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

Inspired by a series of revolutionary figures from across the African continent, the combs pay tribute to icons of feminine power. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Byredo’s New Keepsake Combs Pay Tribute to Africa’s Beloved Queens," 13 July 2018 Meyer ordered Lieberman to pay $5,301,694 in restitution to the victims of the fraud scheme, and $436,235 to the IRS. Courant Staff Report,, "Conspirator In $20 Million Pump-And-Dump Scheme Gets 7 Years," 13 July 2018 After several years and world travels, the pair has returned to their Baltimore roots to open Le Comptoir du Vin, a bistro and wine bar that pays homage to a favorite cafe in Lyon, France. Anna Muckerman,, "European-style cafe and wine bar coming to Station North," 13 July 2018 An increase in the fee the Grand Prix pays to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to $300,000 a year, up from $200,000. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Grand Prix offers $300,000 a year to race on Belle Isle," 13 July 2018 Trump paid tribute to Churchill’s legacy on Friday. James Rogers, Fox News, "Never-before-seen Winston Churchill WWII photos surface," 13 July 2018 Taofeek held a presentation for his brand Head of State+'s spring/summer 2019 collection, which paid homage to 70s afro-futurism styles and West African youth culture. Amira Rasool, Teen Vogue, "Taofeek Abijako Is Youngest Designer to Show at Men's NYFW," 13 July 2018 The movement pays particular attention to the harm that discarded straws and utensils cause to marine life. Claire Wolters,, "Twitter can't agree on Starbucks' straw ban," 12 July 2018 England must not have been paying attention when Panama tried (and failed) to score on the Three Lions during a goal celebration in the group stage because England tried to do the same on Wednesday. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "England tried to take advantage of a nonexistent rule and score during Croatia's celebration," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Possibilities could include the city offering hefty pay raises in exchange for the unions agreeing that new employees will continue to receive the 401(k)-style plans instead of pensions. David Garrick,, "If state Supreme Court rules against San Diego on pensions, it could could cost city millions," 14 July 2018 But most Americans are more concerned about whether their pay is keeping up with the cost of living. Heather Long,, "Inflation hits 6-year high, wiping out wage gains for the average American," 13 July 2018 By contrast, the pay raises will cost American $1 billion over three years. Michael Hiltzik,, "Employers will do almost anything to find workers to fill jobs — except pay them more," 10 July 2018 My net pay is $3,000 per month, and my monthly bills are only $500.. Peter Dunn, USA TODAY, "Too many big financial decisions at once creates impasse for new graduate and girlfriend," 8 July 2018 Controversy over the pay raises and other issues already contributed to the early departure of county school Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, who was hired after Baker was given stronger authority over the county’s school system. Michael Dresser,, "Ben Jealous attacks Rushern Baker over Prince George's County school system pay raises," 22 June 2018 American Leadership Academy's five-member board on Thursday unanimously approved the pay increase, but refused to allow the public to comment on its $71 million budget. Craig Harris, azcentral, "East Valley charter gives teachers raise; refuses to let public comment on budget," 13 July 2018 The Medical Center offered a 14 percent pay increase over three years., "Two friends who worked at different pharmaceutical companies convicted of insider trading," 12 July 2018 Fox had offered $32 billion for Britain’s top pay-TV company; Comcast countered with a bid of $34 billion. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Uber’s head of HR resigns after accusations of mishandling racial discrimination," 12 July 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

11 Sep 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

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to make amends

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