pay 1 (pā)
v. paid(pād), pay·ing, pays
1. To give money to in return for goods or services rendered: pay the cashier.
2. To give (money) in exchange for goods or services: paid four dollars for a hamburger; paid an hourly wage.
3. To discharge or settle (a debt or obligation): paying taxes; paid the bill.
4. To bear (a cost or penalty, for example) in recompense: She paid the price for her unpopular opinions.
5. To yield as a return: a savings plan that paid six percent interest.
6. To afford an advantage to; profit: It paid us to be generous.
7. To give or bestow: paying compliments; paying attention.
8. To make (a visit or call).
9. Past tense and past participle paidor payed (pād) To let out (a line or cable) by slackening.
1. To give money in exchange for goods or services.
2. To discharge a debt or obligation.
3. To bear a cost or penalty in recompense: You'll pay for this mischief!
4. To be profitable or worthwhile: It doesn't pay to get angry.
1. Of, relating to, giving, or receiving payments.
2. Requiring payment to use or operate: a pay toilet.
3. Yielding valuable metal in mining: a pay streak.
1. The act of paying or state of being paid.
2. Money given in return for work done; salary; wages.
a. Recompense or reward: Your thanks are pay enough.
b. Retribution or punishment.
4. Paid employment: the workers in our pay.
5. A person considered with regard to that person's credit or reliability in discharging debts.
1. To pay or return (what is owed as a debt).
2. To repay (a person who is owed a debt).
3. To give recompense to; reward: How can we ever pay you back for what you've done for us?
4. To reciprocate; return: pay back a kindness.
5. To retaliate against or get revenge upon.
To reduce (a debt) through payment.
1. To pay the full amount on (a debt).
2. To result in profit or advantage; succeed: Your efforts will eventually pay off.
3. To pay the wages due to (an employee) upon discharge.
4. To pay (a plaintiff) to settle a lawsuit out of court.
5. To bribe.
6. Nautical To turn or cause to turn (a vessel) to leeward.
1. To give (money) out; spend.
2. To let out (a line or rope) by slackening.
To give over the full monetary amount demanded.
pay (one's) dues
To earn a given right or position through hard work, long-term experience, or suffering: She paid her dues in small-town theaters before being cast in a Broadway play.
pay (one's) way
To contribute one's own share; pay for oneself.
pay the piper
To bear the consequences of something.
pay through the noseInformal
To pay excessively.
[Middle English paien, from Old French paiier, from Late Latin pācāre, to appease, from Latin, to pacify, subdue, from pāx, pāc-, peace; see pag- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.