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verb (used with object)
  1. to deposit as security, as for money borrowed, especially with a pawnbroker: He raised the money by pawning his watch.
  2. to pledge; stake; risk: to pawn one's life.
  1. the state of being deposited or held as security, especially with or by a pawnbroker: jewels in pawn.
  2. something given or deposited as security, as for money borrowed.
  3. a person serving as security; hostage.
  4. the act of pawning.

Origin of pawn

1490–1500; (noun) < Middle French pan; Old French pan(d), pant, apparently < West Germanic; compare Old Frisian pand, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch pant, German Pfand; (v.) derivative of the noun
Related formspawn·a·ble, adjectivepawn·er [paw-ner] /ˈpɔ nər/, paw·nor [paw-ner, -nawr] /ˈpɔ nər, -nɔr/, nounun·pawned, adjective

Synonyms for pawn

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4. pledge.


  1. Chess. one of eight men of one color and of the lowest value, usually moved one square at a time vertically and capturing diagonally.
  2. someone who is used or manipulated to further another person's purposes.

Origin of pawn

1325–75; Middle English poun < Anglo-French, equivalent to Middle French poon, variant of paon, earlier pe(h)on literally, walker; see peon1

Synonyms for pawn

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Examples from the Web for pawn

Contemporary Examples of pawn

Historical Examples of pawn

  • The young man had no comprehension of the fact that he was only a pawn in the game.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • I gave the man all my spare clothes in pawn, and walked away from his house.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Thus it is: My castle and my lands are in pawn for a debt that I owe.

  • The Honourable George had lost; so I, his pawn, must also submit like a dead sport.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • You don't think me nice enough, do you, now that you've made me pawn all my dresses?


    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for pawn


verb (tr)
  1. to deposit (an article) as security for the repayment of a loan, esp from a pawnbroker
  2. to staketo pawn one's honour
  1. an article deposited as security
  2. the condition of being so deposited (esp in the phrase in pawn)
  3. a person or thing that is held as a security, esp a hostage
  4. the act of pawning
Derived Formspawnage, noun

Word Origin for pawn

C15: from Old French pan security, from Latin pannus cloth, apparently because clothing was often left as a surety; compare Middle Flemish paen pawn, German Pfand pledge


  1. a chessman of the lowest theoretical value, limited to forward moves of one square at a time with the option of two squares on its initial move: it captures with a diagonal move onlyAbbreviation: P Compare piece (def. 12)
  2. a person, group, etc, manipulated by another

Word Origin for pawn

C14: from Anglo-Norman poun, from Old French pehon, from Medieval Latin pedō infantryman, from Latin pēs foot
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 pawn

"something left as security," late 15c. (mid-12c. as Anglo-Latin pandum), from Old French pan, pant "pledge, security," also "booty, plunder," perhaps from Frankish or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German pfant, German Pfand, Middle Dutch pant, Old Frisian pand "pledge"), from West Germanic *panda, of unknown origin.

The Old French word is identical to pan "cloth, piece of cloth," from Latin pannum (nominative pannus) "cloth, piece of cloth, garment" and Klein's sources feel this is the source of both the Old French and West Germanic words (perhaps on the notion of cloth used as a medium of exchange).


lowly chess piece, late 14c., from Anglo-French poun, Old French peon, earlier pehon, from Medieval Latin pedonem "foot soldier," from Late Latin pedonem (nominative pedo) "one going on foot," from Latin pes (genitive pedis) "foot" (see foot (n.)). The chess sense was in Old French by 13c. Figurative use, of persons, is from 1580s.


"to give (something) as security in exchange for," 1560s, from pawn (n.1). Related: Pawned; pawning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper