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

The payoff comes after more than two years of stagnant sales, profit warnings, layoffs and management change at the world’s two big Western telecom-equipment makers. Stu Woo, WSJ, "5G Has Arrived. It’s Been A Long Wait for Ericsson, Nokia.," 18 Oct. 2018 A week later, against the Steelers, the payoff came, with downfield shots there because the threat of the checkdown was established. Albert Breer,, "How a Soldier’s Story Helped Dan Quinn Build the Falcons," 2 July 2018 The payoff for that Machiavellian maneuvering came when Trump met Kim in Singapore, giving the North Korean a degree of legitimacy his father and grandfather never achieved. Charlie Campbell/singapore, Time, "Kim Jong Un Is Showing the World Just How Much Power He Has," 14 June 2018 With great expectation and anticipation, the payoff for a horrid season came on Tuesday night for the Mavericks in the NBA Draft lottery. Mac Engel, star-telegram, "Karma slaps Cuban with Mavs in the NBA lottery | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 15 May 2018 The payoff instead came in the business created when those physicians referred patients for other services within the Adventist Health System. Andy Marso, kansascity, "Suit: CFO feared jail time over kickbacks. He's now Shawnee Mission Health interim CEO | The Kansas City Star," 9 May 2018 That’s especially true for big, contentious projects like mass transit, whose political payoff usually comes long after its champion has reached the end of their four- or eight-year term. Nick Stockton, WIRED, "Why Traffic-Choked Nashville Said 'No Thanks' to Public Transit," 9 May 2018 The payoff for these bribes came when the New York State Retirement Fund invested $250 million with Markstone Capital, Broidy’s private equity firm. Paul Campos, Daily Intelligencer, "Theory: Playboy Model Who Got $1.6 Million Had Affair With Trump, Not Broidy," 8 May 2018 And in some cases, the payoff, if there is one, doesn’t come for a few years. Tim Bielik,, "How Urban Meyer's philosophy toward off-field issues has changed: Buckeye Breakfast," 3 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Still, having a full complement of players didn’t pay off for the Raptors, who surrendered 18 points on 13 turnovers. Ian Harrison, The Seattle Times, "Lamb hits winning 3, Hornets down Raptors 115-114," 24 Mar. 2019 Those decisions largely paid off for Berkshire during subsequent market declines and recessions. Nicole Friedman, WSJ, "Warren Buffett Can’t Find Anything Big to Buy," 21 Feb. 2019 Inspired by the Madea star, Kid Rock paid off $81,000 in layaway balances at a Nashville Walmart. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Tyler Perry paid off 1,500 Walmart layaway accounts, but the service can be risky for low-income shoppers," 12 Dec. 2018 Despite his cover being blown by the hiring manager, Cash’s innovation pays off., "Sorry To Bother You," 10 July 2018 The fund also pays off lunch fines for children in Minneapolis. Dan Simmons,, "2 years after Philando Castile's death, programs aim to transform relations between police, residents," 8 July 2018 Martinez's tactics certainly paid off, not least his use of Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini as a defensive midfield duo., "Belgium Manager 'Proudest Man on Earth' After Impressive World Cup Win Over Brazil," 7 July 2018 Getting children off to the right start pays off, reducing juvenile delinquency, addictions, school dropout rates, learning disabilities, obesity and other problems. kansascity, "Jean Paul Bradshaw," 30 June 2018 With $3 billion in the bank and a growing cash cushion, Tesla won't need to raise any cash to pay off the big $920 million loan that's coming due next March. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Why almost everyone was wrong about Tesla’s cash flow situation," 26 Oct. 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

25 Apr 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

Comments on payoff

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having no equal

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