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 The pandemic may have sped up the partnership between robots and humans, but businesses will ultimately see the long-term payoff of keeping this technology in place long after the pandemic is over. Robert Playter For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Robots won't take away our jobs. They will make work safer and more efficient," 10 Sep. 2020 In a recent survey, only 45 percent of Republicans but 64 percent of independents viewed unions favorably, suggesting that a new approach might have a political payoff if it can be done without alienating the GOP base. Robert Verbruggen, National Review, "A Conservative Future for the Labor Movement?," 10 Sep. 2020 The alleged payoff happened in Miami and prosecutors there don’t seem interested either. Eileen Kelley,, "New York Giants cut South Florida player DeAndre Baker while he faces charges in high-end heist," 8 Sep. 2020 Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer who is serving a three-year federal prison sentence, alleges in his upcoming book that Trump was well aware of Cohen’s payoff to Daniels, according to the Washington Post. Norma Gonzalez, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Alleged affair between President Trump and Stormy Daniels took place in Utah, Michael Cohen writes in his new book," 6 Sep. 2020 Prizes: As previously mentioned, this isn’t the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which unfortunately means that there’s no zillion-dollar payoff. Rick Nelson, Star Tribune, "Attention, bakers: Enter the 18th annual Star Tribune cookie contest," 4 Sep. 2020 As this investor saw it, that, in the end, held the promise of a bigger payoff. Irina Aleksander, New York Times, "Sweatpants Forever," 6 Aug. 2020 The emotional payoff of Candace’s interstellar difficulties in this movie comes in a scene that draws on many them un an unexpectedly vivid way. al, "Phineas and Ferb return with ‘Candace Against the Universe’," 27 Aug. 2020 The payoff is about 21 square feet of easily accessible storage space with a remarkably small footprint. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "A Fashionable Lean: How To Build a Ladder Shelf," 22 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Ultimately, the researchers are optimistic that their work will pay off. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Why American Express is trying technology that makes deepfake videos look real," 3 Sep. 2020 Despite the small odds of contact, Lares is hopeful that attacking the problem in many ways will one day pay off. Adam Mann, Scientific American, "Want to Talk to Aliens? Try Changing the Technological Channel Beyond Radio," 2 Sep. 2020 An effort to help felons pay off their financial legal obligations has drawn national attention. Dara Kam,, "Florida legal fees pile up — to $1.7M and growing — in challenge to felon voting law. And state taxpayers foot the bill.," 26 Aug. 2020 In the case of undergrounding wires, for example, Mukherjee says that those investments will pay off in 30 years by avoiding the economic costs of large-scale outages. Ula Chrobak, Popular Science, "The US has more power outages than any other developed country. Here’s why.," 17 Aug. 2020 In their most important game of the season, the Blazers saw McCollum’s hard work pay off. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "How Blazers' C.J. McCollum fought through back pain to ensure a playoff berth," 16 Aug. 2020 But firms had no incentive to invest in testing, or assurance that their investments would pay off. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "The Way Out," 14 Aug. 2020 But someone else agreed to $50 per gram, enough to pay off all his debts, build his wife, Rosibel, the butterfly farm, and start the restaurant. Joshua Sokol, Science | AAAS, "An unusual meteorite, more valuable than gold, may hold the building blocks of life," 13 Aug. 2020 Fauci favors a reset of the reopening measures, with a strong messaging component aimed at explaining to people why driving down transmission now will pay off later. Helen Branswell, STAT, "Winter is coming: Why America’s window of opportunity to beat back Covid-19 is closing," 10 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for payoff

Time Traveler

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

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Statistics for payoff

Last Updated

17 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Payoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2020.

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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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