Main definitions of pay in English

: pay1pay2


Pronunciation /pā/ /peɪ/

See synonyms for pay

Translate pay into Spanish


  • 1with object Give (someone) money that is due for work done, goods received, or a debt incurred.

    with object and infinitive ‘he paid the locals to pick his coffee beans’
    • ‘I'll pay for your ticket’
    • ‘I rubbed her arm and told her not to worry, that these people were paid for this kind of thing.’
    • ‘Yes, there is hard work to be done, but that is what the minister and his officials are paid for and that is what they must do.’
    • ‘The chief executive was dismissed and staff were not paid for six months.’
    • ‘I'm much more focused on the work side of it - that's what I'm paid for.’
    • ‘Part-time doctors are paid for a fixed number of hours, even if they did not work some of them.’
    • ‘Every sound editor can't help but think of how to fill up a track; it's what we're paid for.’
    • ‘I do not say this to brag, but because it is the one thing I am good at and what I'm paid for.’
    • ‘But, excuse me, isn't playing sport before audiences what sportsmen are paid for?’
    • ‘There also may be periods of time when no procedures are being performed, thus nurses are paid for down time.’
    • ‘He is paid for his knowledge and his ability to superintend and direct the work of those placed under him.’
    • ‘Workers were not paid for their time at the work place when they were not actually laboring.’
    • ‘Neither of us are paid for the work we do, but that's no big deal.’
    • ‘The issue here is should players be paid for playing a game they love?’
    • ‘Though workers are paid for time at sea, most fish are shipped out, and processing jobs are given to other parts of the country.’
    • ‘She and other staff members were not paid for expenses during the previous month of work.’
    • ‘This means that workers are paid for fourteen months rather than twelve months every year.’
    • ‘Will employees be paid for all the work they have done up to the point of redundancy?’
    • ‘He was paid for his services but there is no doubt that he was playing a very dangerous game.’
    • ‘Accounts vary of how much the workers are paid for their labour.’
    • ‘Bad weather or no, the general consensus is that an employee is paid for 35 hours and he should work all of those hours.’
    reward, reimburse, recompense, give payment to, settle up with, remunerate, tip, indemnify
    defray the cost of, settle up for
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Give (a sum of money) in exchange for goods or work done or in discharge of a debt.
      ‘he paid $1,000 to have it built in 1977’
      • ‘you will have paid out more in premiums that you received from claims’
      • ‘a museum paid him a four-figure sum for it’
      • ‘The booty enabled him to clear his debts and pay large sums into the treasury, all without incurring a risk of prosecution.’
      • ‘The city is booming, it is a beautiful place to live, and those who can afford it are willing to pay the price to settle here.’
      • ‘They are forced to take in three roomers who pay money in exchange for room and board.’
      • ‘He pays outrageous sums of money at charity auctions.’
      • ‘Television pays large sums of money to cover men's college basketball games because sponsors will pay for commercial space in conjunction with the game.’
      • ‘Banknotes were first issued by banks who undertook to pay the sum of money that appeared on the note from their deposits of gold.’
      • ‘It is a question as to whether you are liable to pay a sum of money under the Tax Act.’
      • ‘I am staggered that our hard-earned council tax money goes towards paying their wages.’
      • ‘I went there whenever I had a chance and the money to pay the entrance fee.’
      • ‘We are stuck with finding this additional money to pay staff salaries and wages.’
      • ‘However, hedge funds are risky in that if they lose money, clients pay no fee at all.’
      • ‘I seem to have little money after being paid my monthly wage.’
      • ‘Customers paying annual premium for 10 or 15 years will get full benefits if they die during the cover period.’
      • ‘It encouraged families to enrol as subscribers, by paying an annual fee for free or subsidised treatment.’
      • ‘Many people are paying large sums of money for services which they are already entitled to.’
      • ‘Residents had traditionally signed long leases and paid an annual rent to the landowner.’
      • ‘It will be student money that will pay the legal fees of the administration.’
      • ‘And he says he barely makes enough money to pay wages and all the other bills.’
      • ‘There is not enough money to pay fees for the other two children of primary school age.’
      • ‘It is true that the order is an order to pay a sum of money.’
      spend, expend, pay out, lay out, part with, disburse, hand over, remit, render
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Hand over or transfer the amount due of (a debt, wages, etc.) to someone.
      ‘I always prefer to pay all my bills on time’
      • ‘bonuses were paid to savers whose policies completed their full term’
      • ‘The crew members were only released 10 days later after an unspecified amount of ransom was paid.’
