1. pay the piper,
    1. to pay the cost of something.
    2. to bear the unfavorable consequences of one's actions or pleasures: Someday he'll have to pay the piper for all that gambling.

Origin of piper

before 1000; Middle English; Old English pīpere. See pipe1, -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of piper

Historical Examples of piper

British Dictionary definitions for piper


  1. a person who plays a pipe or bagpipes
  2. pay the piper and call the tune to bear the cost of an undertaking and control it


  1. John. 1903–92, British artist. An official war artist in World War II, he is known esp for his watercolours of bombed churches and his stained glass in Coventry Cathedral
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 piper

Old English pipere, agent noun from pipe (v.). As a kind of fish, from c.1600. Expression pay the piper recorded from 1680s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with piper


see call the tune (pay the piper).

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