Main definitions of pay in English

: pay1pay2



  • 1with object Give (someone) money that is due for work done, goods received, or a debt incurred.

    with object and infinitive ‘the traveller paid a guide to show him across’
    no object ‘I'll pay for your ticket’
    • ‘Though workers are paid for time at sea, most fish are shipped out, and processing jobs are given to other parts of the country.’
    • ‘He was paid for his services but there is no doubt that he was playing a very dangerous game.’
    • ‘There also may be periods of time when no procedures are being performed, thus nurses are paid for down time.’
    • ‘Bad weather or no, the general consensus is that an employee is paid for 35 hours and he should work all of those hours.’
    • ‘This means that workers are paid for fourteen months rather than twelve months every year.’
    • ‘He is paid for his knowledge and his ability to superintend and direct the work of those placed under him.’
    • ‘I rubbed her arm and told her not to worry, that these people were paid for this kind of thing.’
    • ‘Yes, there is hard work to be done, but that is what the minister and his officials are paid for and that is what they must do.’
    • ‘Will employees be paid for all the work they have done up to the point of redundancy?’
    • ‘I do not say this to brag, but because it is the one thing I am good at and what I'm paid for.’
    • ‘Part-time doctors are paid for a fixed number of hours, even if they did not work some of them.’
    • ‘Every sound editor can't help but think of how to fill up a track; it's what we're paid for.’
    • ‘Accounts vary of how much the workers are paid for their labour.’
    • ‘Neither of us are paid for the work we do, but that's no big deal.’
    • ‘The issue here is should players be paid for playing a game they love?’
    • ‘But, excuse me, isn't playing sport before audiences what sportsmen are paid for?’
    • ‘Workers were not paid for their time at the work place when they were not actually laboring.’
    • ‘She and other staff members were not paid for expenses during the previous month of work.’
    • ‘I'm much more focused on the work side of it - that's what I'm paid for.’
    • ‘The chief executive was dismissed and staff were not paid for six months.’
    reward, reimburse, recompense, give payment to, settle up with, remunerate, tip, indemnify
    defray the cost of, settle up for
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Give (a sum of money) in exchange for goods or work done or to settle a debt.
      ‘the company was rumoured to have paid 450p a share’
      with two objects ‘they paid him an annual retainer’
      • ‘It encouraged families to enrol as subscribers, by paying an annual fee for free or subsidised treatment.’
      • ‘Television pays large sums of money to cover men's college basketball games because sponsors will pay for commercial space in conjunction with the game.’
      • ‘There is not enough money to pay fees for the other two children of primary school age.’
      • ‘However, hedge funds are risky in that if they lose money, clients pay no fee at all.’
      • ‘He pays outrageous sums of money at charity auctions.’
      • ‘Many people are paying large sums of money for services which they are already entitled to.’
      • ‘I went there whenever I had a chance and the money to pay the entrance fee.’
      • ‘The booty enabled him to clear his debts and pay large sums into the treasury, all without incurring a risk of prosecution.’
      • ‘Residents had traditionally signed long leases and paid an annual rent to the landowner.’
      • ‘I seem to have little money after being paid my monthly wage.’
      • ‘I am staggered that our hard-earned council tax money goes towards paying their wages.’
      • ‘Customers paying annual premium for 10 or 15 years will get full benefits if they die during the cover period.’
      • ‘We are stuck with finding this additional money to pay staff salaries and wages.’
      • ‘It is true that the order is an order to pay a sum of money.’
      • ‘And he says he barely makes enough money to pay wages and all the other bills.’
      • ‘They are forced to take in three roomers who pay money in exchange for room and board.’
      • ‘It is a question as to whether you are liable to pay a sum of money under the Tax Act.’
      • ‘The city is booming, it is a beautiful place to live, and those who can afford it are willing to pay the price to settle here.’
      • ‘It will be student money that will pay the legal fees of the administration.’
      • ‘Banknotes were first issued by banks who undertook to pay the sum of money that appeared on the note from their deposits of gold.’
      spend, expend, pay out, lay out, part with, disburse, hand over, remit, render
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Hand over or transfer the amount due of (a debt, wages, etc.) to someone.
      ‘I always prefer to pay all my bills by cheque’
      • ‘Tickled by the notion of this souvenir of my transgression, I paid the surcharge, and keep the photo in my album to this day.’
      • ‘If he does not pay that tax, the relief given to the approved body is limited to the amount of tax actually paid by the donor.’
      • ‘John was asked why the Company stopped paying the mortgage instalments and he said that he did not know.’
      • ‘He paid alimony, but it all went down the drain as soon as the check came in the mail.’
      • ‘Even if you pay your tax bill on time, you are still liable to pay a surcharge for late filing.’
      • ‘The car becomes the property of the buyer only when they have paid the final instalment due under the agreement.’
      • ‘However, residents have until the beginning of May to pay their first instalment so the problem may only surface then.’
      • ‘They will also take on responsibilities, and one partner may face paying alimony to the other in the event of the legal partnership being dissolved.’
      • ‘Please have correct amount when paying your child's fee.’
      • ‘I was commuting an hour each way from New Jersey and needed the rest of my wages to pay my rent.’
      • ‘He therefore refuses to pay the outstanding instalments on the dynamite and, in fact, sells some of it to Edward.’
      • ‘The Egyptian government denies paying any ransom to secure his release.’
      • ‘The courses are free for unemployed people, while wage earners pay a small fee.’
      • ‘But on the face of it there was a seamless transfer with rents being paid by the same system and services unaffected.’
      • ‘This bill is about people using the bankruptcy system to evade paying alimony and child support payments.’
      • ‘The crew members were only released 10 days later after an unspecified amount of ransom was paid.’
      • ‘He had known this man for a couple of years and knew that he always paid his debts, no matter what.’
      • ‘Why are you allowed to exceed water allocation limits if you can simply afford to pay the surcharge?’
      • ‘The existing two-week timeshare was never sold, and when they stopped paying the instalments, the new apartment was taken away.’
      • ‘Brian is surprised and please when Frank turns up each week to pay his instalments on the cost of the stolen tools.’
      discharge, settle, pay off, pay in full, meet, clear, square, defray, honour, satisfy, make good, liquidate
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 (of work, an investment, etc.) provide someone with (a sum of money)
      ‘jobs that pay £5 an hour’
      • ‘Ultimately, the manager is confident his investments will pay handsome dividends.’
      • ‘Firms can apply for a £2,000 grant for each new job paying a salary of more than £14,000, up to a maximum of five jobs.’
      • ‘Since most do not operate to earn profits, these enterprises do not pay dividends to shareholders.’
      • ‘Most are fleeing high unemployment and wages as low as 50p an hour in search of low-skilled jobs paying salaries that remain a dream for people in Poland.’
      • ‘So, one of the main reasons people often give for why it's the wife - and not the husband - who stays home is that her job pays less money.’
      • ‘These work projects will pay a minimum of the national minimum wage.’
      • ‘So, it is an investment that pays dividends not just for the family, which is very important, but for our economy as well.’
      • ‘It defends itself by saying it pays competitive wages and provides employees low cost, catastrophic healthcare coverage.’
      • ‘The investment, of time as much as money, paid early dividends.’
      • ‘I can whinge all I want about having a job, but it's a job that pays decent money.’
      • ‘Issued by financially strong firms, these investments are paying an average yield of a little under 4.5% after tax.’
      • ‘Bar work pays a modest wage, so it's fortunate that Oceana helps by providing a subsidised cab service for its staff.’
      • ‘I need a job which pays enough money to cover rent, bills and family expenses.’
    4. 1.4no object (of a business, activity, or an attitude) be profitable or advantageous.
      ‘crime doesn't pay’
      with infinitive ‘it pays to choose varieties carefully’
      • ‘That's because agriculture does not pay, both for the producer and for government.’
      • ‘Education pays by increasing the stock of human quality through increasing the skills of the workforce.’
      • ‘Farming does not pay and many have had to look beyond the fields for additional ventures to earn a living wage.’
      • ‘The owners who didn't know how to sow kept wailing that agriculture was not paying.’
      • ‘Learning pays in all sorts of ways - it can be the first step to a job or better job and to making new friends.’
      • ‘His achievements should encourage any youngster from Mayo who wants to succeed in sport that dedication and hard work pays in the end.’
      • ‘Your education pays when you get married, she philosophises.’
      • ‘In business it never pays to get indignant in any way.’
      yield, pay out, return, produce, bring in
      be profitable, make money, make a profit, be remunerative, make a return, provide a living
      be advantageous to, benefit, be of advantage to, be of benefit to, be beneficial to, be profitable to, be worthwhile to, repay, serve
      View synonyms
  • 2no object Suffer a misfortune as a consequence of an action.

