\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce pay (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 outpaid 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
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

Noun 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 If a patient’s regular physician is not part of that contractor network, the patient usually has to pay for that appointment, which telehealth advocates say disincentives its use. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Pandemic. Recession. Political strife: The Texas Legislature’s toughest 2021 challenges," 10 Jan. 2021 But these laws and executive orders have provided little relief for landlords who still have to pay to keep their buildings operating. Ronda Kaysen, New York Times, "Options for Struggling Landlords Whose Tenants Can’t Pay the Rent," 9 Jan. 2021 When Ray Charles’s publishers pointed out that the American pianist-bandleader had a song with the same title (though a totally different song), Mr. Marsden had to pay part of the royalties to Charles. Washington Post, "Gerry Marsden, British rocker who led the Pacemakers, dies at 78," 5 Jan. 2021 The city, on the other hand, wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, "‘Justified’ or ‘despicable’? The twisted tale of an LAPD excessive force case," 3 Jan. 2021 SF City Attorney warns of vaccine scams: The office is warning city residents to not pay to get on a waiting list for a COVID-19 vaccine. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Dec. 17-23," 1 Jan. 2021 In January and February, customers will not have to pay any overage fees, Xfinity says on its website. Ben Leonard, baltimoresun.com, "Comcast’s Xfinity to add fees for customers not on an unlimited data plan starting in January," 31 Dec. 2020 That's how much Ticketmaster will have to pay in fines after the company admitted to illegally accessing its competitor's computers. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 31: Coronavirus, transition, stimulus, Brexit, Yemen," 31 Dec. 2020 The 10 people who were cited will have to pay a $250 fine each, Mayes said. Liz Hardaway, ExpressNews.com, "Anti-maskers draw citations at San Antonio’s annual Alamo Bowl," 31 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun McMaster is proposing $3,000 pay raises for all public school teachers, $123 million in small business relief and $500 million for the state’s rainy day reserve fund and more. Vivian Jones, Washington Examiner, "South Carolina Legislature convenes Tuesday," 12 Jan. 2021 Now, Verrett, who finished as the 49ers’ top cornerback, and Hyder, who had a team-high 8.5 sacks, will share this in the offseason: Both will receive big pay raises. Eric Branch, SFChronicle.com, "From backup roles to big money? 49ers’ Jason Verrett, Kerry Hyder could finally cash in," 11 Jan. 2021 Last session, lawmakers boosted classroom spending in public schools by a few billion dollars, added $2 billion for educator pay raises and poured $5 billion into lowering property taxes over the two-year cycle. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Pandemic. Recession. Political strife: The Texas Legislature’s toughest 2021 challenges," 10 Jan. 2021 The defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, affirms 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction. Matthew Daly, Anchorage Daily News, "House votes to override Trump’s veto of defense bill," 29 Dec. 2020 The $740 billion bill includes pay raises for America's soldiers, modernization for equipment and provisions to require more scrutiny before troops are withdrawn from Germany or Afghanistan. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 29: Stimulus, coronavirus, military bill, Andre Hill, billionaire death," 29 Dec. 2020 The defense bill affirms 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction and has broad bipartisan support in Congress. Matthew Daly, ajc, "House set for override vote on Trump's defense bill veto," 28 Dec. 2020 The defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, affirms 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction. Matthew Daly, chicagotribune.com, "House votes to override Trump’s veto of defense bill," 28 Dec. 2020 The bill makes no mention of congressional pay raises. Mckenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Coronavirus relief package does not include congressional pay raise," 25 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Or an expansion of co-pay coupons to Medicare, where they’re now banned? Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of October 12," 16 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for pay

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pay

Last Updated

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pay. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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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