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owe

[oh]
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verb (used with object), owed, ow·ing.
  1. to be under obligation to pay or repay: to owe money to the bank; to owe the bank interest on a mortgage.
  2. to be in debt to: He says he doesn't owe anybody.
  3. to be indebted (to) as the cause or source of: to owe one's fame to good fortune.
  4. to have or bear (a feeling or attitude) toward someone or something: to owe gratitude to one's rescuers.
  5. Obsolete. to possess; own.
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verb (used without object), owed, ow·ing.
  1. to be in debt: Neither lend nor owe. Who owes for the antipasto?
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Origin of owe

before 900; Middle English owen to possess, be under obligation, have to pay; Old English āgan to possess; cognate with Old High German eigan, Old Norse eiga. See own, ought1
Can be confusedO oh oweode owed
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for owe

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • In view of the violence you made use of, I consider that you owe my son an apology.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • He didn't like to owe anything to other people, not even to Prissie.

  • I owe no thanks to Mrs. Whitney, with her prunes and her prisms and her penny-pinchings.

  • Yes, I'm afraid I owe a lot of money, but must we—just to-night?

  • We owe the discovery of this important document to Mr. Newman Flower.

    Handel

    Edward J. Dent


British Dictionary definitions for owe

owe

verb (mainly tr)
  1. to be under an obligation to pay (someone) to the amount of
  2. (intr) to be in debthe still owes for his house
  3. (often foll by to) to have as a result (of)he owes his success to chance
  4. to feel the need or obligation to do, give, etcto owe somebody thanks; to owe it to oneself to rest
  5. to hold or maintain in the mind or heart (esp in the phrase owe a grudge)
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Word Origin

Old English āgan to have (C12: to have to); related to Old Saxon ēgan, Old High German eigan
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 owe

v.

Old English agan (past tense ahte) "to have, own," from Proto-Germanic *aiganan "to possess" (cf. Old Frisian aga, Old Norse eiga, Old High German eigan, Gothic aigan "to possess, have"), from PIE *aik- "to be master of, possess" (cf. Sanskrit ise "he owns," isah "owner, lord, ruler;" Avestan is- "riches," isvan- "well-off, rich").

Sense of "to have to repay" began in late Old English with the phrase agan to geldanne literally "to own to yield," which was used to translate Latin debere (earlier in Old English this would have been sceal "shall"); by late 12c. the phrase had been shortened to simply agan, and own (v.) took over this word's original sense.

An original Germanic preterite-present verb (cf. can, dare, may, etc.). New past tense form owed arose 15c. to replace oughte, which developed into ought (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper