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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb An existing customer elsewhere in Europe agreed to pay a higher price in exchange for more guaranteed volume. Ryan Dezember, WSJ, 8 Aug. 2022 And Roundup’s maker has agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by home gardeners and others – many who say they’ve been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to decades of use. oregonlive, 7 Aug. 2022 Musk originally agreed to pay $54.2 per Twitter share. Fortune, 6 Aug. 2022 In June 2021, Franco agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the suit. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2022 Last year, Australia’s government agreed to pay about $280 million in reparations to survivors taken from their families. Harrison Smith, Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2022 In September 2020, the city of Louisville agreed to pay a historic $12 million in a settlement with Taylor’s family. Theresa Waldrop, CNN, 4 Aug. 2022 Last year, the university agreed to pay $73 million in the settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by seven women, on behalf of 5,500 women who were patients of the former UCLA gynecologist, court records show. Teddy Grant, ABC News, 2 Aug. 2022 When the deal was announced in 2020, Simon & Schuster owner ViacomCBS told The Times that German conglomerate Bertelsmann, which owns Penguin, agreed to pay a termination fee if the deal was blocked, but wouldn’t disclose its size. Dorany Pineda, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun These upwardly mobile employees are moving into roles that, in most cases, involve some technology and almost definitely come with better pay, better schedules and, most importantly, better growth potential. Phil Blair, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Aug. 2022 Most companies are accustomed to seeing executive-pay votes get rubber stamped by their shareholders. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, 4 Aug. 2022 But business leaders of small to midsize enterprises are largely left out of this pay-to-play game and forced to play by rules that have been influenced to benefit select industries and corporate giants. Christopher Marquis, Forbes, 2 Aug. 2022 Organizers at the store launched the effort in May in an open letter to company CEO Dan Bane citing concerns about pay, benefits, and safety. Mark Pratt, The Christian Science Monitor, 31 July 2022 Only in rare cases will the state government pay for the procedure. Peter Slevin, The New Yorker, 30 July 2022 The planned pay-per-view fight between Baltimore’s Hasim Rahman Jr. and social media star Jake Paul is off because of an issue with Rahman’s weight, Showtime Sports announced Saturday evening. Childs Walker, Baltimore Sun, 30 July 2022 Still, many school districts are experiencing teacher shortages, with the pandemic exacerbating hurdles like low pay, poor benefits and concerns over safety. Clare Mulroy, USA TODAY, 30 July 2022 Organizers at the store launched the effort in May in an open letter to company CEO Dan Bane citing concerns about pay, benefits and safety. Mark Pratt, ajc, 28 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The hope is that CNN+ will serve as a gateway to a post-pay TV world, connecting the brand’s familiar red and white letters to a generation of viewers who are growing up without cable. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2022 The drug is so expensive at the wholesale level that private insurers place it in the highest co-pay categories; some won’t allow doctors to prescribe it without their prior approval, further narrowing patients’ access. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2022 More than 775 people have already signed up for the company's pre-pay membership, Precompose. Eileen Finan,, 17 June 2021 Or an expansion of co-pay coupons to Medicare, where they’re now banned? Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 16 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near pay




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pay

Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for pay


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pay


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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