    ‘the destroyer would have to pay with his life’
    • ‘If we carry on for much longer in this uninspiring vein, he may pay with his head.’
    • ‘That is the price of using the crystal ball, or any magic item; you pay with your energy.’
    • ‘Our code is her code and our code says the jewel of our tribe shall pay with her life.’
    • ‘Having to pay with your own life brings a chilling factor into the equation.’
    • ‘The media print only what will sell their papers regardless of the consequences and we are paying with our blood for this.’
    • ‘She's always afraid that someone is going to find out and that she'll pay with her life, like her father.’
    • ‘The tragedy is that some of them have had to pay with their lives.’
    • ‘They are the ones who speak out, resist, and pay with their liberty or their lives.’
    • ‘They say workers are made to pay with their livelihood for increased profits of corporations.’
    • ‘Several upright officials have had to pay with their lives or career for daring the criminal.’
    • ‘It was right now that Khira had made her fatal mistake and she was going to pay with everything that she had.’
    • ‘I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag.’
    • ‘The spokesman said that this time he may have to pay with his job.’
    • ‘Workers will pay with their homes as well as their jobs when the economy hits the skids.’
    • ‘Presumably he shouldn't be put in a situation where he might have to pay with his life.’
    • ‘You fear they will make you pay with your life for your place in the world or the colour of your skin.’
    • ‘What he didn't know was that he still had a debt to his brother that he would have to pay with his life.’
    • ‘In the ruthless trade of people smuggling they will increasingly pay with their lives.’
    • ‘If you kill someone you must pay with your own life no matter what the cause.’
    suffer, suffer the consequences, be punished, pay a penalty, atone, make atonement, pay the price, get one's deserts, take one's medicine
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with object Give what is due or deserved to.
      ‘‘I'll pay you for that,’ he snarled’
      ‘it was his way of paying out Maguire for giving him the push’
  • 3with two objects Give (attention, respect, or a compliment) to (someone)

