pay·off | \ˈpā-ˌȯf \

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


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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Synonyms & Antonyms for payoff

Synonyms: Noun

earnings, gain, lucre, net, proceeds, profit, return

Synonyms: Verb

ante (up), balance, clear, discharge, foot, liquidate, meet, pay, pay up, pony up, quit, recompense, settle, spring (for), stand

Antonyms: Verb


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Examples of payoff in a Sentence


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.


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

That, in turn, contributes to the fact that more than a third of students who start college still haven’t earned degrees after six years, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports, often piling up loan debt with no payoff. Jon Marcus, star-telegram, "More high school grads than ever are going to college, but 1 in 5 will quit," 7 July 2018 Social-media companies found a more lucrative approach, with an even bigger payoff, by building the auction floor right under our feet. John Herrman, New York Times, "Want to Understand What Ails the Modern Internet? Look at eBay," 20 June 2018 Yet the potential payoff is more than worthwhile, Goldrick-Rab added, noting that a college degree can be transformative for an entire family. Marcella Bombardieri, The Atlantic, "One College's Struggle to Get Poor Students Through School," 30 May 2018 Noriega, however, was the de facto ruler of Panama, not the president, at the time of his indictment for taking millions in payoffs to make secure airstrips available to drug traffickers. Mimi Whitefield, miamiherald, "Campaign intensifies to indict Raúl Castro for deadly 1996 shoot-down of exile planes," 27 June 2018 The hybrid payoff is fuel economy of 47/47/47 mpg city/highway/combined on 87 octane. Mark Maynard,, "2018 Honda Accord 2.0T: Near perfect, in an imperfect world," 1 June 2018 But the gamble the team took for the second session didn't payoff. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "Helio Castroneves on returning to IndyCar: 'It's kind of like being back home'," 11 May 2018 Connolly assisted Bulger and Flemmi in compromising Organized Crime Squad supervisor John Morris, who took bribes and other payoffs. Dennis Hohenberger, Courant Community, "U.S. Attorney Speaks About Using Informants," 19 Mar. 2018 All 68 contenders will play against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season in which bribes and payoffs made bigger headlines than dunks and 3-pointers. CBS News, "March Madness 2018 brackets: NCAA men's basketball tournament teams announced," 14 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Short hop Lovullo, who gave A.J. Pollock the day off on Friday, remains confident that his outfield rotation is going to pay off for the club. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo: Initial update on Shelby Miller’s elbow positive," 13 July 2018 Indeed, for every dollar a white man makes, a Black woman makes 63 cents, forcing Black women to take years longer to pay off their student loan debt. Paula Rogo,, "Study Finds That Black Women Graduate With The Most Student Loan Debt," 11 July 2018 Sideline Chatter: Mariners closer Edwin Diaz getting 50 saves might prove easier than getting his manager, Scott Servais, to pay off their bet by climbing into a barber’s chair, Dwight Perry writes. Morning Brief, The Seattle Times, "A station could be making firefighters sick, Sue Bird makes history and more rescues from the Thai cave | Monday Morning Brief, July 9," 9 July 2018 Fingerhut has a unique business model in that consumers can choose to make monthly payments until their purchases are paid off, and Fingerhut has come under fire in the past for using robocalls without prior consent from users. Ashley Wong, USA TODAY, "Comcast or Capital One calling? It may be a robocall scam. Here are the top 10," 6 July 2018 The concern is that the result has derailed England’s momentum somewhat going into the all-important knockout rounds, but only time will tell if Southgate’s gamble will pay off., "World Cup Preview: Colombia vs England - Recent Form, Previous Encounters, Predictions & More," 2 July 2018 For years, receipts show, Bell kept paying property taxes (after first putting up $33,000 to pay off Penny’s back taxes) and repairing the house ($4,000 to fix the basement and front walkway, among many other expenses). Craig R. Mccoy,, "A Philadelphia story: Falsely declared dead, home stolen and no one will help," 29 June 2018 Some small fishermen who previously were scraping by digging clams and worms suddenly earned enough cash in the span of an 11-week eel season to pay off their houses and buy new trucks. National Geographic, "19 Eel Smugglers Sentenced, But Lucrative Trade Persists," 27 June 2018 In the medical equipment field, reported in its 2018 Medical Sales Salary Survey that though the industry is highly competitive and demanding, the effort can pay off. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Equipment sales can bring top salaries," 17 June 2018

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

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for payoff

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

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More Definitions for payoff



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

: money that a company gives to a worker who is being forced to leave a job


pay·off | \ˈpā-ˌȯf \

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

pay off

transitive verb

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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