pay·​roll | \ˈpā-ˌrōl \

Definition of payroll 

1 : a paymaster's or employer's list of those entitled to pay and of the amounts due to each

2 : the sum necessary for distribution to those on a payroll also : the money to be distributed

Examples of payroll in a Sentence

They cut him from their payroll. He's the manager of a baseball team with a $50 million payroll. Businesses are keeping their payrolls low by embracing new technologies.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The only teams projected over this year were the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who had the highest payroll for the first time in the free-agent era, and Washington. Ronald Blum, The Seattle Times, "Teams, agents wonder whether slow market will repeat," 7 Nov. 2018 The actual guarantee will come at the stroke of midnight, when, without action from either party, the salary will be locked into the Heat's payroll and McGruder's bank account. Ira Winderman,, "Heat poised to guarantee 2018-19 salary of Rodney McGruder, keeping him from free agency," 30 June 2018 That's because about 91 percent of the budget goes to payroll and benefits for employees, officials wrote. Shelby Webb, Houston Chronicle, "Klein ISD may consider mass job cuts after voters reject tax hike," 18 June 2018 Private sector employment grew by 4,300 in May while government continued to decline, shedding 200 jobs, as municipalities and the state trim payrolls and other spending in response to spotty tax revenue. Stephen Singer,, "State: Retail, Financial Services Helped Boost Connecticut Job Growth In May," 14 June 2018 In late August and September, fighting among rival militias paralyzed Tripoli, underscoring the challenge of reigning in armed groups, some of whom are on the payroll of Libya’s central bank. Jared Malsin, WSJ, "With Libya’s Peace Process in Tatters, the West Hits Reset Button," 12 Nov. 2018 When children become the breadwinners so a parent can live on the payroll, things get weird and unhealthy, and there is no unspooling that tangle. Sally Jenkins,, "Welcome to L.A., LeBron James. See yourself out, LaVar Ball.," 2 July 2018 About half of the nurses are not on the payroll but come in the hope of picking up work. The Economist, "First things firstThe importance of primary care," 26 Apr. 2018 While most girls her age have their mothers to thank for their outfits, this young trendsetter has someone on the payroll. Karen Mizoguchi,, "Beyoncé's 6-Year-Old Daughter Blue Ivy Carter Has a Stylist and Personal Shopper," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'payroll.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of payroll

1740, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about payroll

Statistics for payroll

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for payroll

The first known use of payroll was in 1740

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for payroll



Financial Definition of payroll

What It Is

Payroll is the total of the compensation a company pays to its employees. In the accounting world, it is also a term used for calculating and processing paychecks (as in, "doing payroll").

How It Works

On the income statement, payroll expenses are part of labor costs. They include employee salaries, employer payments for health insurance or similar benefits, payroll taxes paid by the employer, bonuses, commissions and similar expenses.

Doing payroll is a complicated process that involves ensuring that every employee is paid correctly, calculating the appropriate payroll taxes (which can vary with the employee's salary, whether he or she has hit the Social Security cap for the year, etc.), and correctly deducting miscellaneous items (such as court-ordered child support, gym memberships or 401(k) contributions).

Why It Matters

Payroll is a major expense for most companies and is the primary component of labor cost. Labor costs vary by industry, and comparing companies in different industries should be done with this in mind.

In the accounting world, doing payroll is a crucial but often thankless job. The calculations must always be accurate, the paychecks must be printed on time, new and departing employees must be added to or deleted from various processes, and the taxes must be remitted to the proper authorities on time and in the correct amount. As soon as the process ends, it begins again. Many companies outsource some of the work.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of payroll

: a list of the people who work for a company and the amount of money that the company has agreed to pay them

: the total amount of money that a company pays to all of its employees


pay·​roll | \ˈpā-ˌrōl \

Kids Definition of payroll

1 : a list of persons who receive pay

2 : the amount of money necessary to pay the employees of a business

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on payroll

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with payroll

Spanish Central: Translation of payroll

Nglish: Translation of payroll for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of payroll for Arabic Speakers

Comments on payroll

What made you want to look up payroll? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!