      • ‘But on the face of it there was a seamless transfer with rents being paid by the same system and services unaffected.’
      • ‘Even if you pay your tax bill on time, you are still liable to pay a surcharge for late filing.’
      • ‘If he does not pay that tax, the relief given to the approved body is limited to the amount of tax actually paid by the donor.’
      • ‘This bill is about people using the bankruptcy system to evade paying alimony and child support payments.’
      • ‘The Egyptian government denies paying any ransom to secure his release.’
      • ‘The existing two-week timeshare was never sold, and when they stopped paying the instalments, the new apartment was taken away.’
      • ‘However, residents have until the beginning of May to pay their first instalment so the problem may only surface then.’
      • ‘Brian is surprised and please when Frank turns up each week to pay his instalments on the cost of the stolen tools.’
      • ‘Tickled by the notion of this souvenir of my transgression, I paid the surcharge, and keep the photo in my album to this day.’
      • ‘Please have correct amount when paying your child's fee.’
      • ‘He had known this man for a couple of years and knew that he always paid his debts, no matter what.’
      • ‘They will also take on responsibilities, and one partner may face paying alimony to the other in the event of the legal partnership being dissolved.’
      • ‘Why are you allowed to exceed water allocation limits if you can simply afford to pay the surcharge?’
      • ‘The courses are free for unemployed people, while wage earners pay a small fee.’
      • ‘The car becomes the property of the buyer only when they have paid the final instalment due under the agreement.’
      • ‘He paid alimony, but it all went down the drain as soon as the check came in the mail.’
      • ‘John was asked why the Company stopped paying the mortgage instalments and he said that he did not know.’
      • ‘He therefore refuses to pay the outstanding instalments on the dynamite and, in fact, sells some of it to Edward.’
      • ‘I was commuting an hour each way from New Jersey and needed the rest of my wages to pay my rent.’
      discharge, settle, pay off, pay in full, meet, clear, square, defray, honour, satisfy, make good, liquidate
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3(of work, an investment, etc.) yield or provide someone with (a specified sum of money)
      ‘jobs that pay $5 or $6 an hour’
      • ‘Ultimately, the manager is confident his investments will pay handsome dividends.’
      • ‘Bar work pays a modest wage, so it's fortunate that Oceana helps by providing a subsidised cab service for its staff.’
      • ‘Issued by financially strong firms, these investments are paying an average yield of a little under 4.5% after tax.’
      • ‘Since most do not operate to earn profits, these enterprises do not pay dividends to shareholders.’
      • ‘So, it is an investment that pays dividends not just for the family, which is very important, but for our economy as well.’
      • ‘These work projects will pay a minimum of the national minimum wage.’
      • ‘The investment, of time as much as money, paid early dividends.’
      • ‘Most are fleeing high unemployment and wages as low as 50p an hour in search of low-skilled jobs paying salaries that remain a dream for people in Poland.’
      • ‘It defends itself by saying it pays competitive wages and provides employees low cost, catastrophic healthcare coverage.’
      • ‘I can whinge all I want about having a job, but it's a job that pays decent money.’
      • ‘So, one of the main reasons people often give for why it's the wife - and not the husband - who stays home is that her job pays less money.’
      • ‘Firms can apply for a £2,000 grant for each new job paying a salary of more than £14,000, up to a maximum of five jobs.’
      • ‘I need a job which pays enough money to cover rent, bills and family expenses.’
    4. 1.4no object (of a business or undertaking, or an attitude) be profitable or advantageous to someone.
      ‘crime doesn't pay’
      • ‘it pays to choose varieties carefully’
      • ‘That's because agriculture does not pay, both for the producer and for government.’
      • ‘Learning pays in all sorts of ways - it can be the first step to a job or better job and to making new friends.’
      • ‘Your education pays when you get married, she philosophises.’
      • ‘The owners who didn't know how to sow kept wailing that agriculture was not paying.’
      • ‘Education pays by increasing the stock of human quality through increasing the skills of the workforce.’
      • ‘Farming does not pay and many have had to look beyond the fields for additional ventures to earn a living wage.’
      • ‘In business it never pays to get indignant in any way.’
      • ‘His achievements should encourage any youngster from Mayo who wants to succeed in sport that dedication and hard work pays in the end.’
      yield, pay out, return, produce, bring in
      be profitable, make money, make a profit, be remunerative, make a return, provide a living
      be advantageous to, benefit, be of advantage to, be of benefit to, be beneficial to, be profitable to, be worthwhile to, repay, serve
      View synonyms
  • 2no object Suffer a loss or other misfortune as a consequence of an action.