    ‘no one paid them any attention’
    • ‘I'm trying to conjure up the good-fairy presence, trying to get her to pay attention to me.’
    • ‘They don't consider things like paying attention to their pet, or walking him, giving him exercise, etc.’
    • ‘Babs suffers a nervous breakdown when she realizes no one is paying attention to her.’
    • ‘Indeed, they were, and so intently that they paid no attention to me in the car next to them.’
    bestow, present, grant, give, hand out, extend, offer, proffer, render, afford
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 Make (a visit or call) to (someone)
      ‘she has been prevailed upon to pay us a visit’
      • ‘Her husband Gary still pays daily visits to her grave’
      • ‘Billy pays an informal visit to a policemen friend who dismisses it as a prank.’
      • ‘Unlike most offenders, they will not be paying a visit to their probation officer once every three weeks.’
      • ‘So in a bid not to hurt her in that sense, I chicken out of paying her visits.’
      • ‘A mysterious man pays a visit to the landlord, making inquiries about his tenants.’


mass noun
  • The money paid to someone for regular work.

    ‘an entitlement to sickness pay’
    • ‘That's one of the major problems for corporate regulators dealing with executive pay.’
    • ‘This entitles employees to make regular savings from their pay over the next three or five years and earn a tax-free bonus.’
    • ‘The additional pay was money intended for them, they said, and was in effect held in trust by their employer.’
    • ‘The rates of pay and allowances now paid to MPs must have affected their behaviour.’
    • ‘Pensions will continue to be based on a representative rate of pay for rank and length of service.’
    • ‘This has nothing to do with resourcing or rates of pay, it's simply a matter of a lack of will.’
    • ‘Workers' hourly rates of pay also include allowances for board and lodgings.’
    • ‘Some have taken a job at the same rate of pay, but have lost conditions of employment like vehicles.’
    • ‘The families also protested against expected rates of redundancy pay.’
    • ‘Certainly they demanded a higher rate of pay, asking double what a laborer received.’
    • ‘How fair is your rate of pay compared to others in the same company or organisation?’
    • ‘The garment workers, who are owed back pay, have no money for return fares to China.’
    • ‘We were hired at a particular rate of pay, which is just about a reasonable working wage.’
    • ‘Variable rates of pay will also create a factory system within schools.’
    • ‘Most of the victims were thought to be police officers waiting to collect their pay.’
    • ‘The average hourly rate of pay must not be less than your minimum hourly rate of pay illustrated on the table above.’
    • ‘One of the Irish employees claimed that by taking on migrant workers the company was pushing down the rates of pay.’
    • ‘It's now got the lowest base rates of pay of any public service department.’
    • ‘The drivers refused to comply with roster changes until they were put on this higher rate of pay.’
    • ‘Theses are very interesting skilled jobs, which have quite rewarding rates of pay.’
    salary, wages, wage, take-home pay, gross pay, net pay, payment
    View synonyms


  • he who pays the piper calls the tune

    • proverb The person who provides the money for something has the right to determine how it's spent.

      • ‘After all, the trade unions pay for the Labour Party - and he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
      • ‘Well, you can fall you back on the axiom that he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
      • ‘I have always believed he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
      • ‘They are contradicted by the old adage that he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
      • ‘It's also worth remembering that he who pays the piper calls the tune and that in the English courts it's still the norm to have two expert witnesses, each paid by a separate party to the litigation.’
      • ‘As we all know he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
      • ‘‘We understand that he who pays the piper calls the tune,’ he said.’
      • ‘Since he who pays the piper calls the tune, it was suggested that it was a propaganda vehicle for pro-American views.’
      • ‘I do understand the contrary view that he who pays the piper calls the tune.’
  • in the pay of

    • Employed by.

      ‘mercenaries in the pay of one or other of the competing local rulers’
      • ‘His timely rescue of London from a retreating force of Frankish mercenaries who had been in the pay of Allectus was a huge propaganda victory.’
      • ‘Yes, he was a willing mercenary in the pay of the government of Canada and a Crown corporation.’
      • ‘And he's been in the pay of the British for around 30 years.’
      • ‘It must be nice to be in the pay of eccentric old rich conservative men, who arrange for you to testify in congress about things you know nothing about.’
      • ‘Perhaps more so, when you consider that the four ‘civilian contractors’ would appear to be mercenaries in the pay of the occupation forces.’
      • ‘In 1419, a Genoan captain in the pay of Prince Henry struck Madeira.’
      • ‘As a long-time exile in the pay of the CIA, he was always a strong candidate in Washington and US officials were clearly involved in steering the choice.’
      • ‘The films were ‘foreign-funded cinema,’ he declared, implying that the directors were in the pay of foreign masters.’
      • ‘We used to ask ourselves which of the window-breakers were in the pay of the cops/feds/private right-wingers.’
      • ‘Those etymologists who can see through the mirrors of conspiracy and who are not in the pay of multinational interests will be aware of this.’
  • pay attention

    • Take notice of someone or something.

