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

But even a small fraction of Apple iPhone, iPad, and Mac owners is still a sizable number, allowing for a possible payoff of Apple's investment. Lisa Marie Segarra, Fortune, "Sizing Up Apple Arcade, the Newest Contender in the Game Subscription Category," 11 Sep. 2019 Two Fairfield public works supervisors and a local developer were arrested in a scheme that, in exchange for a payoff to one of the bosses, allowed hazardous materials to be illegally dumped on town property, police said. Gregory B. Hladky,, "Police: Fairfield public works supervisors, developer, arrested in hazardous waste dumping scheme," 7 Aug. 2019 People owned stock for the dividends, not for a quick payoff next quarter. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "Another bite of the Apple: Beyond that trillion-dollar valuation," 7 Aug. 2018 Williams said of putting off a big pro paycheck for a possible collegiate payoff for the Aggies. Brent Zwerneman Staff Writer, San Antonio Express-News, "AGGIES-DRAFT0620," 19 June 2018 The latest comments -- which contradicted Trump’s earlier ones -- were an attempt to put to rest the question of whether campaign funds had been used for the payoff. Greg Farrell,, "Giuliani’s Remarks May Hurt Bid to Keep Trump’s Secrets in Cohen Case," 3 May 2018 Countless conservatives laid down their careers and their sanity waiting for the big payoff of Clintonian criminality, like a homeowner confident of tracing the smell in the house to one dead rat. T.a. Frank, The Hive, "Why Trump May Yet Escape the Michael Cohen Freak Show," 20 Apr. 2018 That very morning, Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, had created a limited liability company, public records show, that ultimately would serve as a vehicle for Daniels' payoff. The Washington Post,, "Days before election, Stormy Daniels threatened to cancel deal to keep alleged affair with Trump secret," 2 Mar. 2018 But if those kids come back and call you ‘Coach’ and give you a big hug, that’s the payoff. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Painful lesson of late Jake Palet: Helping, hurting can go hand-in-hand," 16 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In 2014, the Elections Division closed an investigation into whether signature gatherers for a marijuana legalization effort were paid off the books after organizers ignored the state’s questions. oregonlive, "Case Closed: In Oregon campaign investigations, ‘I did not’ is all it takes," 17 Sep. 2019 Moving forward, their rent goes toward paying off the loan, community expenses, property taxes. Washington Post, "Colorado towns take action to preserve mobile home parks," 17 Sep. 2019 On Saturday, the bet to bring the contest to New York paid off. Nick Corasaniti, New York Times, "Steeped in Hawaiian History, Longboarding Rides an Instagram Wave," 10 Sep. 2019 When a lien is placed on a property, the owner can’t sell, refinance or transfer title of their home without first paying off the lien amount. Martin E. Comas,, "Seminole weighs amnesty program to give incentive to code-enforcement scofflaws," 26 Aug. 2019 The effort spent completing optional missions isn't necessarily paid off with useful perks. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Review: Control is Remedy’s best game yet—and a ray tracing masterpiece," 26 Aug. 2019 Our team obtained data from the Puget Sound Region Council on the daily occupancy and parking prices of all paid off-street parking garages and lots in downtown Seattle. Constantine Samaras, The Conversation, "Bargain-hunting robocars could spell the end for downtown parking – cities need to plan ahead now," 23 Aug. 2019 As Brian Kahn wrote for Earther, the majority of these efforts have been focused on muddying the climate change debate, or at least paying off politicians to muddy the debate for them. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "David Koch Is Gone, but His Pipelines Are Here to Stay," 23 Aug. 2019 These funds can be spent like a debit card on purchases using the digital Apple Pay Cash card, sent to a friend via Apple Pay, or even used to partially pay off the balance on your Apple Card. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Apple Card Review: A (Mostly) Rewarding Way to Pay," 22 Aug. 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

10 Oct 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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