pills: Top Sex Enhancer Supplements For Men 2021," 4 Feb. 2021 During the restart of fall sports last month, football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving personnel received tests from the state, though the MHSAA had to pay for distributing tests to the schools. Dave Boucher And Mick Mccabe, Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Whitmer to lift ban on Michigan indoor contact sports like high school basketball," 4 Feb. 2021 Los Angeles likely had to pay a premium in draft picks to persuade the Lions to take on Goff's deal. Greg Beacham, Star Tribune, "AP sources: Lions trade Stafford to LA for Goff, draft picks," 31 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Conrad says about 30% of his congregation — which now numbers about 125 — left his church over the issue, forcing some budget cutbacks, including a pay cut for Conrad. David Crary, ajc, "Southern Baptists divided over politics, race, LGBTQ policy," 20 Feb. 2021 Conrad says about 30% of his congregation — which now numbers about 125 — left his church over the issue, forcing some budget cutbacks, including a pay cut for Conrad. David Crary, Star Tribune, "Southern Baptists divided over politics, race, LGBTQ policy," 20 Feb. 2021 Other top executives received a 10 percent reduction, though all employees who took a pay cut saw their salaries reinstated last quarter, Rush said. Diego Mendoza-moyers, San Antonio Express-News, "Despite pandemic, Rush Enterprises posts $115 million in 2020 profit," 11 Feb. 2021 The league and the union had two difficult negotiations last year — one in February before the start of the season and a second in June when players took a pay cut in order to resume the 2020 season. Anne M. Peterson,, "MLS warns of possible player lockout next week," 29 Jan. 2021 For example, veteran cornerback Patrick Robinson took a pay cut to come back for 2020. Amie Just | Staff Writer,, "The Saints will look different in 2021, but how many changes will there be? See how we got here," 23 Jan. 2021 Live sports viewers using online pay-TV services are expected to rise to 18.9 million this year from 17.1 million in 2020, according to the firm. Sahil Patel, WSJ, "Startup Pushes Picture-in-Picture Ads for Streaming TV," 15 Jan. 2021 For one, the state would likely need to raise magistrate salaries to attract practicing attorneys who otherwise might have to swallow a drastic pay cut to take the bench. Joseph Cranney, ProPublica, "South Carolina’s Governor Addresses Magistrate Judge Controversy by Urging Changes," 15 Jan. 2021 Green’s 2020 base salary was slightly more than $1 million, so his pay cut amounts to about $103,000. Patrick Danner,, "San Antonio’s Frost Bank confirms layoffs, its first in nearly two decades," 15 Jan. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pay

Time Traveler for pay

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pay

Last Updated

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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