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[pey-awf, -of]
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  1. the payment of a salary, debt, wager, etc.
  2. the time at which such payment is made.
  3. the consequence, outcome, or final sequence in a series of events, actions, or circumstances: The payoff was when they fired him.
  4. Informal. the climax of something, especially a story or joke.
  5. a settlement or reckoning, as in retribution or reward.
  6. Informal. a bribe.
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  1. yielding results, especially rewarding or decisive results: The payoff play was the long pass into the end zone.
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Origin of payoff

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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Word Origin and History for payoff


also pay-off, 1905, "winnings from gambling," from pay (v.) + off. Meaning "graft, bribes" first attested 1930. Phrase to pay off "be profitable" is first recorded 1937.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper