verb (1)
\ 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 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Duke of Cambridge met with HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan today to pay his sincere condolences following the death of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Emily Burack, Town & Country, 16 May 2022 But when customers suddenly saw hundreds or thousands of dollars in late fees, the authority decided in February to hit the brakes temporarily on the mounting fees to allow customers time to pay their original bills without the penalties by Nov. 30. Sam Janesch, Baltimore Sun, 16 May 2022 Workers, sometimes commuting as far as an hour away, are hard to come by, especially for employers who aren’t willing to pay as well as the Russians did. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 16 May 2022 When the rapper ends up in a Dutch jail, where he is treated like a king, Earn easily secures a twenty-thousand-euro advance to pay his bail. The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 The most recent lawsuit filed by Fouts asks a circuit court judge to order the city council to pay more than $86,000 to Dorsey Emergency Medical Academy and more than $93,000 to Macomb Community College for training fire cadets. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, 16 May 2022 Fans in the United States can watch the fight through FITE TV pay-per-view. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, 14 May 2022 Is there a pay-for-play line that cannot be crossed in the name of NIL, and if so, who is minding that line? James S. Hirsch, WSJ, 13 May 2022 Endeavor’s Owned Sports Properties unit saw smaller gains, in part because of the timing of pay-per-view events in the quarter for UFC compared to the same frame last year. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 12 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Baltimore Orioles pitcher Matt Harvey has been suspended 60 games without pay for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the league announced Tuesday. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, 17 May 2022 Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Orioles pitcher Matt Harvey has been suspended 60 games without pay for violating the league’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. Nathan Ruiz, Baltimore Sun, 17 May 2022 Massive delays soon left millions without pay, even as states relaxed some paperwork requirements. Tony Romm And Yeganeh Torbati, Anchorage Daily News, 15 May 2022 On May 2, it was learned Hopkins will be suspended without pay for violating the league’s Performance Enhancing Drugs Policy and won’t be allowed to return until Arizona’s Week 7 game. Bob Mcmanaman, The Arizona Republic, 13 May 2022 He was then suspended without pay for a period of five days with a recommendation for additional discipline up to and including termination of his employment, police said. Adam Sennott,, 6 May 2022 The Family Medical Leave Act gives up to 12 weeks off to have and take care of a baby, but without pay. CBS News, 5 May 2022 Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks has been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for his flagrant 2 foul on Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II in the first quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday in Memphis. C.j. Holmes, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 2022 Those found in violation of policy would be subject to a progressive disciplinary process that would vary from a verbal reprimand to a letter of reprimand to days off without pay. oregonlive, 2 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The hope is that CNN+ will serve as a gateway to a post-pay TV world, connecting the brand’s familiar red and white letters to a generation of viewers who are growing up without cable. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2022 The drug is so expensive at the wholesale level that private insurers place it in the highest co-pay categories; some won’t allow doctors to prescribe it without their prior approval, further narrowing patients’ access. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2022 More than 775 people have already signed up for the company's pre-pay membership, Precompose. Eileen Finan,, 17 June 2021 Or an expansion of co-pay coupons to Medicare, where they’re now banned? Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 16 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

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 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pay


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

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


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