      ‘students used to know how to pay attention, even when the lecture was boring’
      ‘if you pay attention to one thing, you have to ignore something else’
      ‘you've never paid that much attention to her opinions’
      • ‘Learning about the environment meant paying attention to don't litter signs.’
      • ‘In my frantic sprint to reach the girl in time, I hadn't been paying attention to the ground below me.’
      • ‘Like a determined sleuth, I followed the sound, hardly paying attention to the ground where I walked.’
      • ‘The press demand the public pay attention to them.’
      • ‘Some communities have only recently begun paying attention to the debate.’
      • ‘Some of his best poems begin simply with the act of listening, of readiness to be astonished, of paying attention.’
      • ‘No wonder big media have started to pay attention.’
      • ‘Somewhere east of the Mojave Desert my mother began to urge her brood to pay attention to the landscape.’
      • ‘To avoid cuts, you've really got to pay attention.’
      • ‘The guys who aren't profitable aren't paying attention to the business end of things.’
      listen, be attentive, attend, concentrate on, concentrate on hearing, give ear to, lend an ear to
      View synonyms
  • pay one's compliments

    • Send or express formal greetings.

      ‘a gentleman stopped, eager to pay his compliments’
      • ‘A sizable crowd turned out in glorious weather conditions to pay their compliments to the small band of volunteers who had seen the six-year project bear fruit.’
      • ‘When the gun carriage itself comes past we will present arms to pay our compliments to the Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family travelling behind the coffin.’
  • pay court to

    • Pay flattering attention to (someone) in order to win favour.

      ‘statesmen came to pay the king court and ask for alliances’
      • ‘Quirinius prudently paid court to Tiberius on Rhodes, succeeded Marcus Lollius as supervisor of Gaius Caesar, and shortly after married Aemilia Lepida, a descendant of Sulla and Pompey.’
      • ‘Like so many others, he paid court to her and would've done anything she asked - which includes getting the drugs she needed to sustain her addiction.’
      • ‘He paid court to numbers of well educated and potentially well set-up women many years his junior - sometimes to the horror of their parents.’
      • ‘Voltaire learnt from this mistake, and preferred to pay court to the other great enlightened despot of the age, Catherine II of Russia, from a safe distance and only in writing.’
      • ‘I was meaning to ask you if he already began paying court to you.’
      • ‘Meanwhile he is paying court to Isabelle over the weekend, hoping to carve out his own share of her family's fortune.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, he does observe that some British leaders ‘procured the friendship of Caesar Augustus by sending embassies, and by paying court to him’.’
      • ‘Otherwise, I should think I were paying court to a veritable shrew.’
      • ‘How could Alicia be attracted to that scar-faced, silent, sullen boy when a man of his calibre was paying court to her?’
      • ‘He does not tell the women he pays court to in England about his forlorn Irish sweetheart.’
      homage, deference, obedience, suit, courtship, blandishments, respects, attention, addresses
      woo, go out with, be involved with, be romantically linked with, pursue, run after, chase, seek the company of, make advances to, make up to, flirt with
      View synonyms
  • pay dearly

    • 1Obtain something at a high cost or great effort.

      ‘his master must have paid dearly for such a magnificent beast’
      • ‘And without toilets, they had to queue for hours and pay dearly for the privilege of using the smelly loo of some shopkeeper or building watchman who saw a profit in nature's most basic need.’
      • ‘Why is it that record companies pay dearly for radio play and fight Internet play?’
      • ‘However Irish viewers have to pay dearly for them.’
      • ‘In other words you are paying dearly to maintain a loan while your ability to clear the debt is falling each year.’
      • ‘Who would pay dearly to cross the ocean to teach middle-school math in one of Southern California's lowest-performing school districts?’
      • ‘But, I made her pay dearly for her purchases - $227 for four yearbooks and an old diploma and almost $150 for a collection of papers and photographs.’
      • ‘In fact, the vision requires vast sectors of society to pay dearly, and from their own pockets.’
      • ‘The taxpayer has already paid dearly for the construction of these houses, which cost £78,000 each in 1984, he said.’
      • ‘Because developers pay dearly to lease state-owned land for periods of years, there is great pressure to complete revenue-generating structures quickly.’
      • ‘A country pays and pays dearly for the development of its populace.’
      1. 1.1Suffer for a misdemeanour or failure.
        ‘they paid dearly for wasting goalscoring opportunities’
        • ‘And over 100,000 Americans have paid dearly for this failure.’
        • ‘However, they made poor use of a lot of scoring chances for which they were to pay dearly later in the game.’
        • ‘This period of their game was marked by poor passing and indifferent play for which they would later pay dearly.’
        • ‘It is a betrayal of civilised values and we shall pay dearly for it.’
        • ‘The only condition is that the hapless Alfred must pay dearly for rejecting her many years before.’
        • ‘In this case, they haven't, and now they're paying dearly for their candour.’
        • ‘This was probably a mistake for which they would pay dearly.’
        • ‘In both cases, they must pay dearly for their deeds.’
        • ‘It is a grim irony lost on them, for which they will pay dearly in elections to come.’
        • ‘They make false promises, fool themselves and people around them, and more often than not, pay dearly later.’
  • pay one's dues

    • 1Fulfil one's obligations.

