[ pey-bak ]
See synonyms for: paybackpaybackedpaybacking on

  1. the period of time required to recoup a capital investment.

  2. the return on an investment: This fund yields a payback of 15 percent tax-free.

  1. the act or fact of paying back; repayment.

  2. something done in retaliation: Excluding them from her wedding was a vicious payback for years of being snubbed.

verb phrasepay back [pey-bak] /ˈpeɪ ˈbæk/ .
    • to repay or return; pay off: Graduates from this program are successfully paying back their student loans.

    • to retaliate against or punish: She paid us back by refusing the invitation.

    • to requite.

Origin of payback

First recorded in 1955–60; noun use of verb phrase pay back Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use payback in a sentence

  • His first book sells so well that in six months he is able to pay back all the money he stole and have something left over.

    Seeing Things at Night | Heywood Broun
  • This surplus should be yours, and I would also agree to pay back the sum used by me from my first earnings after graduation.

    Ruth Hall | Fanny Fern
  • If you want to quit now, Captain Candage, go ahead, and I'll mortgage my future to pay back what you have risked.

    Blow The Man Down | Holman Day
  • They were the written promises of the king, to pay back money lent to him by London merchants, when he was carrying on the war.

  • The young son has assured me that the family intends to pay back all the creditors, and I am trying not to worry.

British Dictionary definitions for pay back

pay back

verb(tr, adverb)
  1. to retaliate against: to pay someone back for an insult

  2. to give or do (something equivalent) in return for a favour, insult, etc

  1. to repay (a loan)

    • the return on an investment

    • Also called: payback period the time taken for a project to cover its outlay

    • something done in order to gain revenge

    • (as modifier): payback killings

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with payback


Repay a debt or a loan, as in I'll pay you back next month.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.