verb (1)
\ˈpā \
paid\ˈpād \ 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

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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


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

Almost three times as many Americans pay for a Netflix account each month now compared to four years ago. Tom Hudson, miamiherald, "The house behind ‘House of Cards’," 13 July 2018 Current Time 0:00 / Duration 3:14 CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox names 6 factors schools should pay attention to. Advertisement CMS Superintendent speaks to principals about leadership in schools. Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver, "CMS leader has won fans among teachers. But these moves may test their loyalty.," 13 July 2018 The government had put in the order late and paid late. The Economist, "Venezuelan cash is almost worthless, but also scarce," 12 July 2018 Some of the homes are being constructed with two master bedrooms, a design strategy by builder Reynen & Bardis to help a young single professional buy a home and bring on a housemate to help pay the mortgage. Tony Bizjak, sacbee, "Remember the old state fairgrounds? It’s Sacramento’s newest urban housing hot spot," 12 July 2018 Since the 1970s, however, hours on the job have grown fastest among America’s highest paid workers. Livia Gershon, Longreads, "Clocking Out," 11 July 2018 There’s definitely that undertone in a lot of the Alien movies about messing with things and paying the price, albeit more often because of capitalism than curiosity. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "26 arguments for and against opening Egypt’s new mystery sarcophagus," 11 July 2018 Monica Morgan, 55, will also serve a year of supervised release and pay a $25,000 fine, a judge decided. Dom Calicchio, Fox News, "Widow of union official led 'high-flying lifestyle' on cash meant to train autoworkers: prosecutor," 14 July 2018 The city, which has 11,000 employees, is facing a shortfall in its available funds to pay pension obligations of more than $2.7 billion. David Garrick,, "If state Supreme Court rules against San Diego on pensions, it could could cost city millions," 14 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

More pay, more play In Major League Baseball, players with several years of experience become eligible to resort to arbitration to determine salary for the upcoming season. Kevin Lewis,, "Electoral impacts of robot workers," 13 July 2018 Staff shortages, caused in part by low pay, have plagued the system for decades. Sally C. Pipes, Fortune, "Why Does the Left Want Universal Health Care? Britain’s Is on Its Deathbed," 10 July 2018 That’s up by $1,361 from the $51,779 paid first-year teachers during the 2017-18 school year, according to the district’s pay schedule. Jaimy Jones, Houston Chronicle, "Pasadena ISD OKs pay raise for teachers," 7 July 2018 Starting pay: $8 an hour – 75 cents above the federal minimum wage. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "As economy hums, fewer workers make minimum wage," 6 July 2018 Brilinta fits a pattern of what might be called pay-later conflicts of interest, which have gone largely unnoticed—and entirely unpoliced. Charles Piller, Science | AAAS, "Hidden conflicts? Pharma payments to FDA advisers after drug approvals spark ethical concerns," 5 July 2018 Equal attention, equal pay, equal respect, and equal opportunities as anyone else in the world. Iman Hariri-kia, Teen Vogue, "2 Sisters From Saudi Arabia Tell Us the Importance of Lifting the Driving Ban," 24 June 2018 Roughly 11 million pay more than half their incomes for housing. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "U.S. housing market continues rebound, despite increased inequality, says Harvard report," 19 June 2018 Mecklenburg County's supplement already adds 15 to 19 percent to teachers' state pay, depending on the level of experience and credentials. Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver, "County officials want to give CMS teachers a raise. Can they really do that?," 14 June 2018

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)

Middle English, from Anglo-French paier, from Latin pacare to pacify, from pac-, pax peace


see pay entry 1


see pay entry 1

Verb (2)

obsolete French peier, from Latin picare, from pic-, pix pitch — more at pitch

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Learn More about pay

Dictionary Entries near pay

Pax Romana

pax vobiscum






Statistics for pay

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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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