      ‘if she was the caring person she makes herself out to be she would insist on paying her dues’
      • ‘For many, today's vote was about what has to happen from now on, rather than paying their dues to factional alliances.’
      • ‘The choir's history can quietly boast the development of soul stars like Carleen Anderson and Sam Moore, both of whom return to this album to pay their dues.’
      • ‘They will stand up for the silent, law-abiding majority who play by the rules and pay their dues.’
      • ‘We are taught that if we work hard and pay our dues, we will be rewarded in riches and love from family and friends.’
      • ‘They do not pay their dues to society and take money away from local businesses.’
      • ‘He pays his dues to the sport but without romance.’
      • ‘I'd love to say we do it to pay our dues or because we love literature or even for posterity, but the truth is we review books because we're addicts.’
      1. 1.1Experience difficulties before achieving success.
        ‘this drummer has paid his dues with the best’
        • ‘After paying his dues, Sanchez finally got his hands on the gear he needed to duplicate the sounds he was hearing in his head.’
        • ‘I have paid my dues, produced many successful students and defined my policies so that I am respected and established.’
        • ‘I have acquired some business and leadership experience; now I plan to pay my dues to acquire the practical experience and relationships to become a well-rounded school leader.’
        • ‘Like every other success story, Mike has paid his dues.’
        • ‘And yet even today, after a decade of paying his dues, there are still afternoons when the crowd at Highpoint West refuses to buy even a single piece of the non-stick cookware he demonstrates.’
        • ‘There's always a maturing process with bands: a period to pay their dues while they find their sound, solidify their act and just generally figure out what kind of band they're actually in.’
        • ‘From my experience, you have to pay your dues in this game, you have to lose many times in order to be a good winner.’
        • ‘He's paid his dues, he's experienced, he knows what it entails, he knows the personnel of this team.’
        • ‘Their reward is a job well done, but age and experience definitely count; you must pay your dues as you progress up the ladder of success.’
        • ‘You train just as long and you have to pay your dues just like in any other sport, ‘he states.’’
  • pay for itself

    • (of a thing) earn or save enough money to cover the cost of its purchase.

      ‘the best insulation will pay for itself in less than a year’
      • ‘If you get a lot of faxes, an ink jet may pay for itself in saved paper costs within a year or two.’
      • ‘Draft insulation on doors and windows also pays for itself.’
      • ‘A good quality pool cover is an investment which could literally pay for itself!’
      • ‘In many parts of the country, this type of insulation will pay for itself in energy saved.’
      • ‘Best of all, the system's cost will pay for itself after just a few print runs.’
      • ‘With the money you will save on rent, the service pays for itself in a month or two.’
      • ‘In general, the cost of training pays for itself in just nine months.’
      • ‘Not only can you work at your own pace, your hobby can pay for itself and you'll earn money as well!’
      • ‘Over its life span, the bulb saves $50 and actually pays for itself.’
      • ‘At $10 or less, this weatherstripping item pays for itself within a couple of years by reducing energy costs.’
  • pay it forward

    • Respond to a person's kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.

      ‘I will take the support I have had and try to pay it forward whenever I can’
      • ‘If you can walk out of the hospital and you are well enough to get in a car - any car and *drive* it, you should thank your lucky stars and pay it forward.’
      • ‘I wish I was in a position to help them out, but I will take the support I have had and try to pay it forward whenever I can.’
      • ‘Of course, as Girlfriend suggests, the ultimate way to bless yourself is to bless others (aka pay it forward).’
      • ‘One boy decides to do a good deed and thereby create a ripple effect by asking the beneficiaries of his kindness to pay it forward by helping others.’
      • ‘Rather than accepting her money, Hyde told the motorist to "pay it forward to somebody else."’
      • ‘Stay honest, stay tight, pick your friends up when they fall and pay it forward.’
      • ‘I truly believe when people do nice things for others, they will pay it forward.’
      • ‘Trevor will perform three acts of unsolicited kindness with the only requirement being that each recipient of his goodwill must "pay it forward" to three other people.’
      • ‘Helping three people might be easy, but asking them to pay it forward isn't.’
      • ‘I'm a big believer in the whole pay it forward idea.’
      • ‘Louise reminds us to pay the kindness forward after recounting a story about a friend of hers whose Harbour Bridge toll was paid for by the guy in the car in front of her who told the toll booth operator she had to pay it forward one day.’
      • ‘You'll get your chance to pay it forward.’
      • ‘I have been the recipient of a pay it forward type act recently and although in this particular instance I will pay it back, it has also strengthened my resolution to pay it forward.’
  • pay its (or one's) way

    • (of an enterprise or person) earn enough to cover its or one's costs.

