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 Prosecutors are also seeking to require Bush to pay over $23,000 in restitution to cover the funeral costs for Stallard and Jones. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, 9 June 2021 Lawmakers established a tax on logging to pay for the institute in 1991, at the same time cutting taxes paid by the timber industry that helped fund schools and local governments. oregonlive, 9 June 2021 The legal tender status of the digital currency means that Salvadorans can pay their taxes in bitcoin, prices can be expressed in bitcoin and businesses must accept bitcoin as payment, according to the text of the law tweeted by Bukele. Catherine Thorbecke, ABC News, 9 June 2021 Massachusetts lawmakers appear set to advance a sweeping change to the state tax code to the 2022 ballot and kickstart a bruising political debate over whether the wealthiest residents should pay more in taxes., 9 June 2021 But Uber said cancellations had increased by 117 percent over the year leading up to the recent changes, and that riders did not opt to pay more in most cases. Washington Post, 9 June 2021 One in four Americans struggled to pay their household expenses in the previous week, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Census survey data from early May. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 9 June 2021 He was also ordered to pay approximately $83,800 in restitution to the hospital. Ben Kesling, WSJ, 8 June 2021 Fletcher won his largest bet of the night and the dealer tried to pay him in funny money. Wally Hall, Arkansas Online, 8 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But given the partisan nature of so many issues critical to women, from reproductive rights to regulation of business practices on pay and gender equity, that group hasn't been particularly active in recent years. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 9 June 2021 McAuliffe, 64, focused his campaign on the need for bold action to address Virginia's lagging teacher pay and inequities in education funding. Sarah Rankin, Star Tribune, 9 June 2021 More than 1,100 workers at Warrior Met Coal have been on strike since April 1, calling for better pay and benefits. William Thornton |, al, 9 June 2021 As a candidate, Ms. Morales has advocated for rent relief, hazard pay and the release of vulnerable people from Rikers Island. New York Times, 9 June 2021 This is also reflective of the field in general — low pay and long hours in exchange for cultural cache. Diana Budds, Curbed, 7 June 2021 Fast-food workers and customer service representatives were the next-largest groups, with median pay of $22,840 a year and $38,660 a year. Dallas News, 5 June 2021 Becky Frankiewicz, president of the temporary staffing firm Manpower Group’s North American division, said many of the firm's clients are raising pay and benefits to try to attract more applicants. Christopher Rugaber, ajc, 4 June 2021 Most of their founders have spent years living in Marrakech, cultivating relationships with their partners, scaling their ateliers to offer better environments with attractive pay and benefits. Tara Stevens, Condé Nast Traveler, 4 June 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, 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

11 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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

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.


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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