pay as you go,
    1. to pay for (goods, services, etc.) at the time of purchase, as opposed to buying on credit.
    2. to spend no more than income permits; keep out of debt.
    3. to pay income tax by regular deductions from one's salary or wages.
    pay back,
    1. to repay or return: to pay back a loan.
    2. to retaliate against or punish: She paid us back by refusing the invitation.
    3. to requite.
    pay one's/its way,
    1. to pay one's portion of shared expenses.
    2. to yield a return on one's investment sufficient to repay one's expenses: It will take time for the restaurant to begin paying its way.

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

Synonyms for pay

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 off

pay off


(tr, adverb) to pay all that is due in wages, etc, and discharge from employment
(tr, adverb) to pay the complete amount of (a debt, bill, etc)
(intr, adverb) to turn out to be profitable, effective, etcthe gamble paid off
(tr, adverb or intr, preposition) to take revenge on (a person) or for (a wrong done)to pay someone off for an insult
(tr, adverb) informal to give a bribe to
(intr, adverb) nautical (of a vessel) to make leeway

noun payoff

the final settlement, esp in retributionthe payoff came when the gang besieged the squealer's house
informal the climax, consequence, or outcome of events, a story, etc, esp when unexpected or improbable
the final payment of a debt, salary, etc
the time of such a payment
informal a bribe



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 off



c.1200, "to appease, pacify, satisfy," from Old French paier "to pay, pay up" (12c., Modern French payer), from Latin pacare "to please, pacify, satisfy" (in Medieval Latin especially "satisfy a creditor"), literally "make peaceful," from pax (genitive pacis) "peace" (see peace). Meaning "to give what is due for goods or services" arose in Medieval Latin and was attested in English by early 13c.; sense of "please, pacify" died out in English by 1500. Sense of "suffer, endure" (a punishment, etc.) is first recorded late 14c. Related: Paid; paying.



c.1300, "satisfaction, liking, reward," from pay (v.), or else from Old French paie "payment, recompense," from paier. Meaning "money given for labor or services, wages" is from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pay off

pay off


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]


Produce a profit, as in That gamble did not pay off. [Mid-1900s]


Also, pay off an old score. Get revenge on someone for some grievance, require, as in Jerry was satisfied; he'd paid off his ex-partner when he bought him out at half-price, or Amy went out with her roommate's boyfriend, but she was paying off and old score.


Bribe, as in The owner of the bar paid off the local police so he wouldn't get in trouble for serving liquor to minors. [Colloquial; c. 1900]


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.