[ pey-awf, -of ]
See synonyms for payoff on
  1. the payment of a salary, debt, wager, etc.

  2. the time at which such payment is made.

  1. the consequence, outcome, or final sequence in a series of events, actions, or circumstances: The payoff was when they fired him.

  2. Informal. the climax of something, especially a story or joke.

  3. a settlement or reckoning, as in retribution or reward.

  4. Informal. a bribe.

  1. yielding results, especially rewarding or decisive results: The payoff play was the long pass into the end zone.

verb phrasepay off [pey-awf, of] /ˈpeɪ ˈɔf, ˈɒf/ .
    • to pay (someone) everything that is due that person, especially to do so and discharge from one's employ.

    • to pay (a debt) in full.

    • Informal. to bribe.

    • to retaliate upon or punish; pay back.

    • to result in success or failure: The risk paid off handsomely.

    • Nautical. to fall off to leeward.

Origin of payoff

First recorded in 1910–15; noun, adjective use of verb phrase pay off

Other words for payoff Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use payoff in a sentence

  • The pay-off for Boehner arrived when it was time to vote by secret ballot on the leadership for the 112th Congress.

    The Tea Party's Whiny Takeover | John Batchelor | November 20, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • We've done everything we could think of, but there's no pay-off.

    The Golden Skull | John Blaine
  • The money which was stolen yesterday was for the pay-off to-day.

    The Coyote | James Roberts

British Dictionary definitions for pay off

pay off

  1. (tr, adverb) to pay all that is due in wages, etc, and discharge from employment

  2. (tr, adverb) to pay the complete amount of (a debt, bill, etc)

  1. (intr, adverb) to turn out to be profitable, effective, etc: the gamble paid off

  2. (tr, adverb or intr, preposition) to take revenge on (a person) or for (a wrong done): to pay someone off for an insult

  3. (tr, adverb) informal to give a bribe to

  4. (intr, adverb) nautical (of a vessel) to make leeway

  1. the final settlement, esp in retribution: the payoff came when the gang besieged the squealer's house

  2. informal the climax, consequence, or outcome of events, a story, etc, esp when unexpected or improbable

  1. the final payment of a debt, salary, etc

  2. the time of such a payment

  3. informal a bribe

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 payoff


Pay the full amount on a debt or on wages, as in The car's finally paid off, or Les pays off the workers every Friday evening. [Early 1700s]

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