[ pey-oh-luh ]
/ peɪˈoʊ lə /

noun Informal.

a secret or private payment in return for the promotion of a product, service, etc., through the abuse of one's position, influence, or facilities.

Nearby words

  1. payment by results,
  2. payne,
  3. payne operation,
  4. paynim,
  5. payoff,
  6. payor,
  7. payout,
  8. payout ratio,
  9. paypal,
  10. paypass

Origin of payola

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40; pay1 + -ola Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for payola


/ (peɪˈəʊlə) /

noun informal, mainly US

a bribe given to secure special treatment, esp to a disc jockey to promote a commercial product
the practice of paying or receiving such bribes

Word Origin for payola

C20: from pay 1 + -ola, as in Pianola

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 payola



"graft" (especially to disc jockeys from record companies to play their music), 1938 (in a "Variety" headline), from pay off "bribery" (underworld slang from 1930) + ending from Victrola, etc. (see pianola). Cf. also plugola (1959), from plug (n.) in the advertising sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper