[pey-uh z-yoo-goh]


the principle or practice of paying for goods and services at the time of purchase, rather than relying on credit.


of, relating to, or based on such a principle or practice: a pay-as-you-go budget.

Nearby words

  1. pay the piper,
  2. pay through the nose,
  3. pay up,
  4. pay your money and take your choice,
  5. pay-and-display,
  6. pay-as-you-throw,
  7. pay-in,
  8. pay-per-click,
  9. pay-per-view,
  10. pay-to-play

Origin of pay-as-you-go

An Americanism dating back to 1830–40



verb (used with object), paid or ( Obsolete except for def 12 ) payed, pay·ing.

to settle (a debt, obligation, etc.), as by transferring money or goods, or by doing something: Please pay your bill.
to give over (a certain amount of money) in exchange for something: He paid twenty dollars for the shirt.
to transfer money as compensation or recompense for work done or services rendered; to satisfy the claims of (a person, organization, etc.), as by giving money due: He paid me for my work.
to defray (cost or expense).
to give compensation for.
to yield a recompense or return to; be profitable to: Your training will pay you well in the future.
to yield as a return: The stock paid six percent last year.
to requite, as for good, harm, or an offense: How can I pay her for her kindness and generosity?
to give or render (attention, respects, compliments, etc.), as if due or fitting.
to make (a call, visit, etc.).
to suffer in retribution; undergo: You'll pay the penalty for your stubbornness!
Nautical. to let (a ship) fall off to leeward.

verb (used without object), paid, pay·ing.

to transfer money, goods, etc., as in making a purchase or settling a debt.
to discharge a debt or obligation.
to yield a return, profit, or advantage; be worthwhile: It pays to be courteous.
to give compensation, as for damage or loss sustained.
to suffer or be punished for something: The murderer paid with his life.


the act of paying or being paid; payment.
wages, salary, or a stipend.
a person with reference to solvency or reputation for meeting obligations: The bank regards him as good pay.
paid employment: in the pay of the enemy.
reward or punishment; requital.
a rock stratum from which petroleum is obtained.


requiring subscribed or monthly payment for use or service: pay television.
operable or accessible on deposit of a coin or coins: a pay toilet.
of or relating to payment.

Verb Phrases past and past participle paid or ( Obsolete except for def 30c ) payed, present participle pay·ing.

pay down,
  1. to pay (part of the total price) at the time of purchase, with the promise to pay the balance in installments: On this plan you pay only ten percent down.
  2. to pay off or back; amortize: The company's debt is being paid down rapidly.
pay for, to suffer or be punished for: to pay for one's sins.
pay off,
  1. to pay (someone) everything that is due that person, especially to do so and discharge from one's employ.
  2. to pay (a debt) in full.
  3. bribe.
  4. to retaliate upon or punish.
  5. fall off to leeward.
  6. to result in success or failure: The risk paid off handsomely.
pay out,
  1. to distribute (money, wages, etc.); disburse.
  2. to get revenge upon for an injury; punish.
  3. to let out (a rope) by slackening.
pay up,
  1. to pay fully.
  2. to pay on demand: The gangsters used threats of violence to force the shopkeepers to pay up.

Origin of pay

1150–1200; Middle English payen < Old French paier < Medieval Latin pācāre to satisfy, settle (a debt), Latin: to pacify (by force of arms). See peace

1. discharge, liquidate. 3. reward, reimburse, indemnify. 19. remuneration, emolument, fee, honorarium, income, allowance. Pay, wage or wages, salary, stipend are terms for amounts of money or equivalent benefits, usually given at a regular rate or at regular intervals, in return for services. Pay is the general term: His pay went up every year. Wage usually designates the pay given at an hourly, daily, or weekly rate, often for manual or semiskilled work; wages usually means the cumulative amount paid at regular intervals for such work: an hourly wage; weekly wages. Salary designates a fixed, periodic payment for regular work or services, usually computed on a monthly or yearly basis: an annual salary paid in twelve equal monthly installments. Stipend designates a periodic payment, either as a professional salary or, more commonly, as a salary in return for special services or as a grant in support of creative or scholarly work: an annual stipend for work as a consultant; a stipend to cover living expenses. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for pay as you go



verb pays, paying or paid

to discharge (a debt, obligation, etc) by giving or doing somethinghe paid his creditors
(when intr, often foll by for) to give (money) to (a person) in return for goods or servicesthey pay their workers well; they pay by the hour
to give or afford (a person) a profit or benefitit pays one to be honest
(tr) to give or bestow (a compliment, regards, attention, etc)
(tr) to make (a visit or call)
(intr often foll by for) to give compensation or make amends
(tr) to yield a return ofthe shares pay 15 per cent
to give or do (something equivalent) in return; pay backhe paid for the insult with a blow
(tr; past tense and past participle paid or payed) nautical to allow (a vessel) to make leeway
Australian informal to acknowledge or accept (something) as true, just, etc
pay one's way
  1. to contribute one's share of expenses
  2. to remain solvent without outside help


  1. money given in return for work or services; a salary or wage
  2. (as modifier)a pay slip; pay claim
paid employment (esp in the phrase in the pay of)
(modifier) requiring the insertion of money or discs before or during usea pay phone; a pay toilet
(modifier) rich enough in minerals to be profitably mined or workedpay gravel

Word Origin for pay

C12: from Old French payer, from Latin pācāre to appease (a creditor), from pāx peace



verb pays, paying or payed

(tr) nautical to caulk (the seams of a wooden vessel) with pitch or tar

Word Origin for pay

C17: from Old French peier, from Latin picāre, from pix pitch

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 pay as you go
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pay as you go

pay as you go

Pay for purchases immediately instead of deferring payment. For example, Ruth and Bob had no credit cards; they believed in paying as you go. [First half of 1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with pay

  • pay a call
  • pay a compliment
  • pay as you go
  • pay attention
  • pay a visit
  • pay back
  • pay court to
  • pay dirt, hit
  • pay for
  • pay off
  • pay one's dues
  • pay one's respects
  • pay one's way
  • pay out
  • pay the piper
  • pay through the nose
  • pay up
  • pay your money and take your choice

also see:

  • (pay the piper) call the tune
  • crime does not pay
  • devil to pay
  • hell to pay
  • lip service, pay
  • rob Peter to pay Paul
  • you get what you pay for
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.