    ‘they paid for his impatience’
    • ‘the destroyer responsible for these atrocities would have to pay with his life’
    • ‘Presumably he shouldn't be put in a situation where he might have to pay with his life.’
    • ‘If we carry on for much longer in this uninspiring vein, he may pay with his head.’
    • ‘They are the ones who speak out, resist, and pay with their liberty or their lives.’
    • ‘Several upright officials have had to pay with their lives or career for daring the criminal.’
    • ‘Having to pay with your own life brings a chilling factor into the equation.’
    • ‘Workers will pay with their homes as well as their jobs when the economy hits the skids.’
    • ‘That is the price of using the crystal ball, or any magic item; you pay with your energy.’
    • ‘It was right now that Khira had made her fatal mistake and she was going to pay with everything that she had.’
    • ‘She's always afraid that someone is going to find out and that she'll pay with her life, like her father.’
    • ‘You fear they will make you pay with your life for your place in the world or the colour of your skin.’
    • ‘If you kill someone you must pay with your own life no matter what the cause.’
    • ‘Our code is her code and our code says the jewel of our tribe shall pay with her life.’
    • ‘They say workers are made to pay with their livelihood for increased profits of corporations.’
    • ‘What he didn't know was that he still had a debt to his brother that he would have to pay with his life.’
    • ‘In the ruthless trade of people smuggling they will increasingly pay with their lives.’
    • ‘The spokesman said that this time he may have to pay with his job.’
    • ‘The tragedy is that some of them have had to pay with their lives.’
    • ‘I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag.’
    • ‘The media print only what will sell their papers regardless of the consequences and we are paying with our blood for this.’
    suffer, suffer the consequences, be punished, pay a penalty, atone, make atonement, pay the price, get one's deserts, take one's medicine
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with object Give what is due or deserved to (someone); reward or punish.
      • ‘“I'll pay you for that,” he snarled’
  • 3with two objects Give or bestow (attention, respect, or a compliment) on (someone)

    ‘no one paid them any attention’
    • ‘They don't consider things like paying attention to their pet, or walking him, giving him exercise, etc.’
    • ‘Indeed, they were, and so intently that they paid no attention to me in the car next to them.’
    • ‘Babs suffers a nervous breakdown when she realizes no one is paying attention to her.’
    • ‘I'm trying to conjure up the good-fairy presence, trying to get her to pay attention to me.’
    bestow, present, grant, give, hand out, extend, offer, proffer, render, afford
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1Make (a visit or call) to (someone)
      ‘she has been prevailed upon to pay us a visit’
      • ‘Her husband Gary still pays daily visits to her grave’
      • ‘A mysterious man pays a visit to the landlord, making inquiries about his tenants.’
      • ‘Billy pays an informal visit to a policemen friend who dismisses it as a prank.’
      • ‘So in a bid not to hurt her in that sense, I chicken out of paying her visits.’
      • ‘Unlike most offenders, they will not be paying a visit to their probation officer once every three weeks.’


  • The money paid to someone for regular work.

