- 1 to have to pay someone for something that you have already received or return money that you have borrowed owe somebody something She still owes her father $3,000. (figurative) I'm still owed three days' vacation. owe somebody something for something How much do I owe you for the groceries? owe something (to somebody) (for something) She still owes $3,000 to her father. The country owes billions of dollars to foreign creditors.
- 2to feel that you ought to do something for someone or give them something, especially because they have done something for you owe something to somebody I owe a debt of gratitude to all my family. You owe it to your staff to be honest with them. owe somebody something You owe me a favor! Thanks for sticking up for me—Iowe you one (= I owe you a favor). I think you owe us an explanation. I think we're owed an apology. The passive is not used in this meaning except with a person as the subject:An apology is owed to us.
- 3to exist or be successful because of the help or influence of someone or something owe something to somebody/something He owes his success to hard work. The play owes much to French tragedy. I owe everything to him. owe somebody something I owe him everything. I knew that I owed the surgeon my life.
- 4owe allegiance/loyalty/obedience (to somebody) (formal) to have to obey or be loyal to someone who is in a position of authority or power All serfs owed allegiance to a lord.
verbjump to other results
NAmE//oʊ//(not used in the progressive tenses)Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they owe
he / she / it owes
past simple owed