      ‘some students are paying their way through college’
      • ‘This had to be done because so few people were paying their way.’
      • ‘We have no difficulty in paying our way and are not trying to freeload the system.’
      • ‘I'm quite content with the knowledge that I'm paying my way through school and living comfortably.’
      • ‘Some of the guards are students, paying their way through college, but it's a job no one really wants.’
      • ‘Aren't you as capable as him of earning a wage and paying your way?’
      • ‘I don't object when some law school pays my way to a symposium, though I suppose I could view it as their self-promotion.’
      • ‘Are you paying your way through college, perhaps?’
      • ‘Universities want returns, and so do the students willing to pay their way.’
      • ‘I made considerably more at my last job, but I make enough to live on and to pay my way through school.’
      • ‘The 31-year-old student of international relations is paying his way through grad school and doesn't have enough money left over for health insurance.’
  • pay one's last respects

    • Show respect towards a dead person by attending their funeral.

      • ‘Hundreds turned out for her funeral at Strandhill Church last Sunday to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Large crowds attended on both days to pay their last respects to Michael.’
      • ‘Thousands thronged the streets of Paris at his funeral to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Huge crowds attended to pay their last respects to a very popular gentleman.’
      • ‘Nearly 300 plantation workers, young people and villagers attended to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘He had many friends in the area and they all attended his funeral to pay their last respects to the popular Jim.’
      • ‘Mourners paid their last respects at the funeral of a teenager who died after playing in a football match.’
      • ‘This week thousands of people will be expected to pay their last respects during the funerals on Wednesday.’
      • ‘His burial took place in Ballybracken Cemetery where a large crowd attended to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘Many police officers, businessmen and members of the public attended the ceremonies to pay their last respects.’
  • pay one's respects

    • Make a polite visit to someone.

      ‘we went to pay our respects to the head lama’
      • ‘I visit here every Valentine's to pay my respects and tell her what's been going on in my life.’
      • ‘Galileo visited Rome in 1624 to pay his respects to Urban, and several events at that time led to his beginning work on another book.’
      • ‘Traditionally, people visited their home villages to pay their respects to family.’
      • ‘A constant stream of visitors have been paying their respects to the family.’
      • ‘Should I visit him and pay my respects, after the way he had treated me?’
      • ‘Quite a few people I've spoken to will be going and paying their respects.’
      • ‘Several hundred people have been coming by throughout the day paying their respects.’
      • ‘Earlier Wednesday, he visited the embassy to pay his respects.’
      • ‘Unlike my last visit, no one bothered us while we paid our respects.’
      • ‘All around, people queued in a polite but formal way to pay their respects.’
  • pay through the nose

    • informal Pay much more than a fair price.

      ‘they paid through the nose for one-to-one intensive tuition’
      • ‘Detractors complain about the outrageous prices of tickets, yet punters have not stopped paying through the nose.’
      • ‘The charge payers are paying through the nose for nothing.’
      • ‘For this, you need to know that you will pay through the nose; in fact you may well bleed through the nose when you see the bill.’
      • ‘Many companies must be paying through the nose on employees' medical bills.’
      • ‘More and more people are keeping pets as companions or substitutes for children, and paying through the nose for the privilege’
      • ‘Most cars drive better on the standard fit wheel, so you could be paying through the nose to make driving slightly less comfortable.’
      • ‘The people don't want to pay through the nose for even more spin.’
      • ‘People no longer have to compromise their standards or pay through the nose.’
      • ‘But you'll be paying through the nose for four years whereas I'll only have to survive a few more semesters.’
      • ‘We were paying through the nose for everything.’
  • you pays your money and you takes your choice

    • informal Used to convey that there is little to choose between one alternative and another.

      • ‘All-in-all, you pays your money and you takes your choice.’
      • ‘Well, as they say in the better places, you pays your money and you takes your choice…’
      • ‘So, you pays your money and you takes your choice.’
      • ‘It is entirely reasonable - you pays your money and you takes your choice - but it also strengthens national stereotypes.’
      • ‘As they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • pay someone back

    • 1Repay a loan to someone.

      ‘a regular amount was deducted from my wages to pay her back’
      • ‘Oh, and next time you pay her back on a loan ask for a receipt nicely.’
      • ‘Don't worry Kate, please, he said it was only a loan and we are going to pay him back.’
      • ‘If I can't make the moolah, how am I going to pay you back for my education?’
      • ‘He'd obviously taken it from somebody else's account to pay us back, I think that's what had been happening.’
      • ‘My sister paid the wages of the funeral, so I have to pay her back.’
      • ‘The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money.’
      • ‘I promise to pay you back in the middle of August.’
      • ‘He had been offered a job locally and said he wanted to pay us back.’
      • ‘They can always pay us back when things get better.’
      • ‘‘I thought it might be quicker if I went and got one myself,’ I said. ‘Do you mind paying me back out of petty cash?’
      repay, pay off, give back, return, remunerate, compensate, make amends to, make restitution to, reimburse, recoup, refund, restore, make good, indemnify, requite
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Take revenge on someone.
        ‘when someone does you wrong, the first instinct is to pay them back for hurting you’
        • ‘He will not only be happy to explain everything, but to find some way to pay me back for all this.’
        • ‘This mass culture exacts a price, and people are paid back for what they do - or don't do - to the environment.’
        • ‘He added: ‘I'd like to think the games I have played for Walter have been my way of paying him back.’’
        • ‘I think my body is paying me back for subjecting it to a years' worth of hard shift work.’
        • ‘And somewhere down the road, she will be paying me back for all 118 guests who didn't show up.’
        • ‘Then the universe or whatever is out there pays me back by making bad things happen to me and the people around me.’
        get one's revenge on, be revenged on, revenge oneself on, give someone their just deserts, reciprocate, punish, avenge oneself on, hit back at, get back at, get, get even with, settle a score with, settle the score with, settle accounts with, pay someone out, retaliate against, take reprisals against, exact retribution on
        View synonyms
  • pay something back