    ‘those working on contract may receive higher rates of pay’
    • ‘showing up and collecting your pay’
    • ‘The rates of pay and allowances now paid to MPs must have affected their behaviour.’
    • ‘Theses are very interesting skilled jobs, which have quite rewarding rates of pay.’
    • ‘Workers' hourly rates of pay also include allowances for board and lodgings.’
    • ‘This entitles employees to make regular savings from their pay over the next three or five years and earn a tax-free bonus.’
    • ‘The additional pay was money intended for them, they said, and was in effect held in trust by their employer.’
    • ‘The garment workers, who are owed back pay, have no money for return fares to China.’
    • ‘Pensions will continue to be based on a representative rate of pay for rank and length of service.’
    • ‘One of the Irish employees claimed that by taking on migrant workers the company was pushing down the rates of pay.’
    • ‘The average hourly rate of pay must not be less than your minimum hourly rate of pay illustrated on the table above.’
    • ‘That's one of the major problems for corporate regulators dealing with executive pay.’
    • ‘Variable rates of pay will also create a factory system within schools.’
    • ‘The drivers refused to comply with roster changes until they were put on this higher rate of pay.’
    • ‘This has nothing to do with resourcing or rates of pay, it's simply a matter of a lack of will.’
    • ‘How fair is your rate of pay compared to others in the same company or organisation?’
    • ‘We were hired at a particular rate of pay, which is just about a reasonable working wage.’
    • ‘Certainly they demanded a higher rate of pay, asking double what a laborer received.’
    • ‘The families also protested against expected rates of redundancy pay.’
    • ‘Some have taken a job at the same rate of pay, but have lost conditions of employment like vehicles.’
    • ‘Most of the victims were thought to be police officers waiting to collect their pay.’
    • ‘It's now got the lowest base rates of pay of any public service department.’
    salary, wages, wage, take-home pay, gross pay, net pay, payment
    View synonyms


    pay dearly
    • 1Obtain something at a high cost or great effort.

      ‘his master must have paid dearly for such a magnificent beast’
      • ‘The taxpayer has already paid dearly for the construction of these houses, which cost £78,000 each in 1984, he said.’
      • ‘In other words you are paying dearly to maintain a loan while your ability to clear the debt is falling each year.’
      • ‘But, I made her pay dearly for her purchases - $227 for four yearbooks and an old diploma and almost $150 for a collection of papers and photographs.’
      • ‘Who would pay dearly to cross the ocean to teach middle-school math in one of Southern California's lowest-performing school districts?’
      • ‘A country pays and pays dearly for the development of its populace.’
      • ‘Because developers pay dearly to lease state-owned land for periods of years, there is great pressure to complete revenue-generating structures quickly.’
      • ‘And without toilets, they had to queue for hours and pay dearly for the privilege of using the smelly loo of some shopkeeper or building watchman who saw a profit in nature's most basic need.’
      • ‘However Irish viewers have to pay dearly for them.’
      • ‘Why is it that record companies pay dearly for radio play and fight Internet play?’
      • ‘In fact, the vision requires vast sectors of society to pay dearly, and from their own pockets.’
      1. 1.1Suffer for an error or failure.
        ‘they paid dearly for wasting goalscoring opportunities’
        • ‘And over 100,000 Americans have paid dearly for this failure.’
        • ‘In this case, they haven't, and now they're paying dearly for their candour.’
        • ‘This was probably a mistake for which they would pay dearly.’
        • ‘They make false promises, fool themselves and people around them, and more often than not, pay dearly later.’
        • ‘This period of their game was marked by poor passing and indifferent play for which they would later pay dearly.’
        • ‘It is a grim irony lost on them, for which they will pay dearly in elections to come.’
        • ‘It is a betrayal of civilised values and we shall pay dearly for it.’
        • ‘However, they made poor use of a lot of scoring chances for which they were to pay dearly later in the game.’
        • ‘In both cases, they must pay dearly for their deeds.’
        • ‘The only condition is that the hapless Alfred must pay dearly for rejecting her many years before.’
    pay one's way
    • (of an enterprise or person) earn enough to cover one's costs.

      • ‘some students are paying their way through college’
    pay one's last respects
    • Show respect toward a dead person by attending their funeral.

      ‘He had many friends in the area and they all attended his funeral to pay their last respects to the popular Jim.’
      • ‘This week thousands of people will be expected to pay their last respects during the funerals on Wednesday.’
      • ‘His burial took place in Ballybracken Cemetery where a large crowd attended to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Huge crowds attended to pay their last respects to a very popular gentleman.’
      • ‘Mourners paid their last respects at the funeral of a teenager who died after playing in a football match.’
      • ‘Nearly 300 plantation workers, young people and villagers attended to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Many police officers, businessmen and members of the public attended the ceremonies to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Thousands thronged the streets of Paris at his funeral to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Large crowds attended on both days to pay their last respects to Michael.’
      • ‘Hundreds turned out for her funeral at Strandhill Church last Sunday to pay their last respects.’
    in the pay of
    • Employed by.

