Definition of earn in English:


See synonyms for earn

Translate earn into Spanish

transitive verbpast participle verb earned

[with object]
  • 1Obtain (money) in return for labor or services.

    ‘they earn $35 per hour’
    • ‘he earns his living as a truck driver’
    be paid, receive a salary of, take home, take home earnings of, gross
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    1. 1.1with two objects (of an activity) cause (someone) to obtain (money)
      • ‘this latest win earned them $50,000 in prize money’
    2. 1.2(of capital invested) gain (money) as interest or profit.
      • ‘the dollars can be placed on deposit and earn interest’
      net, make a profit of, realize a profit of, take home, pocket
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    3. 1.3Gain deservedly in return for one's behaviour or achievements.
      • ‘through the years she has earned affection and esteem’
      deserve, merit, warrant, justify, be entitled to, be worthy of, be deserving of, have a right to
      View synonyms





    earn one's keep
    • 1Work in return for food and accommodations.

      ‘Mother has been complaining that since I don't contribute any money to the household I should be earning my keep through domestic work.’
      • ‘If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.’
      • ‘He has very little business this time of year, so it makes sure the stableboys are earning their keep.’
      • ‘It used to be that young people were expected to start earning their keep very early, we had to make laws to prohibit child labour.’
      • ‘In other parts of Sweden, like Norrbotten, there were workhouses which poor children attended, earning their keep by doing most of the daily domestic work.’
      • ‘It's time for you to start earning your keep around here.’
      • ‘‘My father is a big proponent of tradition and earning your keep,’ Wright says.’
      • ‘‘You will start earning your keep tomorrow, Peter,’ said Orikichal smoothly, dismissing the faery servant with a wave of his hand.’
      • ‘The plantation owner and his family allowed him to live by himself on their property and earn his keep by performing house chores and milking cows.’
      • ‘But to our ancestors, kids were an addition to the family workforce and had to earn their keep.’
      1. 1.1Be worth the time, money, or effort spent on one.
        ‘his media advisers were earning their keep’
        • ‘I have long been of the opinion that there is always a group of stars who are paid a whole lot of money, but who earn their keep.’
        • ‘He earns his keep with a subtle musical touch that gradually becomes the overwhelming reason why you'll love this record.’
        • ‘Sounds like the drug lobbyists are earning their keep.’
        • ‘That is how literary agents earn their keep and justify their existence.’
        • ‘His production hasn't matched his paycheck, but this might be the year he earns his keep.’
        • ‘She earns her keep though by competently catching all the bugs and critters that come into our Texas home.’
        • ‘If we're going to welcome in all this new talent, it's time to sweep out some of the wrestlers who haven't been earning their keep.’
        • ‘Franklin has surveyed ranchers using llamas to protect sheep, and found that llamas seem to be earning their keep.’
        • ‘There are graceful conifers such as the Kashmir cypress and great pines earning their keep as windbreaks.’
        • ‘After a few years of hand waving, PowerPoint presentations and whiteboard discussions, investors began demanding that we start earning our keep by making a profit.’

Phrasal Verbs

    earn out
    • (of an author, book, recording artist, etc.) generate sufficient income through sales to equal the amount paid in an advance or royalty.

      ‘my experience is that most authors don't earn out’
      • ‘don't confuse earning out the advance with being profitable’
      • ‘For your first novel the sales figures they want are the ones that earn out your advance.’
      • ‘I can also assure you that most books never earn out their advance.’
      • ‘The distinguished lady novelist who boasted proudly that her books always earned out their advances.’
      • ‘Miss Smith, we gather, is a little worried that she has not earned out her advance.’
      • ‘So it may be the case that a writer gets one big advance, which is not earned out, and then - turn out the light.’
      • ‘It was one of these cult success books, but it never earned out its advance - everybody loved it but no one wanted to buy it.’


Old English earnian, of West Germanic origin, from a base shared by Old English esne ‘laborer’.