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 time saver element to frozen meats and sides is another big payoff. Chuck Blount,, "Chuck’s Food Shack: Make shopping and cooking easier with meat from the frozen food case," 30 Mar. 2020 Immunity is the payoff for getting sick, so the trick in concocting an effective vaccine is to duplicate that immune response. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: New York’s huge outbreak — California’s close call or its future?," 25 Mar. 2020 Instead, at the end of a one-month wait since its final regular season game, there was no payoff due to the coronavirus pandemic that wiped out all NCAA winter and spring championships. Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral, "Arizona State hockey shrugs off 'non-selection' Sunday, focuses on positives for next season," 22 Mar. 2020 The strong showing in the first-in-the-West caucus state seemed to be a payoff for Mr. Sanders’s unique political philosophy and his campaign team’s electoral strategy, which bet big on grass-roots outreach to Latinos and immigrant populations. Jennifer Medina, New York Times, "How Bernie Sanders Dominated in Nevada," 22 Feb. 2020 The first major payoff, like subsequent depredations, was both complex—involving a thicket of shell corporations and offshore money-laundering entrepôts—and crude, in view of the fraud’s effrontery. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, "The Malaysian Job," 27 Apr. 2020 But there are so many dangling questions that are never answered or addressed, and the final surreal sequence isn't quite enough of a payoff for the viewer. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Vivarium’s claustrophobic horror hits a little too close to home right now," 31 Mar. 2020 Two months into Oregon State football winter conditioning drills, one of the payoffs came Friday at the Beaver Combine. oregonlive, "Oregon State football dazzle stopwatches and tape measures during Friday’s NFL-style combine," 29 Feb. 2020 What researchers have found so far is mostly indirect evidence of a payoff, such as identifying worker characteristics that correspond to productivity. Rose Eveleth, Scientific American, "Your Employer May Be Spying on You—and Wasting Its Time," 16 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Granville Station district hasn't generated enough revenue to pay off its debt. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee Common Council approves using $2 million in Grand Avenue property tax revenue to pay off Northridge redevelopment debt," 27 May 2020 Yet despite a series of missteps, there are signs that his gamble to limit restrictions despite several heavy outbreaks may have paid off. Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor, "As Georgia reopens, is it creating a model for America?," 26 May 2020 Ambani also needs money to pay off Reliance Industries' ballooning debt. Sherisse Pham, CNN, "How Asia's richest man is trying to build the next global tech giant," 20 May 2020 Dodd was 90 years old and still alive to see her work pay off. Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, "Meet the Man Who Inspired Father’s Day: A War Veteran and Single Dad with 14 Kids," 18 May 2020 The city had been paying off the debt by utilizing revenues from wharfage and parking fees by having the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy docked in downtown Mobile. al, "Carnival leaves Mobile again, and taxpayers are stuck with the bills," 8 May 2020 Both Amell cousins deliver strong performances, as does much of the cast, especially Matchett as a dying Mary Reed, and Kyla Kane as Nia, a Healer with a Psyke addiction, forced to work for Marcus to pay off her father's debt. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: Gritty techno-thriller Code 8 is a surprise breakout hit on Netflix," 20 Apr. 2020 To thank grocery store staff members around the country, Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods is offering to pay off grocery bills for the workers that help keep their communities fed. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, "Frozen Food Company Dr. Praeger’s Buying Food for Grocery Stores Employees Amid the Coronavirus," 9 Apr. 2020 In a few decades the British government was able to pay off its funded debt, which, as with the U.S. in 1945, had risen by 1815 to twice GDP. Deirdre Nansen Mccloskey, National Review, "Coercion and the Coronavirus," 2 Apr. 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Payoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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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