Definition of earn in English:



  • 1Obtain (money) in return for labour or services.

    ‘he earns his living as a lorry driver’
    with two objects ‘earn yourself a few pounds’
    • ‘‘It is the farmer who earns his living from the land and as such it should be recognised as a tradeable asset,’ insisted Mr Alderman.’
    • ‘In an attempt to earn money he set about writing a novel, drawing on the experience of his financial disaster.’
    • ‘In real terms, low-income workers earn on average $120 less than they did in 1984, he claims.’
    • ‘The professional dog walker is giving a service and has the right to earn a living.’
    • ‘She earns her living solely from painting, and her work hangs in important private and corporate collections in Trinidad and Jamaica.’
    • ‘Since then, how the Kents earn their money has been less clear, but it involves extensive world travel.’
    • ‘At present he earns his living by repairing photocopy and fax machines.’
    • ‘He earns his living as a British Telecom engineer.’
    • ‘It is not only how he gets his pleasure but also how he earns his living.’
    • ‘Fundamentally we have to earn the money to pay for services.’
    • ‘Anyone who earns money or receives income should pay taxes and the truth is, every one does pay taxes.’
    • ‘I am a 52-year-old employee earning an annual salary of €60,000.’
    • ‘Growing vegetables and raising livestock, the family earns about 8,000 yuan a year.’
    • ‘Billy now earns well in excess of £35,000 and it is increasing steadily.’
    • ‘This young boy also earns his pocket money having had some training in handling computers, she adds.’
    • ‘For that service he earns a match fee of 20 and travelling expenses of 26 pence per mile.’
    • ‘Like many a teenager, he became closeted in his bedroom, spending hours on his computer as he earned some money designing websites.’
    • ‘It is claimed funeral workers are being forced to work long hours of overtime to earn a decent wage.’
    • ‘As a teenager, Monet's talent had declared itself well enough for him to be earning pocket money through selling caricatures.’
    • ‘Consider a mother and daughter family unit where the poor elderly mother is bedridden and her daughter earns a gross salary of $5,000 a month but must leave home to work every day.’
    be paid, receive a salary of, take home, take home earnings of, gross
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    1. 1.1with two objects (of an activity) cause (someone) to obtain (money)
      ‘this latest win earned them $50,000 in prize money’
      • ‘Completing missions swiftly earns you money with which to upgrade your squad with more experienced operatives.’
      • ‘If an activity doesn't earn you money, or make you rich, then there is no value attached to it.’
      • ‘An English tour in 1889 earned him enough money to undertake a period of study in Paris with d' Indy and Dukas.’
      • ‘A lifetime of land preservation earns rancher a $10,000 bonus and a much deserved thank you’
      • ‘He eked out a precarious living chiefly by writing short stories, some of which won praise but none of which earned him significant money.’
      • ‘Most jobs that will earn you a good amount of money involve a fair bit of training.’
      • ‘I would be working full-time soon, and that would earn me enough money to live with a roommate.’
      • ‘I could do a whole range of boring commercial things which would earn me a lot of money, but I wouldn't do them.’
      • ‘It may be cruel, but there will come a time when the youthful athleticism that earns him so much money now will disappear.’
      • ‘Doing so earns you money but also produces unwanted waste.’
      • ‘Furthermore, it seemed unlikely to earn him any significant money.’
    2. 1.2 (of capital invested) gain (money) as interest or profit.
      ‘the dollars can be placed on deposit and earn interest’
      • ‘An advantage to choosing this account would be that he would know his money would not earn any interest in any month he were to make a withdrawal.’
      • ‘Will their payments into the scheme be treated as nothing more than an ordinary deposit account earning minimal interest?’
      • ‘In the worst case scenario, tax is owed on the funds going into the account and also on the interest earned by the account.’
      • ‘The capital you invest that earns $25 psf is more productive, obviously, than that yielding $12 psf.’
      • ‘If customers pay their credit card accounts by the due date, they are probably using funds already on deposit earning no interest.’
      • ‘This account did not attract interest, so the client monies did not earn interest while they remained in it.’
      • ‘We aim to raise £20,000 this year and start giving grants from the interest the money earns next year.’
      • ‘This example does not take account of the interest earned by the deposit itself, which will also be liable to tax.’
      • ‘However, it is also true that the cash can be put on deposit to earn interest in the meantime.’
      • ‘Anytime you can take resources that are earning less money and apply them to higher return projects, that's a good thing.’
      • ‘However, is all of the money being squirreled away earning as much interest as it could be?’
      • ‘It is a performance bond deposit that earns interest because it is usually held in the form of short-term Treasury bills.’
      • ‘After that, the policy should be earning dividends high enough to cover the annual premium.’
      • ‘Instead of having a current account that earns no interest, and a mortgage account on which you pay interest, the First Active Current Account Mortgage combines the two.’
      • ‘The fund earns capital gains and losses from shares and not fixed interest.’
      • ‘The money market earns higher interest rates than their savings bank and credit union accounts.’
      • ‘The deposit earns interest and is generally refundable once you establish a satisfactory credit history.’
      • ‘The money in your account earns some interest each year.’
      • ‘The accounts would be managed by non-government fund managers and deposits would earn interest.’
      • ‘Any income earned by the fund, in terms of dividends, interest or rental income, is exempt from income tax.’
      net, make a profit of, realize a profit of, take home, pocket
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  • 2Gain deservedly in return for one's behaviour or achievements.

