[ pair ]
/ pɛər /

noun, plural pairs, pair.

verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)


    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 pair

1250–1300; Middle English paire < Old French < Latin pāria, plural (taken as feminine singular) of pār a pair. See par1

Related forms

pair·wise, adverbun·paired, adjectivewell-paired, adjective

Can be confused

pair pare payer pearcouple 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for pair off (1 of 2)


/ (pɛə) /

noun plural pairs or functioning as singular or plural pair


See also pairs

Word Origin for pair

C13: from Old French paire, from Latin paria equal (things), from pār equal


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

British Dictionary definitions for pair off (2 of 2)


/ (per) /


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

Idioms and Phrases with pair off (1 of 2)

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]

Idioms and Phrases with pair off (2 of 2)


In addition to the idiom beginning with pair

  • pair off

also see:

  • show one's (a clean pair of) heels
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.