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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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 would be a devastating blow to the Bruins, who have grown McAvoy in their franchise image, watched him flourish as a supremely talented skater, and would surely like the payoff when the final few holes in his 21-year-old game fill in. Tara Sullivan,, "Zdeno Chara showed his grit and leadership right to the painful finish," 13 June 2019 RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization based in Rye, N.Y., that arranges such debt payoffs, reports a recent surge in participation from primarily Christian places of worship. Kaiser Health News,, "Churches take lead in helping poor with medical debt," 9 June 2019 In other words, a meditation retreat offers a change of pace with longterm payoffs that traditional vacations do not offer. Ephrat Livni, Quartzy, "Retreating into silence is increasingly appealing…but where do you go?," 6 June 2019 Big Pharma seems to have put all of its eggs in this basket with hardly any payoff. Lacy Schley, Discover Magazine, "State of Science: A Roller Coaster Year for Alzheimer's Treatment," 1 Jan. 2019 This is not a discussion of which movie is better (though Braveheart has better pacing and dramatic payoff). Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "'Outlaw King' vs. 'Braveheart': Which Movie Gets Scotland Right?," 13 Nov. 2018 Almost every professional race driver would like to win the Indy 500, and not just because of the huge financial payoff—which this year totals about $2.5 million for the winner. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "Everything You Need to Know about the Indianapolis 500," 25 May 2019 That’s all to say that green beauty is booming and better than ever with brands now serving up seriously effective, high-performing, legit-pigment-payoff-delivering options for every beauty concern. Glamour, "Beauty Awards: The 23 Best Natural Beauty Products of 2018," 25 Mar. 2019 The recent scandal about the rich—and in a few instances the famous—getting their children into colleges through payoffs made to an oily middleman has aroused the nation’s ire. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "The College Admissions Game Brings Out the Snob in Everyone," 19 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The work that head coach Rick Schantz and his team put into his midfield three and front three is paying off. Jenna Ortiz, azcentral, "Phoenix Rising FC continue hot streak with blowout of Tulsa Roughnecks FC," 7 June 2019 The Shadow Lake Boys The Shadow Lake Boys were responsible for framing Archie for murder, after being paid off by Sheriff Minetta. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Every "Riverdale" Character That's Been Killed Off," 10 May 2019 And Synnott, Marjan, and their fellow beauty pros' work definitely paid off. Marci Robin, Allure, "Ashley Graham Wore Stunning Green Eyeliner to the 2019 Met Gala — and It’s Just $8," 7 May 2019 My biggest takeaway from going from an undrafted free agent to a starter in the National Football League is that hard work and a lot of prayer really pays off! Adam Turer,, "Catching up: Houston Texan, Mt. Healthy grad Heath on character, 'Be a giver, not a taker'," 6 July 2018 In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Treasure Chest paid City Hall $4 million and the Police Department $744,563, all for capital projects and paying off municipal debt. Drew Broach,, "Kenner lakefront eyed for luxury condos, boardwalk," 29 May 2018 In 1788, a woman named Alice Payne helps pay off her father’s debts by becoming a highway robber known as the Holy Ghost, aided by her lover, Jane, and an automaton named Laverna. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "11 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out this November," 1 Nov. 2018 Tyler Baltierra can testify that hard work pays off. Natalie Stone,, "Teen Mom OG's Tyler Baltierra Shows Off His Abs After Dropping 40 Lbs.," 12 June 2018 The time had come for his music alter-ego to make his hard work pay off. Joe Robertson, kansascity, "Gentleman singer gunned down in Raytown parking lot was L.A.-bound," 10 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

20 Jun 2019

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
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

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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More from Merriam-Webster on payoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with payoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for payoff

Spanish Central: Translation of payoff

Nglish: Translation of payoff for Spanish Speakers

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

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