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[urn] /ɜrn/
verb (used with object)
to gain or get in return for one's labor or service:
to earn one's living.
to merit as compensation, as for service; deserve:
to receive more than one has earned.
to acquire through merit:
to earn a reputation for honesty.
to gain as due return or profit:
Savings accounts earn interest.
to bring about or cause deservedly:
His fair dealing earned our confidence.
verb (used without object)
to gain income:
securities that earn on a quarterly basis.
Origin of earn1
before 900; Middle English ern(i)en, Old English earnian; akin to Old High German arnēn to earn, harvest
Related forms
earner, noun
Can be confused
earn, urn.
1. procure, make, receive, obtain. See gain1 .


[urn] /ɜrn/
verb (used without object), Obsolete.
to grieve.
First recorded in 1570-80; perhaps variant of yearn Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for earning
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In this way he would be earning something, and it would be better than being idle.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • Only three of them she knew made any pretence of earning their living.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • As to "earning her living," I am not sure but she was learning to do it in several ways.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • I am earning my bread in the way I desire—I am independent—I want them not.

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • To hear her speak of "earning one's living" was too much for him.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
British Dictionary definitions for earning


to gain or be paid (money or other payment) in return for work or service
(transitive) to acquire, merit, or deserve through behaviour or action: he has earned a name for duplicity
(transitive) (of securities, investments, etc) to gain (interest, return, profit, etc)
Word Origin
Old English earnian; related to Old High German arnēn to reap, Old Saxon asna salary, tithe
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for earning



Old English earnian "deserve, earn, merit, win, get a reward for labor," from Proto-Germanic *aznojan (cf. Old Frisian esna "reward, pay"), from *azna "labor" especially "field labor" (cf. Old Norse önn "work in the field"), from PIE *aznon "to do harvest work, serve" (cf. Old High German arnon "to reap"), denominative verb from *es-en- "harvest, fall" (cf. Old High German aren "harvest, crop," German Ernte "harvest," Old English ern "harvest," Gothic asans "harvest, summer," Old Church Slavonic jeseni, Russian osen, Old Prussian assanis "autumn").

Also from the same root are Gothic asneis, Old High German esni "hired laborer, day laborer," Old English esne "serf, laborer, man." Related: Earned; earning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with earning
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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