      ‘mercenaries in the pay of one or other of the competing local rulers’
      • ‘Perhaps more so, when you consider that the four ‘civilian contractors’ would appear to be mercenaries in the pay of the occupation forces.’
      • ‘His timely rescue of London from a retreating force of Frankish mercenaries who had been in the pay of Allectus was a huge propaganda victory.’
      • ‘Yes, he was a willing mercenary in the pay of the government of Canada and a Crown corporation.’
      • ‘We used to ask ourselves which of the window-breakers were in the pay of the cops/feds/private right-wingers.’
      • ‘As a long-time exile in the pay of the CIA, he was always a strong candidate in Washington and US officials were clearly involved in steering the choice.’
      • ‘And he's been in the pay of the British for around 30 years.’
      • ‘It must be nice to be in the pay of eccentric old rich conservative men, who arrange for you to testify in congress about things you know nothing about.’
      • ‘Those etymologists who can see through the mirrors of conspiracy and who are not in the pay of multinational interests will be aware of this.’
      • ‘The films were ‘foreign-funded cinema,’ he declared, implying that the directors were in the pay of foreign masters.’
      • ‘In 1419, a Genoan captain in the pay of Prince Henry struck Madeira.’
    pay one's respects
    • Make a polite visit to someone.

      ‘we went to pay our respects to the head lama’
      • ‘Should I visit him and pay my respects, after the way he had treated me?’
      • ‘Earlier Wednesday, he visited the embassy to pay his respects.’
      • ‘All around, people queued in a polite but formal way to pay their respects.’
      • ‘Unlike my last visit, no one bothered us while we paid our respects.’
      • ‘Traditionally, people visited their home villages to pay their respects to family.’
      • ‘I visit here every Valentine's to pay my respects and tell her what's been going on in my life.’
      • ‘Galileo visited Rome in 1624 to pay his respects to Urban, and several events at that time led to his beginning work on another book.’
      • ‘A constant stream of visitors have been paying their respects to the family.’
      • ‘Several hundred people have been coming by throughout the day paying their respects.’
      • ‘Quite a few people I've spoken to will be going and paying their respects.’
    pay through the nose
    • Pay much more than a fair price.

      • ‘they paid through the nose for one-to-one intensive tuition’
      • ‘For this, you need to know that you will pay through the nose; in fact you may well bleed through the nose when you see the bill.’
      • ‘Detractors complain about the outrageous prices of tickets, yet punters have not stopped paying through the nose.’
      • ‘We were paying through the nose for everything.’
      • ‘The charge payers are paying through the nose for nothing.’
      • ‘More and more people are keeping pets as companions or substitutes for children, and paying through the nose for the privilege’
      • ‘But you'll be paying through the nose for four years whereas I'll only have to survive a few more semesters.’
      • ‘Most cars drive better on the standard fit wheel, so you could be paying through the nose to make driving slightly less comfortable.’
      • ‘Many companies must be paying through the nose on employees' medical bills.’
      • ‘The people don't want to pay through the nose for even more spin.’
      • ‘People no longer have to compromise their standards or pay through the nose.’
    pay for itself
    • (of an object or system) earn or save enough money to cover the cost of its purchase.

      ‘the best insulation will pay for itself in less than a year’
      • ‘In many parts of the country, this type of insulation will pay for itself in energy saved.’
      • ‘Not only can you work at your own pace, your hobby can pay for itself and you'll earn money as well!’
      • ‘In general, the cost of training pays for itself in just nine months.’
      • ‘Best of all, the system's cost will pay for itself after just a few print runs.’
      • ‘If you get a lot of faxes, an ink jet may pay for itself in saved paper costs within a year or two.’
      • ‘With the money you will save on rent, the service pays for itself in a month or two.’
      • ‘A good quality pool cover is an investment which could literally pay for itself!’
      • ‘Draft insulation on doors and windows also pays for itself.’
      • ‘Over its life span, the bulb saves $50 and actually pays for itself.’
      • ‘At $10 or less, this weatherstripping item pays for itself within a couple of years by reducing energy costs.’
    pay it forward
    • Respond to a person's kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.

