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 earn

before 900; Middle English ern(i)en, Old English earnian; akin to Old High German arnēn to earn, harvest
Related formsearn·er, noun
Can be confusedearn urn

Synonyms for earn

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for earner

Contemporary Examples of earner

Historical Examples of earner

  • Why should it continue to be paid out after the earner has died?

    A World by the Tale

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • As you are heading now, you will never be an earner—it is more likely that you will be a spender—of money.

  • But to take the earner, is compound, superlative, perpetual theft.

    The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus

    American Anti-Slavery Society

  • Does the power to rob a man of his earnings, rob the earner of his right to them?

    The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus

    American Anti-Slavery Society

  • Round the earner from his lodgings on a side street and in darkness, stood a big car with the motor puffing violently.


    Ellen Newbold La Motte

British Dictionary definitions for earner



a person who earns money
British and Australian informal an activity or thing that produces income, esp illicitlya nice little earner



to gain or be paid (money or other payment) in return for work or service
(tr) to acquire, merit, or deserve through behaviour or actionhe has earned a name for duplicity
(tr) (of securities, investments, etc) to gain (interest, return, profit, etc)

Word Origin for earn

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

Word Origin and History for earner

1610s, agent noun from earn.



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

Idioms and Phrases with earner


In addition to the idioms beginning with earn

  • earn one's keep
  • earn one's stripes

also see:

  • penny saved is a penny earned
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.