verb (1)
\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce paid (audio) \ also in sense 7 payed; paying

Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to make due return to for services rendered or property delivered paid the pizza deliverer
b : to engage for money : hire You couldn't pay me to do that. paid a teenager to mow his lawn
2a : to give in return for goods or service pay wages
b : to discharge indebtedness for : settle pay a bill
c : to make a disposal or transfer of (money) paid a few dollars weekly into a savings account
3 : to give or forfeit in expiation or retribution pay the penalty
4a : to make compensation (see compensation sense 2) for His trouble was well paid in the end.
b : to requite according to what is deserved pay them back
5 : to give, offer, or make freely or as fitting pay attention pay your respects
6a : to return value or profit to it pays you to stay open
b : to bring in as a return an investment paying five percent
7 : to slacken (something, such as a rope) and allow to run out used with out paid out the rope as it jerked taut

intransitive verb

1 : to discharge a debt or obligation I'll pay when I have the money.
2 : to be worth the expense or effort crime doesn't pay
3 : to suffer the consequences of an act He paid for his crime.
pay one's dues
1 : to earn a right or position through experience, suffering, or hard work He's paid his dues and deserves a promotion.
2 or less commonly pay dues : pay sense intransitive 3
pay one's way or pay one's own way
: to pay one's share of expenses She took a part-time job to pay her own way through college.
pay the piper
: to bear the cost of something You have to do what they say because they are paying the piper.
pay through the nose
: to pay exorbitantly or dearly I found the perfect dress, but I had to pay through the nose for it.



Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : something paid for a purpose and especially as a salary or wage : remuneration
2a : the act or fact of paying or being paid
b : the status of being paid by an employer : employ
3 : a person viewed with respect to reliability or promptness in paying debts or bills
4a : ore or a natural deposit that yields metal and especially gold in profitable amounts
b : an oil-yielding stratum or zone



Definition of pay (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : containing or leading to something precious or valuable
2 : equipped with a coin slot for receiving a fee for use a pay telephone
3 : requiring payment


verb (2)
payed also paid; paying

Definition of pay (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to coat with a waterproof composition

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Choose the Right Synonym for pay

Verb (1)

pay, compensate, remunerate, satisfy, reimburse, indemnify, repay, recompense mean to give money or its equivalent in return for something. pay implies the discharge of an obligation incurred. paid their bills compensate implies a making up for services rendered. an attorney well compensated for her services remunerate clearly suggests paying for services rendered and may extend to payment that is generous or not contracted for. promised to remunerate the searchers handsomely satisfy implies paying a person what is required by law. all creditors will be satisfied in full reimburse implies a return of money that has been spent for another's benefit. reimbursed employees for expenses indemnify implies making good a loss suffered through accident, disaster, warfare. indemnified the families of the dead miners repay stresses paying back an equivalent in kind or amount. repay a favor with a favor recompense suggests due return in amends, friendly repayment, or reward. passengers were recompensed for the delay

Examples of pay in a Sentence


He has been suspended without pay pending the results of the investigation. Each pay period begins on the first of the month. Workers received a $4,000 pay increase. I took a significant pay cut when I took this job, but I think it was worth it.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As a child during segregation, McConnell lived on the white side of Athens, where black residents were only allowed to visit for work and were typically paid very low wages. The Courier-Journal, "In McConnell’s boyhood town where his family owned slaves, the reparations debate thrives," 13 July 2019 The money was paid directly into the bank accounts of gun owners. NBC News, "Four months after Christchurch shooting, New Zealand gun owners turn over their weapons for money," 13 July 2019 And how much should the women’s national soccer team get paid? Nr Staff, National Review, "A Series of Own Goals," 13 July 2019 The process for the rule, which would set a new salary threshold below which workers must be paid time-and-a-half, has taken more than two years because the Labor Department has taken extra steps that aren’t always part of rule-making. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Business Groups See Acosta Successor as More Aggressive Deregulator," 12 July 2019 The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how the plan would be paid for. Li Zhou, Vox, "Thousands of rape kits are currently untested. Kamala Harris has a plan to change that.," 12 July 2019 Then maybe, eventually, you’ll get paid a little more. Lane Moore, The New Yorker, "Look, Son, Maybe Men Just Aren’t Built to Play Soccer," 12 July 2019 But as a practical matter, travel time might be a consideration for an out-of-state attorney, who would reasonably expect to be paid for his time. Donna Engle,, "Legal Matters: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet," 12 July 2019 The $30 administrative fee must be paid along with the other fines and fees that are issued by the courts. Kaila Contreras, Houston Chronicle, "City of Humble approves penalties for failure to appear violations," 12 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The pay is comparable to the salary of the superintendent of the National School District, which educates roughly 1,000 more students than the San Ysidro School District. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Ysidro superintendent gets raise, contract extension," 15 July 2019 The legislature’s total July pay was $799,200, according to the state budget office. Andrew J. Tobias,, "Despite state budget uncertainty, Ohio lawmakers receive full July pay," 9 July 2019 The high ratings in the tournament has been made for their case for equal pay. Vanna Quiroz, CBS News, "More people watched the Women's World Cup final than the 2018 men's final," 8 July 2019 This issue isn’t isolated to the US; for most female players around the world, Murphy notes, equal pay is still a dream. Meghan Mcdonough, Quartz, "Female soccer players are breaking world records to show they’re just as good as the guys," 7 July 2019 In 2015, schoolgirls were still discouraged from playing, there were no good development programs, professional opportunities were scarce, and the pay was pathetic. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "World Cup 2019: There’s Not Going to Be a Marta Forever," 24 June 2019 Whitehair is changing positions and while the pay for guards and centers is similar, the higher-end guards can earn more money than centers. Brad Biggs,, "Bears Q&A: Is team handling the kicking competition correctly? How will Matt Nagy balance the offense?," 19 June 2019 But workers' pay hasn't been recovering that whole time. Lydia Depillis, CNN, "The minimum wage hasn't gone up in nearly 10 years. That's a new record," 14 June 2019 The company still seems to be employing this model today—though average shopper pay may be lower than $17 per shop today. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Target’s same-day deliveries might break my Amazon Prime addiction," 14 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pay.' 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 pay

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1610, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pay

Verb (1), Noun, and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French paier, from Latin pacare to pacify, from pac-, pax peace

Verb (2)

obsolete French peier, from Latin picare, from pic-, pix pitch — more at pitch

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Learn More about pay

Dictionary Entries near pay

Pax Romana

pax vobiscum






Statistics for pay

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pay

The first known use of pay was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for pay



English Language Learners Definition of pay

: money received in exchange for work : money paid to someone for doing work


\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād \; paying

Kids Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to give (as money) in return for services received or for something bought Pay the taxi driver. I paid for a ticket.
2 : to give money for (something owed) I have to pay the rent.
3 : to get even with She wants to pay them back for the insult.
4 : to give or offer freely pay a compliment pay attention
5 : to have a worthwhile result : be worth the effort or pains required It pays to drive carefully.
pay off
1 : to give all of what is owed It felt good to pay off a debt.
2 : to have a good result Hours of practice paid off in a successful show.
pay up
: to pay in full especially debts that are due

Other Words from pay

payer noun



Kids Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of giving money for something bought or used or for what is owed : payment
2 : salary My mother got an increase in pay.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pay

Spanish Central: Translation of pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pay

Comments on pay

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


something desired as essential

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