When you pay, you give money in return for something. It’s not always money, though. If your brother says, “You’ll pay for this!” after you snooped in his room, he’s not talking about money. He means you’re going to get it!

Your neighbor might pay you to shovel his driveway — and you can take the money you earn and pay for movie tickets for you and your best friend. Whenever there's an exchange of money and goods (or services), someone pays someone else. It can also be used for ideas. If your teacher warns your class that "crime doesn't pay," she means you might get money but it's not worth it. Education does pay, though, because it makes you smarter.

Definitions of pay
  1. verb
    give money, usually in exchange for goods or services
    “I paid four dollars for this sandwich”
    Pay the waitress, please”
    see moresee less
    show 45 types...
    hide 45 types...
    subsidise, subsidize
    secure the assistance of by granting a subsidy, as of nations or military forces
    obtain or provide money for
    contribute, put up
    compensate, recompense, remunerate
    make payment to; compensate
    pay too much
    pay too little
    pay for something before receiving it
    go Dutch
    share expenses equally and split the cost of something
    compensate, indemnify, recompense, repair
    make amends for; pay compensation for
    pay a tenth of one's income, especially to the church
    send (money) in payment
    pay off, redeem
    pay off (loans or promissory notes)
    drop, expend, spend
    pay out
    bribe, buy, corrupt, grease one's palms
    make illegal payments to in exchange for favors or influence
    give back, refund, repay, return
    pay back
    foot, pick
    pay for something
    disburse, pay out
    expend, as from a fund
    pay with a credit card; pay with plastic money; postpone payment by recording a purchase as a debt
    pay cash
    pay (for something) with cash
    bear the expenses of
    kick back
    pay a kickback; make an illegal payment
    give preference to one creditor over another
    consume, deplete, eat, eat up, exhaust, run through, use up, wipe out
    use up (resources or materials)
    consume, squander, ware, waste
    spend extravagantly
    be able to spare or give up
    help (an enterprise) in its early stages of development by providing seed money
    support financial backing for
    renew the financing of
    convert (short-term floating debt) into long-term debt that bears fixed interest and is represented by bonds
    recoup, reimburse
    reimburse or compensate (someone), as for a loss
    spend lavishly or wastefully on
    trifle away, wanton, wanton away
    spend wastefully
    spend at less than the normal rate
    spend (money or other resources) unwisely
    nickel-and-dime, penny-pinch
    spend money frugally; spend as little as possible
    commit, invest, place, put
    make an investment
    give a conciliatory gift or bribe to
    buy off, pay off
    pay someone with influence in order to receive a favor
    pay back for some expense incurred
    restitute, restore
    give or bring back
    economise, economize, save
    spend sparingly, avoid the waste of
    deliver in exchange or recompense
    lay out
    spend or invest
    piddle, piddle away, trifle, wanton, wanton away
    waste time; spend one's time idly or inefficiently
    spend time badly or unwisely
    type of:
    transfer possession of something concrete or abstract to somebody
  2. verb
    do or give something to somebody in return
    “Does she pay you for the work you are doing?”
    synonyms: compensate, make up, pay off
    see moresee less
    type of:
    dispose of; make a financial settlement
  3. verb
    discharge or settle
    pay a debt”
    pay an obligation”
    see moresee less
    ante up, pay up
    cancel or discharge a debt
    liquidate, pay off
    eliminate by paying off (debts)
    type of:
    dispose of; make a financial settlement
  4. verb
    cancel or discharge a debt
    pay up, please!”
    synonyms: ante up, pay up
    see moresee less
    default, default on
    fail to pay up
    liquidate, pay off
    eliminate by paying off (debts)
    pay off (a mortgage)
    amortise, amortize
    liquidate gradually
  5. verb
    be worth it
    “It pays to go through the trouble”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    have the quality of being; (copula, used with an adjective or a predicate noun)
  6. verb
    bear (a cost or penalty), in recompense for some action
    “You'll pay for this!”
    “She had to pay the penalty for speaking out rashly”
    “You'll pay for this opinion later”
    see moresee less
    get one's lumps, take one's lumps
    suffer the results or consequences of one's behavior or actions
    type of:
    abide, bear, brook, digest, endure, put up, stand, stick out, stomach, suffer, support, tolerate
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
  7. verb
    make a compensation for
    “a favor that cannot be paid back”
    fix, get, pay back, pay off
    take vengeance on or get even
    see moresee less
    type of:
    repay, requite
    make repayment for or return something
  8. verb
    bring in
    “How much does this savings certificate pay annually?”
    synonyms: bear, yield
    see moresee less
    clear, net
    yield as a net profit
    pay off
    yield a profit or result
    type of:
    bring in, clear, earn, gain, make, pull in, realise, realize, take in
    earn on some commercial or business transaction; earn as salary or wages
  9. noun
    something that remunerates
    “wages were paid by check”
    synonyms: earnings, remuneration, salary, wage
    see moresee less
    show 11 types...
    hide 11 types...
    combat pay
    extra pay for soldiers engaged in active combat
    double time
    a doubled wage (for working overtime)
    food and lodging provided in addition to money
    reduced wage paid to someone who is not working full time
    living wage
    a wage sufficient for a worker and family to subsist comfortably
    merit pay
    extra pay awarded to an employee on the basis of merit (especially to school teachers)
    minimum wage
    the lowest wage that an employer is allowed to pay; determined by contract or by law
    pay envelope, pay packet
    wages enclosed in an envelope for distribution to the wage earner
    sick pay
    wages paid to an employee who is on sick leave
    strike pay
    money paid to strikers from union funds
    take-home pay
    what is left of your pay after deductions for taxes and dues and insurance etc
    type of:
    regular payment
    a payment made at regular times
  10. verb
    convey, as of a compliment, regards, attention, etc.; bestow
    “Don't pay him any mind”
    pay attention”
    synonyms: give
    see moresee less
    extend, offer
    offer verbally
    type of:
    communicate, intercommunicate
    transmit thoughts or feelings
  11. verb
    pay attention to”
    synonyms: devote, give
    give, sacrifice
    endure the loss of
    see moresee less
    type of:
    cerebrate, cogitate, think
    use or exercise the mind or one's power of reason in order to make inferences, decisions, or arrive at a solution or judgments
  12. verb
    pay a visit”
    pay a call”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    perform or carry out
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week