Definition of earn in English:



  • 1 (of a person) obtain (money) in return for labor or services.

    ‘they earn $35 per hour’
    ‘he now earns his living as a truck driver’
    • ‘Billy now earns well in excess of £35,000 and it is increasing steadily.’
    • ‘It is not only how he gets his pleasure but also how he earns his living.’
    • ‘It is claimed funeral workers are being forced to work long hours of overtime to earn a decent wage.’
    • ‘The professional dog walker is giving a service and has the right to earn a living.’
    • ‘This young boy also earns his pocket money having had some training in handling computers, she adds.’
    • ‘In real terms, low-income workers earn on average $120 less than they did in 1984, he claims.’
    • ‘Since then, how the Kents earn their money has been less clear, but it involves extensive world travel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In an attempt to earn money he set about writing a novel, drawing on the experience of his financial disaster.’
    • ‘Anyone who earns money or receives income should pay taxes and the truth is, every one does pay taxes.’
    • ‘Fundamentally we have to earn the money to pay for services.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She earns her living solely from painting, and her work hangs in important private and corporate collections in Trinidad and Jamaica.’
    • ‘At present he earns his living by repairing photocopy and fax machines.’
    • ‘For that service he earns a match fee of 20 and travelling expenses of 26 pence per mile.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘As a teenager, Monet's talent had declared itself well enough for him to be earning pocket money through selling caricatures.’
    • ‘He earns his living as a British Telecom engineer.’
    • ‘Like many a teenager, he became closeted in his bedroom, spending hours on his computer as he earned some money designing websites.’
    be paid, receive a salary of, take home, take home earnings of, gross
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[with two objects](of an activity or action) cause (someone) to obtain (money)
      ‘this latest win earned them $50,000 in prize money’
      • ‘Most jobs that will earn you a good amount of money involve a fair bit of training.’
      • ‘Completing missions swiftly earns you money with which to upgrade your squad with more experienced operatives.’
      • ‘Doing so earns you money but also produces unwanted waste.’
      • ‘If an activity doesn't earn you money, or make you rich, then there is no value attached to it.’
      • ‘I could do a whole range of boring commercial things which would earn me a lot of money, but I wouldn't do them.’
      • ‘He eked out a precarious living chiefly by writing short stories, some of which won praise but none of which earned him significant money.’
      • ‘A lifetime of land preservation earns rancher a $10,000 bonus and a much deserved thank you’
      • ‘It may be cruel, but there will come a time when the youthful athleticism that earns him so much money now will disappear.’
      • ‘Furthermore, it seemed unlikely to earn him any significant money.’
      • ‘I would be working full-time soon, and that would earn me enough money to live with a roommate.’
      • ‘An English tour in 1889 earned him enough money to undertake a period of study in Paris with d' Indy and Dukas.’
    2. 1.2(of capital invested) gain (money) as interest or profit.
      • ‘It is a performance bond deposit that earns interest because it is usually held in the form of short-term Treasury bills.’
      • ‘However, it is also true that the cash can be put on deposit to earn interest in the meantime.’
      • ‘If customers pay their credit card accounts by the due date, they are probably using funds already on deposit earning no 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.’
      • ‘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 money market earns higher interest rates than their savings bank and credit union accounts.’
      • ‘In the worst case scenario, tax is owed on the funds going into the account and also on the interest earned by the account.’
      • ‘Will their payments into the scheme be treated as nothing more than an ordinary deposit account earning minimal interest?’
      • ‘We aim to raise £20,000 this year and start giving grants from the interest the money earns next year.’
      • ‘The accounts would be managed by non-government fund managers and deposits would earn interest.’
      • ‘The money in your account earns some interest each year.’
      • ‘Anytime you can take resources that are earning less money and apply them to higher return projects, that's a good thing.’
      • ‘The fund earns capital gains and losses from shares and not fixed interest.’
      • ‘The deposit earns interest and is generally refundable once you establish a satisfactory credit history.’
      • ‘The capital you invest that earns $25 psf is more productive, obviously, than that yielding $12 psf.’
      • ‘However, is all of the money being squirreled away earning as much interest as it could be?’
      • ‘Any income earned by the fund, in terms of dividends, interest or rental income, is exempt from income tax.’
      • ‘After that, the policy should be earning dividends high enough to cover the annual premium.’
      • ‘This account did not attract interest, so the client monies did not earn interest while they remained in it.’
      • ‘This example does not take account of the interest earned by the deposit itself, which will also be liable to tax.’
    3. 1.3Gain or incur deservedly in return for one's behavior or achievements.
      ‘through the years she has earned affection and esteem’
      • ‘Well done John and congratulations and best wishes to all who so deservedly earned their award.’
      • ‘From the ditch this running back/special teams kick return man earned his nickname.’
      • ‘Not until years later would he earn the respect his achievements merited.’
      • ‘This is the biggest break to come along for The Hooks so far in their career, but they fully deserved and earned it.’
      • ‘By the 1880s Irish workers had earned their reputation as a volatile and militant element within the labor force.’
      • ‘I think she should stop counting her chickens before they hatch and stop using a name she by no means has earned.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She also earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in industrial relations.’
      • ‘The charity gains financially, the company earns kudos, and the benevolent consumer gets to feel good about his or her contribution.’
      • ‘Let's just say they all earned some recognition for a job they struggled to achieve, but finished in some style.’
      • ‘Employees have justifiably earned a reputation for the contribution they make to the companies which employ them.’
      • ‘A prince earns esteem by undertaking great enterprises.’
      • ‘The number of women earning doctorates in engineering and science has risen significantly since 1966.’
      • ‘He deservedly earned the tremendous esteem and the great regard of all with whom he came in contact with.’
      • ‘He earned another merit badge and turned it in to the chairman through his father.’
      • ‘He earned his doctorate magna cum laude with a dissertation on the politics of Hindu Revivalism.’
      • ‘The relatively small contingent deservedly earned a reputation for " punching well above their weight".’
      • ‘We feel we will stutter and stumble and earn the deserved scorn of our listeners.’
      • ‘Younger generations of Royals will need to earn our continuing respect and affection.’


  • earn one's keep

    • 1Work in return for food and accommodations.

      • ‘It's time for you to start earning your keep around here.’
      • ‘‘My father is a big proponent of tradition and earning your keep,’ Wright says.’
      • ‘‘You will start earning your keep tomorrow, Peter,’ said Orikichal smoothly, dismissing the faery servant with a wave of his hand.’
      • ‘If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.’
      • ‘But to our ancestors, kids were an addition to the family workforce and had to earn 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Mother has been complaining that since I don't contribute any money to the household I should be earning my keep through domestic work.’
      • ‘He has very little business this time of year, so it makes sure the stableboys are earning their keep.’
      1. 1.1Be worth the time, money, or effort spent on one.
        • ‘He earns his keep with a subtle musical touch that gradually becomes the overwhelming reason why you'll love this record.’
        • ‘That is how literary agents earn their keep and justify their existence.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Sounds like the drug lobbyists are earning 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.’
        • ‘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.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • earn out (or 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.

      ‘my experience is that most authors don't earn out’
      ‘don't confuse earning out the advance with being profitable’
      • ‘I can also assure you that most books never 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.’
      • ‘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, from a base shared by Old English esne laborer.