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[pey] /peɪ/
verb (used with object), paid or ( Obsolete, except for def 12 ) payed, paying.
to settle (a debt, obligation, etc.), as by transferring money or goods, or by doing something:
Please pay your bill.
to give over (a certain amount of money) in exchange for something:
He paid twenty dollars for the shirt.
to transfer money as compensation or recompense for work done or services rendered; to satisfy the claims of (a person, organization, etc.), as by giving money due:
He paid me for my work.
to defray (cost or expense).
to give compensation for.
to yield a recompense or return to; be profitable to:
Your training will pay you well in the future.
to yield as a return:
The stock paid six percent last year.
to requite, as for good, harm, or an offense:
How can I pay her for her kindness and generosity?
to give or render (attention, respects, compliments, etc.), as if due or fitting.
to make (a call, visit, etc.).
to suffer in retribution; undergo:
You'll pay the penalty for your stubbornness!
Nautical. to let (a ship) fall off to leeward.
verb (used without object), paid, paying.
to transfer money, goods, etc., as in making a purchase or settling a debt.
to discharge a debt or obligation.
to yield a return, profit, or advantage; be worthwhile:
It pays to be courteous.
to give compensation, as for damage or loss sustained.
to suffer or be punished for something:
The murderer paid with his life.
the act of paying or being paid; payment.
wages, salary, or a stipend.
a person with reference to solvency or reputation for meeting obligations:
The bank regards him as good pay.
paid employment:
in the pay of the enemy.
reward or punishment; requital.
a rock stratum from which petroleum is obtained.
requiring subscribed or monthly payment for use or service:
pay television.
operable or accessible on deposit of a coin or coins:
a pay toilet.
of or relating to payment.
Verb phrases, past and past participle paid or ( Obsolete, except for def 30c ) payed, present participle paying.
pay down,
  1. to pay (part of the total price) at the time of purchase, with the promise to pay the balance in installments:
    On this plan you pay only ten percent down.
  2. to pay off or back; amortize:
    The company's debt is being paid down rapidly.
pay for, to suffer or be punished for:
to pay for one's sins.
pay off,
  1. to pay (someone) everything that is due that person, especially to do so and discharge from one's employ.
  2. to pay (a debt) in full.
  3. Informal. to bribe.
  4. to retaliate upon or punish.
  5. Nautical. to fall off to leeward.
  6. to result in success or failure:
    The risk paid off handsomely.
pay out,
  1. to distribute (money, wages, etc.); disburse.
  2. to get revenge upon for an injury; punish.
  3. to let out (a rope) by slackening.
pay up,
  1. to pay fully.
  2. to pay on demand:
    The gangsters used threats of violence to force the shopkeepers to pay up.
pay as you go,
  1. to pay for (goods, services, etc.) at the time of purchase, as opposed to buying on credit.
  2. to spend no more than income permits; keep out of debt.
  3. to pay income tax by regular deductions from one's salary or wages.
pay back,
  1. to repay or return:
    to pay back a loan.
  2. to retaliate against or punish:
    She paid us back by refusing the invitation.
  3. to requite.
pay one's / its way,
  1. to pay one's portion of shared expenses.
  2. to yield a return on one's investment sufficient to repay one's expenses:
    It will take time for the restaurant to begin paying its way.
Origin of pay1
1150-1200; Middle English payen < Old French paier < Medieval Latin pācāre to satisfy, settle (a debt), Latin: to pacify (by force of arms). See peace
1. discharge, liquidate. 3. reward, reimburse, indemnify. 19. remuneration, emolument, fee, honorarium, income, allowance. Pay, wage or wages, salary, stipend are terms for amounts of money or equivalent benefits, usually given at a regular rate or at regular intervals, in return for services. Pay is the general term: His pay went up every year. Wage usually designates the pay given at an hourly, daily, or weekly rate, often for manual or semiskilled work; wages usually means the cumulative amount paid at regular intervals for such work: an hourly wage; weekly wages. Salary designates a fixed, periodic payment for regular work or services, usually computed on a monthly or yearly basis: an annual salary paid in twelve equal monthly installments. Stipend designates a periodic payment, either as a professional salary or, more commonly, as a salary in return for special services or as a grant in support of creative or scholarly work: an annual stipend for work as a consultant; a stipend to cover living expenses. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pay back
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Or a "pay back sperrit" as Licorice Stick might have called him.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • To incur debts, trusting to luck to pay back, is bad policy.

    Bremen Cotton Exchange Andreas Wilhelm Cramer
  • "And pay back—" There she hesitated, and he finished for her.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • Have you ever been able to pay back any part of the five hundred dollars, father?

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
  • You have already done more than I can ever hope to pay back.

British Dictionary definitions for pay back

pay back

verb (transitive, adverb)
to retaliate against: to pay someone back for an insult
to give or do (something equivalent) in return for a favour, insult, etc
to repay (a loan)
  1. the return on an investment
  2. Also called payback period. the time taken for a project to cover its outlay
  1. something done in order to gain revenge
  2. (as modifier): payback killings


verb pays, paying, paid
to discharge (a debt, obligation, etc) by giving or doing something: he paid his creditors
when intr, often foll by for. to give (money) to (a person) in return for goods or services: they pay their workers well, they pay by the hour
to give or afford (a person) a profit or benefit: it pays one to be honest
(transitive) to give or bestow (a compliment, regards, attention, etc)
(transitive) to make (a visit or call)
(intransitive) often foll by for. to give compensation or make amends
(transitive) to yield a return of: the shares pay 15 per cent
to give or do (something equivalent) in return; pay back: he paid for the insult with a blow
(tr; past tense and past participle paid or payed) (nautical) to allow (a vessel) to make leeway
(Austral, informal) to acknowledge or accept (something) as true, just, etc
pay one's way
  1. to contribute one's share of expenses
  2. to remain solvent without outside help
  1. money given in return for work or services; a salary or wage
  2. (as modifier): a pay slip, pay claim
paid employment (esp in the phrase in the pay of)
(modifier) requiring the insertion of money or discs before or during use: a pay phone, a pay toilet
(modifier) rich enough in minerals to be profitably mined or worked: pay gravel
Word Origin
C12: from Old French payer, from Latin pācāre to appease (a creditor), from pāxpeace


verb pays, paying, payed
(transitive) (nautical) to caulk (the seams of a wooden vessel) with pitch or tar
Word Origin
C17: from Old French peier, from Latin picāre, from pix pitch
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 pay back



c.1200, "to appease, pacify, satisfy," from Old French paier "to pay, pay up" (12c., Modern French payer), from Latin pacare "to please, pacify, satisfy" (in Medieval Latin especially "satisfy a creditor"), literally "make peaceful," from pax (genitive pacis) "peace" (see peace). Meaning "to give what is due for goods or services" arose in Medieval Latin and was attested in English by early 13c.; sense of "please, pacify" died out in English by 1500. Sense of "suffer, endure" (a punishment, etc.) is first recorded late 14c. Related: Paid; paying.



c.1300, "satisfaction, liking, reward," from pay (v.), or else from Old French paie "payment, recompense," from paier. Meaning "money given for labor or services, wages" is from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pay back


Related Terms

hell to pay

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 pay back

pay back

Repay a debt or a loan, as in I'll pay you back next month.
Also,pay back in someone's own coin. Revenge oneself, repay in kind, as in He thought he could get away with copying my plans, but I'll pay him back in his own coin. This expression refers to repaying a debt in exactly the same currency in which the money had been lent. [ c. 1600 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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