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 two-and-a-half-hour drive from Albuquerque to the remote park ends with 16 miles of dirt road driving, but the payoff is one of the darkest night skies in the United States and monumental archaeological sites still revered by Native Americans. Steve Larese, National Geographic, "Eight epic stops in the Four Corners region," 27 June 2019 Amid all the hurdles though, the payoff of this eclipse will be worth it. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "A 6,000-mile path will experience a total solar eclipse next week. The display won’t be easy to see.," 26 June 2019 The payoff Walters was magnet fishing in the northern portions of the Milwaukee River. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Magnet fishing is a slimy new hobby where people pull guns, bikes and weird stuff out of Milwaukee-area rivers, lakes and lagoons," 25 June 2019 And if the show proves victorious, the payoff can be greater. Charles Passy, WSJ, "Winning a Tony Award Brings Broadway Glory, and Sometimes a Bonus," 6 May 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Partnerships will be featured, and putting more time and effort into building solid connections will pay off. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, "Horoscopes: July 6, 2019," 6 July 2019 Weight-saving decisions its engineers made will pay off in a range of upcoming models, including the 2020 Lincoln Aviator SUV that goes on sale later this year. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "Why Ford walked away from all-aluminum bodies for new 2020 Explorer," 6 July 2019 Grand Rapids First, a church in Wyoming, Mich., announced Sunday that the church will be paying off the medical debt of 1,899 families in four counties, an amount that totals nearly $2 million, the Detroit Free Press reported. Fox News, "Michigan church erases medical debt for nearly 2,000 families: reports," 3 July 2019 Los Angeles returns 18 starters and that continuity will pay off. Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post, "NFL Look-Ahead: Which new faces in new places will have biggest impact?," 1 July 2019 On Friday, the CEA said Trump’s regulatory rollback will pay off for years to come, increasing a typical American household’s income by $3,100 a year after about a decade from more growth and productivity. Jeff Stein, Washington Post, "Trump plans to name Tomas Philipson, a health-care expert, as his next chief economist," 29 June 2019 The sacrifice of a salary while going full time to school is an indicator of the conviction of the student that this investment of time and money pursuing the MBA will pay off in the long run. Anne Michaud, WSJ, "Is an M.B.A. Still Valuable? Under the Right Circumstances, Say WSJ Readers," 14 June 2019 The senior class taught them how to be a team, so that will pay off next year. Bob Narang,, "With an eye on the future, Peter Brown helps New Trier finish 3rd at state," 4 June 2019 Catching up on rest and your personal life early in the month will pay off during the Sagittarius full moon on Monday, June 17. Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What June's Pisces Horoscope Predictions Mean for You," 29 May 2019

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

4 Jul 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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