      ‘I will take the support I have had and try to pay it forward whenever I can’
      • ‘You'll get your chance to pay it forward.’
      • ‘I'm a big believer in the whole pay it forward idea.’
      • ‘Rather than accepting her money, Hyde told the motorist to "pay it forward to somebody else."’
      • ‘Stay honest, stay tight, pick your friends up when they fall and pay it forward.’
      • ‘Helping three people might be easy, but asking them to pay it forward isn't.’
      • ‘I wish I was in a position to help them out, but I will take the support I have had and try to pay it forward whenever I can.’
      • ‘Trevor will perform three acts of unsolicited kindness with the only requirement being that each recipient of his goodwill must "pay it forward" to three other people.’
      • ‘I truly believe when people do nice things for others, they will pay it forward.’
      • ‘One boy decides to do a good deed and thereby create a ripple effect by asking the beneficiaries of his kindness to pay it forward by helping others.’
      • ‘Of course, as Girlfriend suggests, the ultimate way to bless yourself is to bless others (aka pay it forward).’
      • ‘Louise reminds us to pay the kindness forward after recounting a story about a friend of hers whose Harbour Bridge toll was paid for by the guy in the car in front of her who told the toll booth operator she had to pay it forward one day.’
      • ‘I have been the recipient of a pay it forward type act recently and although in this particular instance I will pay it back, it has also strengthened my resolution to pay it forward.’
      • ‘If you can walk out of the hospital and you are well enough to get in a car - any car and *drive* it, you should thank your lucky stars and pay it forward.’

Phrasal Verbs

    pay up
    • also pay something up, pay up somethingPay a debt in full.

      ‘I had a hard time getting him to pay up’
      • ‘you've got ninety days to pay up the original sum’
      • ‘And if you have old debts, pay them up, until you are free of outstanding financial debts.’
      • ‘Admission is by ticket only and no one can get in unless they are paid up and can produce their ticket.’
      • ‘He also said that no one should play until all his or her fees are paid up.’
      • ‘It would be appreciated if contributions for the upgrading of this water scheme could be paid up by 26th June.’
      • ‘The same applies to old life insurance policies where premiums have not been paid for some time, or where the policy is paid up but has been forgotten about.’
      • ‘I have 18 months left on my contract there and if the manager wants me out then they will have to pay my contract up.’
      • ‘But Reilly paid it up over the months, waiting for the final payment before he took the camera home.’
      • ‘They would pay a deposit on the item and then so much a week until it was paid up.’
      • ‘All my properties were sold, my taxes were paid up, a trust fund was set up for my children and whatever cash was left was spent on my legal fees at the original trial.’
    pay in
    • pay something in, pay in somethingPay money into a bank account.

      ‘this statement may include checks that you've recently paid in’
      • ‘On the Monday morning I went to the bank to pay the money in, and realised that it was not in my purse or my bag.’
      • ‘I had no idea there was any problem with the new tax credits system until I checked my bank account this morning to see no money had been paid in.’
      • ‘But the amount they can earn tax-free on a standard equity fund or savings account drops to £100 a year if the money is paid in by a parent.’
      • ‘Donations can be made to the appeal by paying them in to a special bank account or by sending cheques directly to the T & A.’
      • ‘It was all in change and we had to lug it down to the bank to pay it in.’
      • ‘He said he left the cash in the car and only realised it had gone when he returned to the bank to pay it in.’
      • ‘The money left her account the day after I paid it in but it didn't surface in mine until four days later.’
      • ‘Mind you, the only reading Eric ever does is his bank statement to see if his expenses have been paid in.’
      • ‘I have no idea why the cheque was not paid in, but I'm reluctant to try banking it after all this time.’
    pay off
    • 1informal (of a course of action) yield good results; succeed.

      • ‘all the hard work I had done over the summer paid off’
      • ‘In some cases of course, it can pay off handsomely, if the company makes a decent recovery.’
      • ‘We can only hope that, in the long term, the gamble pays off.’
      • ‘When we invest ourselves in our children, it often pays off in surprising ways.’
      • ‘Secondly, and crucially, we get the reward when the gamble pays off.’
      • ‘Translating this complex novel for the stage is an ambitious undertaking, but it pays off richly.’
      • ‘He's given me the courage to go out into the world knowing that being beautiful inside sometimes pays off.’
      • ‘They have shown in the last few months that hard work in training pays off.’
      • ‘I guess listening in class pays off, even if you don't read the million and one readings.’
      • ‘Sometimes, all that fiddling with computers at home pays off extravagantly.’
      • ‘Refreshing your brain can sometimes be a little hard, but in the long run it always pays off.’
    • 2pay something off, pay off somethingPay a debt in full.

      • ‘I've saved up enough to pay off my mortgage’
    • 3pay someone off, pay off someoneDismiss someone with a final payment.

