American English

Definition of pay verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they pay
    he / she / it pays
    past simple paid
    -ing form paying
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  1. 1[intransitive, transitive] to give someone money for work, goods, services, etc. pay (for something) I'll pay for the tickets. Are you paying in cash or by credit card? My company pays well (= pays high salaries). pay for somebody to do something Her parents paid for her to go to Jamaica. pay something to pay cash pay something for something She pays $875 a month for this apartment. pay somebody (for something) Would you mind paying the taxi driver? pay somebody something He still hasn't paid me the money he owes me. I'm paid $100 a day. pay somebody/something to do something I don't pay you to sit around all day doing nothing! see also low-paid, prepaid, well-paid
  2. 2[transitive] to give someone money that you owe them pay something to pay a bill/debt/fine/ransom, etc. pay something to somebody Membership fees should be paid to the secretary. pay somebody something Have you paid him the rent yet?
  3. 3[intransitive] (of a business, etc.) to produce a profit It's hard to make farming pay.
  4. 4[intransitive, transitive] to result in some advantage or profit for someone Crime doesn't pay. it pays to do something It pays to keep up to date with your work. it pays somebody to do something It would probably pay you to hire an accountant.
  5. 5[intransitive] to suffer or be punished for your beliefs or actions pay (for something) You'll pay for that remark! pay (with something) Many people paid with their lives (= they died).
  6. 6[transitive] used with some nouns to show that you are giving or doing the thing mentioned pay something I didn't pay attention to what she was saying. The director paid tribute to all she had done for the charity. I'll pay a call on (= visit) my friends. pay somebody something I'll pay you a call when I'm in town. He's always paying me compliments.
  7. Idioms
    cost/pay an arm and a leg (informal)
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    to cost/pay a lot of money
    the devil/hell to pay (informal)
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    a lot of trouble There'll be hell to pay when he finds out.
    give/pay heed (to somebody/something), take heed (of somebody/something) (formal)
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    to pay careful attention to someone or something They gave little heed to the rumors. I paid no heed at the time but later I had cause to remember what he'd said. Small businesses would be wise to take heed of the warnings contained in the Secretary's speech.
    he who pays the piper calls the tune (saying)
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    the person who provides the money for something can also control how it is spent
    pay court to somebody (old-fashioned)
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    to treat someone with great respect in order to gain favor with them
    pay dividends
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    to produce great advantages or profits Exercising regularly will pay dividends in the end.
    pay your dues
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    to work hard and experience difficulties before achieving success She paid her dues singing in the chorus for very little money before becoming a star.
    pay for itself
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    (of a new system, something you have bought, etc.) to save as much money as it cost The rail pass will pay for itself after about two trips.
    pay good money for something
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    used to emphasize that something cost(s) a lot of money, especially if the money is wasted I paid good money for this jacket, and now look at it—it's ruined!
    pay the penalty (for something/for doing something), pay a/the price (for something/for doing something)
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    to suffer because of bad luck, a mistake, or something you have done He looked terrible this morning. I think he's paying the penalty for all those late nights. They're now paying the price for past mistakes. She thinks that any inconvenience is a price worth paying for living in such a beautiful place.
    pay your respects (to somebody) (formal)
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    to visit someone or to send a message of good wishes as a sign of respect for them Many came to pay their last respects (= by attending someone's funeral).
    somebody pays their debt to society
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    used to say that someone is being punished for a crime, usually by being put in prison He paid his debt to society for his previous convictions and is now a free man.
    pay through the nose (for something) (informal)
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    to pay much too much money for something
    pay its way
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    (of a business, etc.) to make enough money to pay what it costs to keep it going The bridge is still not paying its way.
    pay your way
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    to pay for everything yourself without having to rely on anyone else's money
    pay somebody (back) with interest
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    to do the same thing to someone as they have done to you, but with more force, enthusiasm, etc.
    rob Peter to pay Paul (saying)
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    to borrow money from one person to pay back what you owe to another person; to take money from one thing to use for something else
    Phrasal Verbspay somebody back (something)pay somebody back (for something)pay somethingdownpay somethinginpay offpay somebodyoffpay somethingoffpay somethingoutpay up
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: pay