    • Repay a loan to someone.

      ‘the money should be paid back with interest’
      with two objects ‘they did pay me back the money’
      • ‘The scheme allows them to live in a house owned by the agency, and at the end of two years, almost 50% of the rent will be paid back.’
      • ‘Some put in several thousand pounds and all investors were warned that it might be many years before their money was paid back.’
      • ‘He noted that the three previous loans were paid back at the district's regularly scheduled Thursday night meeting.’
      • ‘In the case of the €250,000, the monies were paid back, the relevant authorities were informed and it is believed that just 1% of the bank's clients were affected.’
      • ‘The Crown has not had any involvement other than at the start, and that money was paid back.’
      • ‘He must spend the greater part of his time in the management of the company from the date of the investment until the loan has been paid back.’
      • ‘It's true that loans are paid back in dollars that are more valuable than the ones borrowed.’
      • ‘If the loans are paid back on time, they could generate a profit for the bank, he said.’
      • ‘All the while, they assure themselves the money will be paid back.’
      • ‘Over the long run, the additional cost is paid back many times over in energy savings.’
      • ‘The loans will be paid back at variable interest over 17 years, he added; they are to be reviewed every six months.’
      • ‘Part of the HUD loan would be paid back by the developers from property, sales and utility taxes.’
      • ‘Until the money is paid back, their wages are being garnished $856 a month.’
      • ‘If students defer payment until after they finish university the fees are paid back through the tax system.’
      • ‘The Council will also be legally bound to pay the loan back to the bank with interest.’
      • ‘Curiously, money ‘created out of thin air’ tends to disappear even when the loans are paid back.’
      • ‘As profits begin to flow, the loan will be paid back.’
      • ‘The European competition commission approved the loan last year provided it was paid back within a year.’
  • pay something in

    • Pay money into a bank account.

      ‘this statement may include cheques that you've recently paid in’
      • ‘But the amount they can earn tax-free on a standard equity fund or savings account drops to £100 a year if the money is paid in by a parent.’
      • ‘Mind you, the only reading Eric ever does is his bank statement to see if his expenses have been paid in.’
      • ‘First, this pre-dated the allegations of the conspiracy and second, the police never attempted to discover why that money was paid in.’
      • ‘The money left her account the day after I paid it in but it didn't surface in mine until four days later.’
      • ‘He said he left the cash in the car and only realised it had gone when he returned to the bank to pay it in.’
      • ‘On the Monday morning I went to the bank to pay the money in, and realised that it was not in my purse or my bag.’
      • ‘Donations can be made to the appeal by paying them in to a special bank account or by sending cheques directly to the T & A.’
      • ‘It was all in change and we had to lug it down to the bank to pay it in.’
      • ‘I have no idea why the cheque was not paid in, but I'm reluctant to try banking it after all this time.’
      • ‘I had no idea there was any problem with the new tax credits system until I checked my bank account this morning to see no money had been paid in.’
  • pay off

    • (of a course of action) yield good results; succeed.

      ‘all the hard work I had done over the summer paid off’
      • ‘They have shown in the last few months that hard work in training pays off.’
      • ‘He's given me the courage to go out into the world knowing that being beautiful inside sometimes pays off.’
      • ‘When we invest ourselves in our children, it often pays off in surprising ways.’
      • ‘Secondly, and crucially, we get the reward when the gamble pays off.’
      • ‘Translating this complex novel for the stage is an ambitious undertaking, but it pays off richly.’
      • ‘In some cases of course, it can pay off handsomely, if the company makes a decent recovery.’
      • ‘Refreshing your brain can sometimes be a little hard, but in the long run it always pays off.’
      • ‘Sometimes, all that fiddling with computers at home pays off extravagantly.’
      • ‘We can only hope that, in the long term, the gamble pays off.’
      • ‘I guess listening in class pays off, even if you don't read the million and one readings.’
      meet with success, be successful, succeed, be effective, work, get results, be profitable
      View synonyms
  • pay someone off

    • Dismiss someone with a final payment.

