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

Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. Rebecca Ballhaus, WSJ, "Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal," 9 Nov. 2018 The Cardinals, who have the National League’s second-lowest starters’ ERA at 3.48, needed to bolster the bullpen going into the season and took a chance on the inexperienced Hicks in a new role, getting an immediate payoff. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "At 105 mph, Jordan Hicks is MLB's hardest thrower. What does that mean for his future?," 10 July 2018 For Debbie, part of the heist’s allure surely comes in the tremendous financial payoff., "Why Ocean's 8 Is Different From Every Women's Heist Movie That Came Before It," 31 May 2018 There was the predictable grumbling from some of the players after the new policy was approved, but most were the same players who took an $89 million payoff from the league to cool it last season. Bob Ford,, "Jeffrey Lurie stays ambiguous about Eagles protests during national anthem | Bob Ford," 25 May 2018 The growing scandal — the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is under federal criminal investigation for his role in the payoffs — has turned a harsh spotlight on Davidson. Michael Finnegan,, "Trump sex scandals turn a harsh spotlight on this Beverly Hills lawyer," 20 Apr. 2018 In 2016, the ABCC exonerated several Boston bars that had allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in payoffs from a craft beer distributor to stock certain beers on a similar technicality. Dan Adams,, "Budweiser parent absolved of pay-to-play charge in Mass.," 18 Apr. 2018 Confrontations between the mother and father aim for dark comedy but lack the requisite bite; conversely, some of the more dramatic moments feel stunted, resulting in an unconvincing emotional payoff. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "The wall’s gonna fall at the Chicago Latino Film Festival," 5 Apr. 2018 Luckily, there are many mainstream brands that carry shades for the majority of skin tones—and have excellent formulas and color payoff to boot. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "5 Foundations Dark-Skinned Beauty Bloggers Love," 17 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

All that hard work paid off with the discovery of GW170729, GW170809, GW170818, and GW170823, referencing the dates on which the black holes were detected. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Physicists detected gravitational waves from four new black-hole mergers," 3 Dec. 2018 The city’s playbook for new mobility has focused on adding high-capacity rail and bus lines and expanding cycling options to accommodate a growing downtown, and there’s evidence the work has paid off. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "9 cities with smart ideas to improve transportation," 18 Sep. 2018 And that anticipation, according to media experts, paid off—literally. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Chiara Ferragni's Wedding Dress Is More Influential than Meghan Markle's," 5 Sep. 2018 The perseverance paid off for Wesley who, after that first year, received a scholarship from Self. Peter Dawson, star-telegram, "First family of Fort Worth basketball still shining after careers at TCU, Kansas," 12 July 2018 The effort paid off; Superstreet Magazine, an import car publication, ran a full-page feature on his car. Jacob Sweet, miamiherald, "His dream was to race cars. Now this Miami kid is building them for one of best F1 teams," 10 July 2018 The gamble paid off, giving the company a capitalization of $26.5 billion by the end of the day and making billions for the top five shareholders. Hallie Detrick, Fortune, "Did the IPO Market Seem White-Hot Over the Last 6 Months? You're Right, It Was," 2 July 2018 However, Universal had high hopes for their kinetic time travel comedy from director Robert Zemeckis and their ambitions paid off big time with an $11.1-million opening on a $19-million budget. Dave Lewis,, "From 'Back to the Future' to 'Wild Wild West': A look at the Fourth of July's biggest box office hits and misses," 29 June 2018 Their patience paid off at about 11:30 p.m., police said, when a Lockwood Street resident spotted two people pulling on car door handles in a neighbor’s driveway. Jesse Leavenworth, Courant Community, "Manchester Official Calls For Teen Curfew, Police Crack Down On Car Thieves," 21 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

5 Dec 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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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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