pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 3)

2 : the act or occasion of receiving money or material gain especially as compensation or as a bribe
3 : the climax of an incident or enterprise specifically : the denouement of a narrative
4 : a decisive fact or factor resolving a situation or bringing about a definitive conclusion



Definition of payoff (Entry 2 of 3)

: yielding results in the final test : decisive

pay off

paid off; paying off; pays off

Definition of pay off (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to pay (a debt or a creditor) in full
b : to give all due wages to especially : to pay in full and discharge (an employee)
c : bribe
2 : to inflict retribution on
3 : to allow (a thread or rope) to run off a spool or drum

intransitive verb

: to yield returns

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Examples of payoff in a Sentence

Noun You'll have to work hard but there'll be a big payoff in the end. We expected more of a payoff for all our hard work. We made a lot of sacrifices with little payoff. Several city officials have been accused of receiving payoffs from the company. He lost his factory job but received a payoff and a pension. Verb I finally paid off the loan. she paid off the security guard so that she could steal whatever she liked
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Here are nine of those potential payoffs: Make the ultimate refried beans. Bon Appétit, "Cook Beans Once, Solve a Week’s Worth of Dinner Problems," 7 Nov. 2019 Another scrutinized a Ukrainian politician who signed entries designated for Mr. Manafort in a secret ledger of political payoffs uncovered after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine. Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, "Inside Ukraine’s Push to Cultivate Trump From the Start," 4 Nov. 2019 Busch has a history of improving teams but not being there for a championship payoff. Michael Knight, azcentral, "Busch brothers' rivalry still sizzling as NASCAR Cup series heads for Arizona," 2 Nov. 2019 To collect part of the payoff, the mayor himself went to the vendor’s office and instructed him to get inside his official vehicle where the deal was done. Yvonne Abraham,, "The fallout from the fall of Fall River’s mayor," 7 Sep. 2019 Rockefeller among them—made their fortunes on the backs of worker exploitation, environmental indifference, and copious amounts of political payoffs. Vince Guerrieri, Popular Mechanics, "Smoke on the Water: 50 Years After the Cuyahoga Fire," 20 June 2019 Saudi Arabia has also invested heavily in an investment vehicle managed by SoftBank Group ’s Masayoshi Son with stakes in Uber and other growth companies in hopes of rich payoffs. Lauren Silva Laughlin, WSJ, "Saudi Arabia Can’t Earn Its Way Out of Trouble," 18 June 2019 Beijing is fully aware of the potential payoff if China becomes the first nation to capitalize on this rapidly approaching wealth-creation opportunity. Jack H. Burke, National Review, "China’s New Wealth-Creation Scheme: Mining the Moon," 13 June 2019 The payoff was big: a 12th French Open title, a run to the semifinals at Wimbledon and another United States Open title. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Rafael Nadal Shows Why the Young Guard Will Have to Wait," 9 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb A year later, his gambit appears to have paid off: Bogdanovich has been able to hire and retain more workers — the better for his senior housing residents, and for business., "CHATHAM — Struggling to find workers for his nursing home and assisted living center in this seaside tourist town, Bill Bogdanovich tried a new strategy: Buying properties on the southeastern elbow of Cape Cod to rent to employees.," 12 Nov. 2019 That effort seemed to pay off, with Sandy Oaks voters deciding by an overwhelming margin (71 percent to 29 percent) to stick with VIA. Gilbert Garcia,, "VIA prepares to bring transit service to Sandy Oaks," 8 Nov. 2019 The Big East move already seemed to pay off in early October, when 4-star recruit Andre Jackson committed to UConn, citing the conference change as one reason why. Alex Putterman,, "Awkward good-byes? UConn men’s and women’s hoops teams embark on AAC farewell tour," 6 Nov. 2019 The approval would not affect the sale tax rate, though any borrowing commits Metro to paying off bonds, which would reduce future funds available for projects. Dug Begley, Houston Chronicle, "Metro’s $3.5B bond finds strong support in early vote tally," 5 Nov. 2019 But this week, that support was the kind of preparation that appeared to be paying off. Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, "Wildfires ravage So. California again, but here's how thousands of homes were saved," 1 Nov. 2019 However, if the hotel study concludes that revenues from a new hotel would be insufficient to pay off the revenue bonds planned to finance the hotel, the development authority would consider other options, according to Port CEO Laura Brunner. Randy Tucker,, "Hamilton County commissioners approve second $1.3M payment toward purchase of Millennium hotel," 31 Oct. 2019 Companies are often forced to pay off the local branch of the League in order to start a project or operate in their area. The Economist, "Bangladesh’s ruling party runs university campuses with an iron fist," 31 Oct. 2019 Gabriel laughs), the pair used their haul to pay off a loan on a Bösendorfer grand piano. Malcolm Jack, Time, "East Germans Were Welcomed to the West with Free Money. Here’s What They Bought After the Berlin Wall Fell," 31 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'payoff.' 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 payoff


1905, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1932, in the meaning defined above


1607, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for payoff

Last Updated

21 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for payoff

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

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More Definitions for payoff


How to pronounce pay off (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of payoff

: a good result : the advantage or benefit that is gained from doing something
: something valuable (such as money) that you give to someone for doing something and especially for doing something illegal or dishonest
British : money that a company gives to a worker who is being forced to leave a job


pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Legal Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act or an instance of paying someone off : bribe — compare kickback
2 : the act of paying a debt or creditor in full would release the lien upon the payoff of the balance

Legal Definition of pay off (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to pay (a debt or credit) in full the loan was paid off
2 : bribe

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