1 of 4

verb (1)

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

transitive verb

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

: to discharge a debt or obligation
I'll pay when I have the money.
: to be worth the expense or effort
crime doesn't pay
: to suffer the consequences of an act
He paid for his crime.


2 of 4


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


3 of 4


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


4 of 4

verb (2)

payed also paid; paying

transitive verb

: to coat with a waterproof composition
pay one's dues
: to earn a right or position through experience, suffering, or hard work
He's paid his dues and deserves a promotion.
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.
Choose the Right Synonym for pay

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

Example Sentences

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
Over the long term, pay transparency can create trust between employer and employee. Aliza Knox, Forbes, 26 Jan. 2023 AT&T Illinois has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office, admitting its role in the scheme and agreeing to pay $23 million and cooperate in the investigation. Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune, 26 Jan. 2023 The shelter also shared ways pet owners can pay it forward and help other humans. Marisa Sullivan, Peoplemag, 26 Jan. 2023 Given the potential risk to defendants, DoNotPay plans to pay them for their involvement and cover any fines associated with the cases. Jacquelyne Germain, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Jan. 2023 Getting customers to pay you in forex is also a challenge. Quartz, 25 Jan. 2023 Four years ago, while House GOP leaders and Gov. Greg Abbott were pushing the concept of teacher merit pay, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted across-the-board raises as well. Dallas News, 24 Jan. 2023 So these line items are essentially Live Nation negotiating to pay itself. Caitlin Huston, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Jan. 2023 And hopefully, those people will be inspired to pay it forward. Stephanie Dillon, Rolling Stone, 24 Jan. 2023
In an environment where the unemployment rate is at a half-century low of 3.5%, employees have been able to command big increases in pay to keep up with rising prices of consumer goods and services. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 29 Jan. 2023 At the same time, friends at other companies who were also laid off received more generous severance packages—Gibbs received 10 weeks of pay and the vesting period for her equity was sped up—which compounded her feelings of frustration. Byalicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 29 Jan. 2023 Several Sharp workers spoke Tuesday at a La Mesa City Council meeting to say the hospital suffered from poor staffing and low pay that risked patient safety. San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Jan. 2023 Workers told reporters of bosses who threatened them with guns or physical violence, of living on remote work sites without housing or sanitary facilities or access to food, and of fraudulent promises of pay. Los Angeles Times, 29 Jan. 2023 Ah, man, that would be a longer conversation that is above our pay grade. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Jan. 2023 With more strike dates planned in the coming weeks, union leaders have criticised the government for an unwillingness to negotiate on staff pay. Katherine Hignett, Forbes, 28 Jan. 2023 While proponents have laid out the benefits, others have expressed concern about costs and the productivity of employees working fewer hours for the same amount of pay. Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2023 Managers use a fair-pay formula: These raw-meat skewers are served on swords, on top of a chopping block. Lynn Hsu, The New Yorker, 28 Jan. 2023
According to the American Diabetes Association, 22 states and Washington D.C. have imposed insulin co-pay caps ranging from $25 to $100 for 30-day supplies, which some would like to expand nationwide. Benjamin Ryan, New York Times, 18 Jan. 2023 In August, the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, the Diabetes Leadership Council, and the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the federal rule that allows co-pay accumulators. Katie Wedell, USA TODAY, 1 Nov. 2022 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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near pay

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 verb
paid ˈpād How to pronounce pay (audio) also in sense 6 payed; paying
: to give (as money) in return for services received or for something bought
pay the taxi driver
pay for a ticket
: to give what is owed
pay a tax
: to get even with
pay someone back for an insult
: to give or offer freely
pay a compliment
pay attention
: to return value or profit to
it pays to drive carefully
: to give as a return
a bank account paying eight percent
: to make slack and allow to run out
pay out a rope
also payor


2 of 3 noun
: the act of paying
: the state of being paid or employed for money
: something paid
especially : wage entry 2, salary


3 of 3 adjective
: containing or leading to something valuable
: having a coin slot for receiving money for use

More from Merriam-Webster on pay

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