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

Yet Mr Putin may pay some lip-service to the notion, perhaps agreeing to another vague ceasefire or limits on Iranian forces near the Israeli border, in the hopes of getting Mr Trump to withdraw American troops from Syria’s east and south in return. The Economist, "Vladimir Putin’s hopes for his long-awaited meeting with Donald Trump," 14 July 2018 The potential summer banger is peppered with New Orleans bounce flavor and Drake makes sure to pay homage to a couple of 504 legends by sampling Lil Wayne and the late Magnolia Shorty. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "Decoding All of Drake's References on 'In My Feelings'," 13 July 2018 At least 18 Facebook ads, apparently paid in Russian rubles, specifically targeted Arizona audiences; many others were seen by broad audience types across the country, including Arizona. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "Arizona servers used by Russian hackers to monitor Democrats, feds say," 13 July 2018 In-state Pennsylvania college students — nearly 90 percent of those enrolled — will pay $224 more per year for a total cost of $7,716 next year, thanks to a 3 percent hike in tuition approved Thursday. Oona Goodin-smith,, "Families of Cosmo DiNardo murder victims speak out, Pa. to pay $2M to fight teacher shortage | Morning Newsletter," 13 July 2018 The convention comes two weeks after the Supreme Court reversed a decades-old policy of public labor unions compelling public-sector workers to pay dues. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Clinton, Sanders, Warren to headline American Federation of Teachers convention in Pittsburgh," 11 July 2018 That metric has risen far more than the amount banks are paying to money-market depositors, boosting lending profits. Rachel Louise Ensign, WSJ, "Investors Look to Earnings to Snap Big-Bank Share Slump," 11 July 2018 If confirmed, Kavanaugh — who paid tribute to his family in his speech, especially his two daughters — would be one of six men on the nine-justice court. NBC News, "Where does Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's Supreme Court pick, stand on abortion?," 10 July 2018 According to records obtained by Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the campaign paid more than $3,600 to RJ Mays Consulting, whose registered agent is Ralph Jones Sr., registration chief of the county’s election department. Stephen Deere, ajc, "Atlanta mayor’s campaign paid firm registered to election official," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The longest-serving state employees with 40 years in public service can retire at up to two-thirds of their pay, plus Social Security. Joseph N. Distefano,, "Pension billions: Can N.J. cops pick better investments than Wall Street pros?," 13 July 2018 There's months and months of preparation for your pay-per-view or live special. Jim Varsallone, miamiherald, "Kenny Omega, Cody talk NJPW G1 Special, which follows Bullet Club TV marathon," 2 July 2018 Sarah Meyer, who is thirty-four, came from Edelman, the global communications firm, and took a pay cut to join N.Y.C. Transit. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 Mesa should have given his pay that day to Lieberthal. John Fay,, "Reds Xtra: The mailbag is overflowing with queries about Bailey, Harvey, Lorenzen," 30 June 2018 Kennedy’s base pay was $322,972 last year; his other pay, $731,991. Cathie Anderson, sacbee, "San Joaquin hospital’s surgeons take 7 spots on list of 10 highest-paid county employees," 29 June 2018 The judge also wrote that Piercy deserved a new hearing to reconsider Karsten's decision to withhold his pay and benefits. Laura Bauer And Max Londberg, kansascity, "Trooper in Lake of the Ozarks drowning death should not have been fired, judge rules," 27 June 2018 In May, Schentrup made headlines for publicly accusing the district of insensitivity for trying to dock her pay for slowly returning to her job after her daughter’s death. Megan O'matz,, "Mother of slain Stoneman Douglas student to get school district security post," 22 June 2018 Guides won’t necessarily be getting a pay cut after Trump’s rule, though. Jake Bullinger, Outside Online, "Trump Cut Wages for Outdoor Guides—and That's Fine," 11 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

6 Nov 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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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).


a private place of worship

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