      • ‘when directors are fired, they should not be lavishly paid off’
      1. 3.1Pay someone a bribe.
        • ‘all the witnesses had been paid off’
    pay down
    North American
    • pay something down, pay down somethingReduce an amount of money owed by paying some of it.

      • ‘she used the money to pay down her mortgage’
    pay back
    • 1pay someone or something back, pay back someone or somethingRepay a loan to someone.

      ‘a regular amount was deducted from my wages to pay her back’
      • ‘the money should be paid back with interest’
      • ‘they did pay me back the money’
      • ‘Oh, and next time you pay her back on a loan ask for a receipt nicely.’
      • ‘They can always pay us back when things get better.’
      • ‘Don't worry Kate, please, he said it was only a loan and we are going to pay him back.’
      • ‘My sister paid the wages of the funeral, so I have to pay her back.’
      • ‘The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money.’
      • ‘‘I thought it might be quicker if I went and got one myself,’ I said. ‘Do you mind paying me back out of petty cash?’
      • ‘I promise to pay you back in the middle of August.’
      • ‘If I can't make the moolah, how am I going to pay you back for my education?’
      • ‘He'd obviously taken it from somebody else's account to pay us back, I think that's what had been happening.’
      • ‘He had been offered a job locally and said he wanted to pay us back.’
    • 2pay someone back, pay back someoneTake revenge on someone.

      ‘when someone does you wrong, the first instinct is to pay them back for hurting you’
      • ‘Then the universe or whatever is out there pays me back by making bad things happen to me and the people around me.’
      • ‘And somewhere down the road, she will be paying me back for all 118 guests who didn't show up.’
      • ‘I think my body is paying me back for subjecting it to a years' worth of hard shift work.’
      • ‘He added: ‘I'd like to think the games I have played for Walter have been my way of paying him back.’’
      • ‘He will not only be happy to explain everything, but to find some way to pay me back for all this.’
      • ‘This mass culture exacts a price, and people are paid back for what they do - or don't do - to the environment.’
      1. 2.1Reward someone for something done earlier.
        • ‘I took Aunt Shirley a cake to pay her back for solving a problem my grandmother had’
    pay out
    • 1also pay something out, pay out somethingPay a large sum of money from funds under one's control.

      ‘insurers can refuse to pay out’
      • ‘I had to pay out $500 to get my car repaired’
      • ‘It also means that the money is paid out more quickly, bypassing the long wait until probate is granted.’
      • ‘In most cases, funds are paid out over a three-year period.’
      • ‘After the final roll-over the money will be paid out to the next division, the second division winners.’
      • ‘Immediately the money was paid out on the instructions of Des Traynor.’
      • ‘This means all buy-in money is paid out as prizes.’
      • ‘To confuse matters more, the states are allowed, under federal law, to take two days to process the undistributed money before paying it out.’
      • ‘My dad needed to feel comfortable that we would be able to pay the money out.’
      • ‘Recipients of this money bought more stocks, the government received more money, paid it out, and so on.’
      • ‘If the government gets the money, it is paid out to government workers, who then pay taxes on their income.’
      • ‘The advantage of a qualified annuity is tax-free growth on invested money, and tax is deferred until the money is paid out.’
    • 2pay something out, pay out somethingLet out a rope by slackening it.

      ‘I began paying out the nylon line’
      • ‘Some of the towline was paid out to send the commuter astern of the schooner.’
      • ‘With a float tied to the end, we start to pay the line out to float behind us and arc round the stranded yacht.’
      • ‘All the instructions were given in Irish in those days and when the spyer saw the fish he'd tell the captain and the seine net would be paid out.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘pacify’): from Old French paie (noun), payer (verb), from Latin pacare ‘appease’, from pax, pac- ‘peace’. The notion of ‘payment’ arose from the sense of ‘pacifying’ a creditor.

Main definitions of pay in English

: pay1pay2


Pronunciation /pā/ /peɪ/

See synonyms for pay

Translate pay into Spanish

transitive verbpayed

[with object]Nautical
  • Seal (the deck or hull seams of a wooden ship) with pitch or tar to prevent leakage.

    • ‘an open groove between the planks had to be payed by running in hot pitch from a special ladle’


Early 17th century from Old Northern French peier, from Latin picare, from pix, pic- ‘pitch’.