Definition of borrow in English:



[with object]
  • 1Take and use (something belonging to someone else) with the intention of returning it.

    ‘he had borrowed a car from one of his colleagues’
    • ‘He got a truck, and he ended up borrowing a white-fleeced Levi jacket from a guy in a bar who told him he didn't look nearly redneck enough in his jeans and shirt.’
    • ‘Publisher supplied desk copies can also be returned to the Textbook Store to replace the borrowed copy as long as these books are not marked.’
    • ‘But give it a few more listens, and they're begging to borrow the album and return it six months later.’
    • ‘Alright, who has borrowed my camera and returned it with this picture on it?’
    • ‘This particular night, after borrowing the yellow suede jacket from my mate, I felt ready for action.’
    • ‘I had accused Lils of borrowing it and never returning it, but she, of course, had claimed never to have touched it.’
    • ‘Mr O'Brien told investigators in 1975 that on the day Hoffa vanished, he borrowed a car belonging to Giacolone's son to run some errands.’
    • ‘My daughter thinks her borrowed outfit is great.’
    • ‘Collections also dwindle when borrowed plates are not returned.’
    • ‘But at Storr his great achievement has been to borrow the landscape and return it to us in an entirely new light.’
    • ‘No, but most shops will give you a healthy discount and a lot of designers are happy to let me borrow because I return them in the condition I received them.’
    • ‘I'll just borrow some clothes and return them later.’
    • ‘As we learn later, the jacket was borrowed, as is nearly everything Tom ever wears.’
    • ‘Recovering from knee replacement surgery in Lismore Base Hospital, Elaine Avery is well aware of the need to return borrowed orthopaedic equipment when it is no longer needed.’
    • ‘We undertake to return all borrowed equipment in the condition it was given to us.’
    • ‘He is an unfailingly polite Sir Edmund Hillary-esque type chap, the sort that if he ever borrowed your lawn mower would most certainly return it with a full tank of petrol and a bottle of decent port.’
    • ‘Take a borrowed watch from the crowd, and stop it dead cold on demand!’
    • ‘Meanwhile, retired dairy farmer Ted Dibble has vowed to borrow a horse and return to the sport if the Government's anti-hunting proposal becomes law.’
    • ‘Ripley is a lavatory attendant in 1950s Manhattan who borrows a Princeton jacket to play piano at a garden party.’
    • ‘In Sam's case, a borrowed shovel during a bad winter helped him to build a landscaping business.’
    take, take for oneself, help oneself to, use as one's own, abscond with, carry off, appropriate, commandeer, abstract
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Take and use (money) from a person or bank under an agreement to pay it back later.
      ‘to meet this deficit the government has to borrow money’
      no object ‘lower interest rates will make it cheaper for individuals to borrow’
      • ‘If you know how much you need to borrow and you don't foresee any need to borrow again, a straight home equity loan is probably the way to go.’
      • ‘The customer can borrow and repay as often as necessary as long as the balance outstanding doesn't exceed the credit limit.’
      • ‘He borrowed large sums of money to ensure that the entertainment he provided was the best money could buy.’
      • ‘She said one man called in complaining that he is jobless, cannot borrow money from banks, relatives and friends, and has no method to clear his debts.’
      • ‘Because the growth in property prices in the past outstripped costs of borrowing, the more borrowed the better the return in the past decade.’
      • ‘Never forget what motivates people to borrow vast sums of money—it is to make more money.’
      • ‘Some farmers will borrow with the intention of never paying back while others will simply use the money for luxurious life.’
      • ‘It is unlikely that the politicians and leaders of the area would empathize with the plight of Sabitri and other such women or children being held at ransom for a paltry sum of money borrowed by labourers.’
      • ‘Of these states 26 are borrowers, and 21 do not borrow from the Bank.’
      • ‘He said the private sector was failing to buy maize from farmers because of the floor price which they could not meet and high interest rates the banks charged to borrow money.’
      • ‘The reason they can do that is that trading banks actually borrow large sums of money, and they are able to put up for taxation purposes the interest they pay on it.’
      • ‘Mr Ahern also rejected Fine Gael and Labour claims that a planned National Development Finance Agency would mean a return to State borrowing by another name.’
      • ‘Bizarrely, it is possible, in some instances, to borrow money from your bank to buy shares and finance the loan with the dividends generated from that investment.’
      • ‘Companies need to borrow enormous sums of money to buy back their shares in the market.’
      • ‘It provides financial assistance to people that cannot afford to borrow money from commercial banks because of the conditions required.’
      • ‘Can't they just borrow from the bank?’
      • ‘In fact, he righteously announced that there would be no return to borrowing in 2002 as most economic number crunchers had predicted.’
      • ‘Under Gordon Brown's own fiscal rules, he could carry on spending and borrowing the shortfall in the short-term.’
      • ‘If you borrow money from a bank, you have to list the value of all your significant assets, as well as all your significant liabilities.’
      • ‘The combined effect of these trends has been to lift the amount which a two-earner household on average earnings can afford to borrow without debt-servicing absorbing more than one quarter of their income.’