    ‘through the years she has earned affection and esteem’
    • ‘Employees have justifiably earned a reputation for the contribution they make to the companies which employ them.’
    • ‘Has he really earned the right to lecture any country on responsible behaviour?’
    • ‘Thus people in positions of privilege or power must earn our trust, show they deserve it.’
    • ‘This is the biggest break to come along for The Hooks so far in their career, but they fully deserved and earned it.’
    • ‘She also earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in industrial relations.’
    • ‘We feel we will stutter and stumble and earn the deserved scorn of our listeners.’
    • ‘The charity gains financially, the company earns kudos, and the benevolent consumer gets to feel good about his or her contribution.’
    • ‘He deservedly earned the tremendous esteem and the great regard of all with whom he came in contact with.’
    • ‘Let's just say they all earned some recognition for a job they struggled to achieve, but finished in some style.’
    • ‘He earned another merit badge and turned it in to the chairman through his father.’
    • ‘The number of women earning doctorates in engineering and science has risen significantly since 1966.’
    • ‘Not until years later would he earn the respect his achievements merited.’
    • ‘The relatively small contingent deservedly earned a reputation for " punching well above their weight".’
    • ‘Well done John and congratulations and best wishes to all who so deservedly earned their award.’
    • ‘Younger generations of Royals will need to earn our continuing respect and affection.’
    • ‘I think she should stop counting her chickens before they hatch and stop using a name she by no means has earned.’
    • ‘He earned his doctorate magna cum laude with a dissertation on the politics of Hindu Revivalism.’
    • ‘A prince earns esteem by undertaking great enterprises.’
    • ‘From the ditch this running back/special teams kick return man earned his nickname.’
    • ‘By the 1880s Irish workers had earned their reputation as a volatile and militant element within the labor force.’
    deserve, merit, warrant, justify, be entitled to, be worthy of, be deserving of, have a right to
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  • earn one's corn

    • informal Put in a lot of effort to show that one deserves one's wages.

      • ‘Moments later, Shearer makes the goalkeeper earn his corn again with a firm near-post header.’
      • ‘And it was at this stage that Stephen Havern earned his corn, the keeper making several fine blocks at feet.’
      • ‘In truth the youngsters are providing some of the best racing seen at the venue in a long while and the eventual winner will have certainly earned their corn.’
      • ‘He's a fully qualified referee after all, make him earn his corn.’
      • ‘Henderson earned his corn four minutes into the second half with a fine near-post block to deny McLeod a second.’
      • ‘Carlow kept up the pressure and Simon Rea was in on goal in almost the identical position only for goalie Raymond McKeown to earn his corn with a fine save.’
      • ‘A former high-class handicapper on the Flat for Sir Mark Prescott, Chivalry earned his corn over hurdles last winter and is now set to tackle fences.’
      • ‘The electorate will come to its own judgement as to whether or not we all earn our corn.’
      • ‘Even with rest and recuperation there was no way she could race again this year so the decision was made to retire her - she's earned her corn.’
      • ‘Some bad habits dating back to youth can become ingrained, but many argued that it simply presented an opportunity for some highly-paid coaches to earn their corn.’
  • earn one's keep

    • 1Work in return for food and accommodation.

      • ‘‘My father is a big proponent of tradition and earning your keep,’ Wright says.’
      • ‘Mother has been complaining that since I don't contribute any money to the household I should be earning my keep through domestic work.’
      • ‘The plantation owner and his family allowed him to live by himself on their property and earn his keep by performing house chores and milking cows.’
      • ‘If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.’
      • ‘He has very little business this time of year, so it makes sure the stableboys are earning their keep.’
      • ‘It used to be that young people were expected to start earning their keep very early, we had to make laws to prohibit child labour.’
      • ‘It's time for you to start earning your keep around here.’
      • ‘In other parts of Sweden, like Norrbotten, there were workhouses which poor children attended, earning their keep by doing most of the daily domestic work.’
      • ‘‘You will start earning your keep tomorrow, Peter,’ said Orikichal smoothly, dismissing the faery servant with a wave of his hand.’
      • ‘But to our ancestors, kids were an addition to the family workforce and had to earn their keep.’
      1. 1.1Be worth the time or money spent on one.
        ‘his media advisers were earning their keep’
        • ‘Franklin has surveyed ranchers using llamas to protect sheep, and found that llamas seem to be earning their keep.’
        • ‘His production hasn't matched his paycheck, but this might be the year he earns his keep.’
        • ‘He earns his keep with a subtle musical touch that gradually becomes the overwhelming reason why you'll love this record.’
        • ‘Sounds like the drug lobbyists are earning their keep.’
        • ‘I have long been of the opinion that there is always a group of stars who are paid a whole lot of money, but who earn their keep.’
        • ‘She earns her keep though by competently catching all the bugs and critters that come into our Texas home.’
        • ‘There are graceful conifers such as the Kashmir cypress and great pines earning their keep as windbreaks.’
        • ‘If we're going to welcome in all this new talent, it's time to sweep out some of the wrestlers who haven't been earning their keep.’
        • ‘That is how literary agents earn their keep and justify their existence.’
        • ‘After a few years of hand waving, PowerPoint presentations and whiteboard discussions, investors began demanding that we start earning our keep by making a profit.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • earn something out

    • (of an author, book, recording artist, etc.) generate sufficient income through sales to equal the amount paid in an advance or royalty.

      ‘four out of five of his books did not earn out their advance’
      • ‘For your first novel the sales figures they want are the ones that earn out your advance.’
      • ‘So it may be the case that a writer gets one big advance, which is not earned out, and then - turn out the light.’
      • ‘I can also assure you that most books never earn out their advance.’
      • ‘It was one of these cult success books, but it never earned out its advance - everybody loved it but no one wanted to buy it.’
      • ‘The distinguished lady novelist who boasted proudly that her books always earned out their advances.’
      • ‘Miss Smith, we gather, is a little worried that she has not earned out her advance.’


Old English earnian, of West Germanic origin, from a base shared by Old English esne ‘labourer’.