      ‘when directors are fired, they should not be lavishly paid off’
      • ‘He remains a shareholder but it was renamed after he was paid off from his post as chief executive in February.’
      • ‘After she was paid off following poor sales of her last album, she came to see him.’
      • ‘Because investment bankers are paid very well (and I was paid off quite well) I was and am in no immediate danger of starving, but life was and is complicated.’
      • ‘He has just fired the boss of his French textiles business and paid him off with £1m.’
      • ‘They essentially paid him off to let them phase out his show without a huge protest.’
      • ‘They can't provide enough new business for me to get my teeth stuck into, so they decided to pay me off.’
      • ‘But the album was a complete flop, and led to the firm paying her off to the tune of £20m.’
      • ‘Thinking about it, he's been there for some time, so they'll have to pay him off.’
      • ‘I think he's got another year but I don't know whether they want to keep him or pay him off.’
      pay what one owes
      View synonyms
  • pay something off

    • Pay a debt in full.

      ‘I've saved up enough to pay off my mortgage’
      • ‘Every month you send the agency a single payment that is portioned out to each of your creditors until your debts are paid off.’
      • ‘Students may decide to study in other fields likely to return a higher income, so their debt can be paid off sooner.’
      • ‘When the debt is paid off, does he need to continue paying rent?’
      • ‘I couldn't believe that people were still giving such great donations, even after the debt was paid off.’
      • ‘So, basically this debt has been paid off as far as the principle is concerned.’
      • ‘And I believe that our first obligation is to pay our debts off before we do anything else.’
      • ‘The best advice to the individual is try to make sure your debts are paid off and don't borrow unnecessarily.’
      • ‘Alternatively, do you pay your card off in full each month?’
      • ‘The interest charged on credit is very high and every month a bill is not paid off in full, the debt is compounded.’
      • ‘It was nearly a year before all of our debts were paid off.’
      get one's revenge on, be revenged on, revenge oneself on, repay, give someone their just deserts, reciprocate, punish, avenge oneself on, hit back at, get back at, get, get even with, settle a score with, settle the score with, settle accounts with, pay someone back, retaliate against, retaliate on, take reprisals against, exact retribution on
      pay in full, pay, settle, discharge, meet, clear, square, honour, satisfy, make good, liquidate
      View synonyms
  • pay something out (or pay out)

    • 1Pay a large sum of money from funds under one's control.

      ‘she had to pay out £300 for treatment’
      • ‘The advantage of a qualified annuity is tax-free growth on invested money, and tax is deferred until the money is paid out.’
      • ‘It also means that the money is paid out more quickly, bypassing the long wait until probate is granted.’
      • ‘This means all buy-in money is paid out as prizes.’
      • ‘To confuse matters more, the states are allowed, under federal law, to take two days to process the undistributed money before paying it out.’
      • ‘In most cases, funds are paid out over a three-year period.’
      • ‘My dad needed to feel comfortable that we would be able to pay the money out.’
      • ‘If the government gets the money, it is paid out to government workers, who then pay taxes on their income.’
      • ‘After the final roll-over the money will be paid out to the next division, the second division winners.’
      • ‘Immediately the money was paid out on the instructions of Des Traynor.’
      • ‘Recipients of this money bought more stocks, the government received more money, paid it out, and so on.’
      spend, expend, pay, lay out, put up, part with, hand over, remit, furnish, supply, disburse, contribute, give, donate, invest, advance, pledge
      View synonyms
    • 2Let out (a rope) by slackening it.

      ‘I began paying out the nylon line’
      • ‘All the instructions were given in Irish in those days and when the spyer saw the fish he'd tell the captain and the seine net would be paid out.’
      • ‘Some of the towline was paid out to send the commuter astern of the schooner.’
      • ‘With a float tied to the end, we start to pay the line out to float behind us and arc round the stranded yacht.’
  • pay up (or pay something up)

    • Pay a debt in full.

      ‘you've got ninety days to pay up the principal’
      • ‘I have 18 months left on my contract there and if the manager wants me out then they will have to pay my contract up.’
      • ‘They would pay a deposit on the item and then so much a week until it was paid up.’
      • ‘And if you have old debts, pay them up, until you are free of outstanding financial debts.’
      • ‘The same applies to old life insurance policies where premiums have not been paid for some time, or where the policy is paid up but has been forgotten about.’
      • ‘It would be appreciated if contributions for the upgrading of this water scheme could be paid up by 26th June.’
      • ‘But Reilly paid it up over the months, waiting for the final payment before he took the camera home.’
      • ‘He also said that no one should play until all his or her fees are paid up.’
      • ‘All my properties were sold, my taxes were paid up, a trust fund was set up for my children and whatever cash was left was spent on my legal fees at the original trial.’
      • ‘Admission is by ticket only and no one can get in unless they are paid up and can produce their ticket.’
      make payment, pay, settle up, pay in full, meet one's obligations, come up with the money
      View synonyms


Middle English (in the sense ‘pacify’): from Old French paie (noun), payer (verb), from Latin pacare ‘appease’, from pax, pac- ‘peace’. The notion of ‘payment’ arose from the sense of ‘pacifying’ a creditor.




Main definitions of pay in English

: pay1pay2



  • Seal (the deck or seams of a wooden ship) with pitch or tar to prevent leakage.

    ‘an open groove between the planks had to be payed by running in hot pitch from a special ladle’


Early 17th century: from Old Northern French peier, from Latin picare, from pix, pic- ‘pitch’.