      take as a loan, ask for the loan of, receive as a loan, use temporarily, have temporarily
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    2. 1.2 Take and use (a book) from a library for a fixed period of time.
      ‘you could easily have borrowed a book from your local library’
      • ‘After breakfast I had a long shower then we walked over the hill so that i could borrow books.’
      • ‘She pointed out that it costs nothing for teenagers to join the library and borrow books, CDs, videos and tapes from the new multimedia section for their age group.’
      • ‘This will be an opportunity for people of all ages to borrow books and spend time in the Library during opening hours.’
      • ‘Space is all very well, in the right place, but people come to libraries mainly to borrow books.’
      • ‘I managed to go to the library again to borrow the book titled the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne for the tenth time this month.’
      • ‘At the end of the 20-30 minute session, mothers are able to peruse parenting resources provided by the library and borrow picture books with the babies.’
      • ‘In the past three years 25% fewer people borrowed books.’
      • ‘Anyone who borrows a book on Friday the 13th will go into the lucky prize draw, featuring goodies donated by Casino businesses.’
      • ‘My books are borrowed about 120,000 times a year from public libraries.’
      • ‘She had mostly kept to herself, venturing only to the library to borrow books.’
      • ‘Librarian Maureen Cusack can obtain books for anyone wishing to borrow books which are not available in the library.’
      • ‘Though he does not have to study at the library, he comes regularly to borrow books.’
      • ‘By joining your local lending library, you can borrow several books at a time without charge, unless you return them late and get fined.’
      • ‘When her studies took her into one of my fields, heraldry, she came to borrow books from my library.’
      • ‘It's like borrowing a book from a friend who has underlined the best passages for you to skim to get the guts.’
      • ‘Having been a resident in Welling since my childhood, my first borrowed book was from there.’
      • ‘To encourage even more children to borrow books, I organized a class library in a loft above the housekeeping area, near the book display.’
      • ‘I borrowed a couple books on databases from the library so I could do some retooling, but that's about it.’
      • ‘In the year up to March last year 1.9 million books were borrowed, including 370,000 at the central library.’
      • ‘My family will visit the library often to borrow new books to read together.’
      take as a loan, ask for the loan of, receive as a loan, use temporarily, have temporarily
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    3. 1.3 Take (a word or idea) from another language, person, or source and use it in one's own language or work.
      ‘the term is borrowed from Greek’
      • ‘Other details were borrowed from disparate sources or simply made up.’
      • ‘For that song, he borrowed a hook from an instrumental track called Taj Mahal written and performed by the veteran Brazilian musician Jorge Ben.’
      • ‘Appropriating and borrowing things from other cultures buffet-style seems like a good way of cutting down the amount of time you have to spend hacking out the basics.’
      • ‘Kamati says the idea was borrowed from a similar promotion in Europe and the response here has been overwhelming.’
      • ‘Most English words were borrowed from some other language.’
      • ‘The best he could do was borrow concepts and words from other disciplines.’
      • ‘Whereas some artists cop out and simply borrow a hook from an old jazz or blues record then slap a techno/trip-hop beat on it, Tobin's approach is more subtle and complex.’
      • ‘Once again, my coaching ideas are borrowed from great coaches and implemented in ways that I think can help my athletes.’
      • ‘The concept is borrowed from a Munich hotel that hotel manager Enda O'Meara visited some years ago.’
      • ‘The script seems to revel in the simplicity of its own plot, which has presumably been borrowed from the source videogame.’
      • ‘Deconstructivism ideas are borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.’
      • ‘Hungarian architect Zsigmund Quittner borrowed liberally from traditional Hungarian art to produce a highly decorative and modern building.’
      • ‘The troika notion was borrowed from the European Union.’
      • ‘In doing so, it may be appropriate for us to borrow some of the best practices of international firms operating in our energy sector.’
      • ‘Bastian was not merely borrowing metaphors from political liberalism in order to explain Humboldt's intellectual importance.’
      • ‘The idea was borrowed from Vancouver, where a help meter in front of a store proved so popular with customers that panhandlers stopped begging there.’
      • ‘Jim did not beg, steal or borrow his business acumen - his father Seamus is the well-known Bagenalstown auctioneer and businessman.’
      • ‘Galileo adopted some of its terminology, and according to these scholars his method in science was borrowed from that source.’
      • ‘Kerry's liberalism is the liberalism of that wing; it has not been borrowed or stolen from Dean.’
      • ‘In April 2000 he was promoted to CEO and is proud of the ideas he's borrowed from Japan and elsewhere.’
      adopt, take on, take in, take over, acquire, embrace
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  • 2Golf
    Allow (a certain distance) when playing a shot to compensate for sideways motion of the ball due to a slope or other irregularity.


