per diem

[ per dee-uhm, dahy-uhm ]
/ pər ˈdi əm, ˈdaɪ əm /
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by the day; for each day.
paid by the day.
a daily allowance, usually for living expenses while traveling in connection with one's work or being employed at a distance from one's home: a per diem for lawmakers while the legislature is in session.
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Origin of per diem

Borrowed into English from Latin around 1510–20


per annum, per capita, per diem
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does per diem mean?

A per diem is a daily allowance of money given to employees to cover expenses, typically while traveling or working away from home. A per diem is intended to cover things like meals and travel expenses.

The phrase per diem comes from Latin, in which it means “by the day.” It can be used in a general way in English to mean exactly that, as in You’ll be paid per diem. It can also be used as an adjective meaning paid per day, as in This is a per diem position. In this way, it’s typically used in the context of workers who work on an “as needed” basis—they get called in to work when they are needed, and they get paid for each day, as opposed to earning a fixed salary.

Example: When sales reps go on their first big trip, they’re often tempted to blow their entire per diem on a fancy dinner.

Where does per diem come from?

The first records of per diem in English come from around 1500. It was borrowed into English directly from Latin. The first records of its use as a noun referring to a daily allowance are from the 1800s.

If you travel for work, you’re typically not expected to cover your own lodging, food, and other necessities. Instead, you’re given a per diem. A per diem can be drawn from a corporate account. More commonly, you pay and then get reimbursed for the money you’ve spent, typically up to a certain limit—so go easy on the steak and champagne dinners. (But not too easy—you’re working hard and you’ve earned it.)

When used as an adjective, per diem means “paid by day.” Some workers, such as contract nurses or substitute teachers, work in a per diem capacity, meaning they are only called in when they are needed—on a day-by-day basis. They are paid per diem (which should not be confused with being paid a per diem, as in the paragraph above).

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What are some other forms related to per diem?

  • per diems (plural)

What are some synonyms for per diem?

What are some words that share a root or word element with per diem


What are some words that often get used in discussing per diem?

What are some words per diem may be commonly confused with?

How is per diem used in real life?

Per diem is most often used as a noun referring to a daily allowance for travel expenses, especially in the fields of transportation, entertainment, and government.




Try using per diem!

Which of the following things does a per diem usually cover?

  1. travel expenses
  2. meals
  3. lodging
  4. all of the above


How to use per diem in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for per diem

per diem
/ (ˈpɜː ˈdaɪɛm, ˈdiːɛm) /

every day or by the day
  1. an allowance for daily expenses, usually those incurred while working
  2. (as modifier)a per-diem allowance

Word Origin for per diem

from Latin
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

Cultural definitions for per diem

per diem
[ (puhr dee-uhm, deye-uhm) ]

A Latin phrase meaning “by the day.” Traveling sales reps or government workers often are paid a per diem, meaning an allowance out of which to cover daily expenses while traveling.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.