[bor-oh, bawr-oh]
See more synonyms for borrow on
verb (used with object)
  1. to take or obtain with the promise to return the same or an equivalent: Our neighbor borrowed my lawn mower.
  2. to use, appropriate, or introduce from another source or from a foreign source: to borrow an idea from the opposition; to borrow a word from French.
  3. Arithmetic. (in subtraction) to take from one denomination and add to the next lower.
verb (used without object)
  1. to borrow something: Don't borrow unless you intend to repay.
  2. Nautical.
    1. to sail close to the wind; luff.
    2. to sail close to the shore.
  3. Golf. to putt on other than a direct line from the lie of the ball to the hole, to compensate for the incline or roll of the green.
  1. borrow trouble, to do something that is unnecessary and may cause future harm or inconvenience.

Origin of borrow

before 900; Middle English borowen, Old English borgian to borrow, lend, derivative of borg a pledge; akin to Dutch borg a pledge, borgen to charge, give credit, German Borg credit, borgen to take on credit
Related formsbor·row·a·ble, adjectivebor·row·er, nounnon·bor·rowed, adjectivenon·bor·row·er, nouno·ver·bor·row, verbun·bor·rowed, adjective
Can be confusedborrow lend loan

Synonyms for borrow

See more synonyms for on


[bor-oh, bawr-oh]
  1. George,1803–81, English traveler, writer, and student of languages, especially Romany.
Related formsBor·ro·vi·an [buh-roh-vee-uh n] /bəˈroʊ vi ən/, adjective, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for borrow

Contemporary Examples of borrow

Historical Examples of borrow

  • If you ever want to borrow this boat, you'll have to apply to me.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • The next thing was to borrow a trifle of what was passing through his hands.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Can you get yourself home from this spot, or shall I borrow a wheelbarrow and tote you there?

  • Well, my son, I want to borrow your horse for the rest of the day.

  • This Tract is only a borrow'd Tract, and which may be drawn any way, as shall be most convenient.


    John Weaver

British Dictionary definitions for borrow


  1. to obtain or receive (something, such as money) on loan for temporary use, intending to give it, or something equivalent or identical, back to the lender
  2. to adopt (ideas, words, etc) from another source; appropriate
  3. not standard to lend
  4. golf to putt the ball uphill of the direct path to the hole
  5. (intr) golf (of a ball) to deviate from a straight path because of the slope of the ground
  1. golf a deviation of a ball from a straight path because of the slope of the grounda left borrow
  2. material dug from a borrow pit to provide fill at another
  3. living on borrowed time
    1. living an unexpected extension of life
    2. close to death
Derived Formsborrower, noun

Word Origin for borrow

Old English borgian; related to Old High German borgēn to take heed, give security


The use of off after borrow was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable in informal contexts


  1. George (Henry). 1803–81, English traveller and writer. His best-known works are the semiautobiographical novels of Gypsy life and language, Lavengro (1851) and its sequel The Romany Rye (1857)
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

Word Origin and History for borrow

Old English borgian "to lend, be surety for," from Proto-Germanic *borg "pledge" (cf. Old English borg "pledge, security, bail, debt," Old Norse borga "to become bail for, guarantee," Middle Dutch borghen "to protect, guarantee," Old High German boragen "to beware of," German borgen "to borrow; to lend"), from PIE *bhergh- "to hide, protect" (see bury). Sense shifted in Old English to "borrow," apparently on the notion of collateral deposited as security for something borrowed. Related: Borrowed; borrowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with borrow


In addition to the idiom beginning with borrow

  • borrow trouble

also see:

  • beg, borrow, or steal
  • on borrowed time
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.