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[pair] /pɛər/
noun, plural pairs, pair.
two identical, similar, or corresponding things that are matched for use together:
a pair of gloves; a pair of earrings.
something consisting of or regarded as having two parts or pieces joined together:
a pair of scissors; a pair of slacks.
two individuals who are similar or in some way associated:
a pair of liars; a pair of seal pups.
a married, engaged, or dating couple.
two mated animals.
a span or team:
a pair of horses.
  1. two members on opposite sides in a deliberative body who for convenience, as to permit absence, arrange together to forgo voting on a given occasion.
  2. the arrangement thus made.
  1. two playing cards of the same denomination without regard to suit or color.
  2. pairs, two card players who are matched together against different contestants.
pairs, pair skating.
Also called kinematic pair. Mechanics. two parts or pieces so connected that they mutually constrain relative motion.
Philately. two postage stamps joined together either vertically or horizontally.
a set or combination of more than two objects forming a collective whole:
a pair of beads.
verb (used with object)
to arrange or designate in pairs or groups of two:
She paired dancers for the waltz contest.
to form into a pair, as by matching, joining, etc.; match; couple:
to pair freshly washed socks.
(of animals) to cause to mate.
verb (used without object)
to separate into pairs or groups of two (usually followed by off ):
to pair off for a procession.
to form a pair or pairs.
to be a member of a pair.
to match with or resemble another.
to unite in close association with another, as in a business partnership, friendship, marriage, etc.
(of animals) to mate.
Government. (in a deliberative body) to form or arrange a pair.
grow a pair, Slang: Vulgar. to act in a stereotypically manly way, as by being brave:
Stop the whining and grow a pair!
Origin of pair1
1250-1300; Middle English paire < Old French < Latin pāria, plural (taken as feminine singular) of pār a pair. See par1
Related forms
pairwise, adverb
unpaired, adjective
well-paired, adjective
Can be confused
pair, pare, payer, pear.
couple, pair, several (see synonym study at the current entry)
Synonym Study
1. Pair, brace, couple, span, yoke are terms for groups of two. Pair is used of two things naturally or habitually associated in use, or necessary to each other to make a complete set: a pair of dice. It is used also of one thing composed of two similar and complementary parts: a pair of trousers. Brace is a hunter's term, used of a pair of dogs, ducks, etc., or a pair of pistols or slugs: a brace of partridges. In couple the idea of combination or interdependence has become greatly weakened; it may be used loosely for two of anything (a couple of apples), and even for more than two: I have to see a couple of people. Span is used of a matched pair of horses harnessed together side by side. Yoke applies to the two animals hitched together under a yoke for drawing and pulling: a yoke of oxen.
Usage note
When used without a modifier, pairs is the only possible plural: Pairs of skaters glided over the ice. When modified by a number, pairs is the more common form, especially referring to persons: Six pairs of masked dancers led the procession. The unmarked plural pair is used mainly in reference to inanimate objects or nonhumans: He has three pair (or pairs) of loafers. Two pair (or pairs) of barn owls have nested on our property.
Pair signifying two individuals can take either a singular or plural verb, but it is usually followed by a plural verb and referred to by a plural pronoun: The guilty pair have not been seen since their escape.
In the sense “a set or combination of more than two objects forming a collective whole,” pair occurs chiefly in fixed phrases: a pair of beads; a pair of stairs. This use is now somewhat old-fashioned. See also collective noun, couple. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for pair off


noun (pl) pairs, (functioning as singular or plural) pair
two identical or similar things matched for use together: a pair of socks
two persons, animals, things, etc, used or grouped together: a pair of horses, a pair of scoundrels
an object considered to be two identical or similar things joined together: a pair of trousers
two people joined in love or marriage
a male and a female animal of the same species, esp such animals kept for breeding purposes
(parliamentary procedure)
  1. two opposed members who both agree not to vote on a specified motion or for a specific period of time
  2. the agreement so made
two playing cards of the same rank or denomination: a pair of threes
one member of a matching pair: I can't find the pair to this glove
(cricket) a pair of spectacles (the cricketing term) See spectacles (sense 2)
(rowing) See pair-oar
(Brit & US, dialect) a group or set of more than two
(logic, maths)
  1. a set with two members
  2. an ordered set with two members
(often foll by off) to arrange or fall into groups of twos
to group or be grouped in matching pairs: to pair socks
to join or be joined in marriage; mate or couple
(when transitive, usually passive) (parliamentary procedure) to form or cause to form a pair: 18 members were paired for the last vote
See also pairs
Usage note
Like other collective nouns, pair takes a singular or a plural verb according to whether it is seen as a unit or as a collection of two things: the pair are said to dislike each other; a pair of good shoes is essential
Word Origin
C13: from Old French paire, from Latin paria equal (things), from pār equal


a Scot word for poor
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 pair off



mid-13c., "two of a kind coupled in use," from Old French paire "pair, couple," and directly from Medieval Latin paria "equals," neuter plural of Latin par (genitive paris) "a pair, counterpart, equal," noun use of par (adj.) "equal, equal-sized, well-matched" (see par (n.)). Originally of things. Of persons from late 14c. Meaning "a woman's breasts" is attested from 1922. Pair bond (v.) is first attested 1940, in reference to birds mating.



"to come together with another; be mated or married" (intransitive), also "to make a pair by matching" (transitive), c.1600, from pair (n.). These senses now often are distinguished by pair off (c.1803) for the former and pair up (1908) for the latter. Related: Paired; pairing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pair off



A woman's breasts •Regarded as offensive by many women (1922+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with pair off

pair off

Put two persons together; also, become one of a couple, as in Jean mentally paired off her guests whenever she planned a party, or All the tennis players had to pair off for a round of doubles matches. [ Late 1600s ]
Also,pair up. Make a pair of, match, as in I always have trouble pairing up their socks. [ Early 1900s ]


In addition to the idiom beginning with pair also see: show one's (a clean pair of) heels
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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