  • A slope or other irregularity on a golf course which must be compensated for when playing a shot.

    • ‘The greens were in terrific condition throughout on the day we played although we all struggled at times to read the borrow and each of us picked totally the wrong line on at least one occasion.’
    • ‘There's always some kind of borrow, and even bad golfers can mis-putt and make it if they have mis-read the borrow.’
    • ‘I played the round in the company of an ancient caddie, unusually talkative for a Scot, who shaped the sightlines of the present to the borrow of the past.’
    • ‘This hole provides a challenge: the right is nothing but trouble and the huge green has both slope and borrow to conclude a fine golf hole.’
    • ‘When Woods was 6 feet left of the pin on 13 I believe this morning, it was "a little too much borrow".’
    • ‘Pat's ‘method’ is to read the borrow, adopt the line, and then approach every putt as if it was only six inches.’


Some people confuse the two words lend and borrow, which have reciprocal but different meanings: see lend


  • be (living) on borrowed time

    • Used to convey that someone has survived against expectations, with the implication that they will not do so for much longer.

      ‘the government is living on borrowed time’
      • ‘It was supposed to be Tuesday, so I'm mailing on borrowed time.’
      • ‘We're on borrowed time, there's no doubt about that.’
      • ‘The eighteenth century still lived on this inheritance—but we might say that it lived on borrowed time.’
      • ‘It all comes out of that urgency, that feeling of being on borrowed time.’
      • ‘Within a few weeks I will reach 70 years, so henceforth, Biblically speaking, I will be on borrowed time or, in modern parlance, I am nearing my best before sell by date!’
      • ‘Probably the best-known U.S. Military hospital is very much on borrowed time with the anonymous vote by BRAC to close the doors.’
      • ‘We live on borrowed time, never quite knowing where we'll be six months from now.’
      • ‘According to City sources, Russell had been on borrowed time since last summer.’
      • ‘Others have been warned they are on borrowed time and will be tested again in the coming months.’
      • ‘But all that borrowed money might be living on borrowed time.’
      • ‘The Fermanagh debacle in 2003 and the All-Ireland defeat last year left the Crossmolina man on borrowed time, and after the defeats to Galway and Kerry this time out, there was to be no reprieve.’
      • ‘This trip to Scotland could represent Leinster's last chance of making the last eight of the Celtic League and he knows the champions live on borrowed time.’
      • ‘Traditional supply chains are operating on borrowed time.’
      • ‘I used to somehow feel that I was just living the blissful life on borrowed time, and sooner or later I'd succumb to that same creeping feeling of not belonging, ultimately.’
      • ‘We all live on borrowed time from the moment we are born.’
      • ‘In 1989 the councillors of this post-war town voted to begin the removal of every single traffic light; there are three left, but they are on borrowed time.’
      • ‘Smokers could be on borrowed time in Greater Manchester with apparently overwhelming support for a smoke-free city.’
      • ‘The Child Support Agency is operating on borrowed time and should be scrapped unless its performance improves within weeks, MPs said yesterday.’
      • ‘Bradford City's Premiership dream continues to look on borrowed time, and Newcastle showed no mercy at St James' Park where Gary Speed struck in the sixth minute and England captain Alan Shearer added Newcastle's second without reply.’
      • ‘But too much competition means some of the players are playing on borrowed time.’
  • borrow trouble

    • Take needless action that may have detrimental effects.

      • ‘It's not borrowing trouble to consider the possibility that he might not come home when this is all over.’
      • ‘Criticizing such antics is an easy game as it seems that they borrow trouble where some care and research would prevent such energetic conflicts.’
      • ‘Like I said before, let's not borrow trouble, Lisa.’
      • ‘I suppose I'm borrowing trouble, but has anyone thought about how to forgive and move on, one way or another?’
      • ‘Perhaps her mother was just borrowing trouble, as she was prone to doing.’


Old English borgian ‘borrow against security’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German borgen.