Meaning of PAY in English

I. pay 1 S1 W1 /peɪ/ BrE AmE verb ( past tense and past participle paid /peɪd/)

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ pay , ↑ payment , ↑ repayment , ↑ payer , ↑ payee ; verb : ↑ pay , ↑ repay , ↑ underpay ≠ ↑ overpay ; adjective : paid ≠ ↑ unpaid , ↑ underpaid ≠ ↑ overpaid , ↑ payable ]

[ Date: 1100-1200 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: paier , from Latin pacere 'to make calm or peaceful' , from pax ; ⇨ ↑ peace ]

1 . GIVE MONEY [intransitive and transitive] to give someone money for something you buy or for a service:

How would you like to pay?

pay for

Mum paid for my driving lessons.

pay (in) cash

You’d get a discount for paying cash.

pay by cheque/credit card

Can I pay by credit card?

pay somebody for something

He didn’t even offer to pay me for the ticket.

pay somebody to do something

Ray paid some kids to wash the car.

pay somebody something

I paid him $5 to cut the grass.

pay (somebody) in dollars/euros etc

He wanted to be paid in dollars.


The object of pay can be the person you give money to or the amount of money you give:

I’ll pay you in advance.

I’ve already paid £700.

► Do not use pay followed directly by a noun referring to the thing you are buying. Use pay (an amount of money) for something:

I’ll pay for the tickets.

I paid £100 for this jacket.

2 . BILL/TAX/RENT [transitive] to pay money that you owe to a person, company etc:

I forgot to pay the gas bill!

You pay tax at the basic rate.

Is it okay if I pay you what I owe you next week?

3 . WAGE/SALARY [intransitive and transitive] to give someone money for the job they do:

How much do they pay you?

pay somebody $100 a day/£200 a week etc

They’re only paid about £4 an hour.

Some lawyers get paid over $400 an hour.

be paid weekly/monthly (also get paid weekly/monthly)

We get paid weekly on Fridays.

well/badly/poorly paid

Many of the workers are very badly paid.

paid work (=work you are paid to do)

paid holiday/leave (=time when you are not working but are still paid)

4 . pay attention (to somebody/something) to watch, listen to, or think about someone or something carefully:

I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to what you were saying.

They paid no attention to (=ignored) him.

5 . LEGAL COST [transitive] to give money to someone because you are ordered to by a court as part of a legal case:

She had to pay a £35 fine for speeding.

pay (something in) compensation/damages (=give someone money because you have done something against them)

The company were forced to pay £5,000 in compensation.

Martins was ordered to pay court costs of £1,500.

6 . SAY SOMETHING GOOD [transitive] to say something good or polite about or to someone:

The minister paid tribute to the work of the emergency services.

I came by to pay my respects (=visit or send a polite greeting to someone) to Mrs Owens.

I was just trying to pay her a compliment.

7 . GOOD RESULT [intransitive] if a particular action pays, it brings a good result or advantage for you:

Crime doesn’t pay.

It pays to get some professional advice before you make a decision.

It would pay you to ask if there are any jobs going at the London office.

Getting some qualifications now will pay dividends (=bring a lot of advantages) in the long term.

8 . PROFIT [intransitive] if a shop or business pays, it makes a profit:

If the pub doesn’t start to pay, we’ll have to sell it.

The farm just manages to pay its way (=make as much profit as it costs to run) .

9 . pay the penalty/price to experience something unpleasant because you have done something wrong, made a mistake etc

pay the penalty/price for (doing) something

Williams is now paying the price for his early mistakes.

10 . pay (somebody) a call/visit to visit a person or place:

I decided to pay my folks a visit.

pay (somebody) a call/visit to

If you have time, pay a visit to the City Art Gallery.

11 . put paid to something British English to stop something from happening or spoil plans for something:

Bad exam results put paid to his hopes of a university place.

12 . BE PUNISHED [intransitive] to suffer or be punished for something you have done wrong:

I’ll make him pay!

pay for

They paid dearly for their mistakes.

13 . pay your way to pay for everything that you want without having to depend on anyone else for money:

Sofia worked to pay her way through college.

14 . pay for itself if something you buy pays for itself, the money it saves over a period of time is as much as the product cost to buy:

A new boiler would pay for itself within two years.

15 . the devil/hell to pay used to say that someone will be in a lot of trouble about something:

If the boss finds out you were late again, there’s going to be hell to pay.

16 . pay through the nose (for something) spoken to pay much more for something than it is really worth

17 . somebody has paid their debt to society used to say that someone who has done something illegal has been fully punished for it

18 . pay court (to somebody) old-fashioned to treat someone, especially a woman, carefully and with respect, so that they will like you or help you

19 . he who pays the piper calls the tune old-fashioned used to say that the person who gives the money for something can decide how it will be used

⇨ pay lip service to at ↑ lip service , ⇨ pay your dues at ↑ due 2 (2)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ phrases

▪ pay £10/$50 etc

I only paid ten pounds for it.

▪ pay (in) cash

You have to pay in cash for the tickets.

▪ pay by cheque

I filled up with petrol and then paid by cheque.

▪ pay by credit card

The hotel does not charge more if you pay by credit card.

▪ pay in dollars/euros etc

American exporters want to be paid in dollars.

■ adverbs

▪ pay handsomely (=pay a lot of money)

Customers are willing to pay handsomely for anti-ageing cosmetic products.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 3)

■ phrases

▪ pay somebody £200 a week/$100 a day etc

The cleaners are paid £5 an hour.

▪ be paid by the hour/day/week

I was working on a building site, being paid by the hour.

■ adverbs

▪ be paid weekly/monthly

Most of us get paid weekly or monthly.

▪ well-paid

Teachers here are well-paid.

▪ highly-paid

a highly-paid football player

▪ badly-paid/poorly-paid

For a long time I didn’t realise how badly-paid and overworked I was.

• • •


▪ pay to give someone money for something you are buying from them, or a service they are providing:

I paid a lot of money for that computer.


You have to pay to park your car.

▪ meet the cost of something to pay for something for someone else, or to provide the money needed to do something:

We will meet the cost of your travelling expenses.


The cost will be met from public donations.

▪ foot the bill to pay for something for someone else, especially when you do not want to, or do not think that you should:

As usual, the taxpayer will have to foot the bill.

▪ pick up the tab informal to pay for something:

My company will pick up the tab for all moving costs.

▪ fork out/shell out informal to pay a lot of money for something because you have to and not because you want to:

He had to fork out £500 to get his car fixed.


Fans are having to shell out roughly $65 per seat for football games.

▪ settle the bill to pay the bill after eating a meal, staying in a hotel etc:

She went down to the hotel lobby to settle the bill.

▪ give especially spoken to pay a particular amount of money for something – used especially when saying how much you are willing to pay:

How much will you give me for the car?


I’ll give you $50 for the lot (=for everything) .

▪ something is on somebody spoken used when saying that someone else will pay for your meal, drinks etc:

Order whatever you like – this is on me!


The drinks are on the house (=the bar, restaurant etc will let you have them for free) .


Put your money away – the drinks are on us.

pay somebody/something ↔ back phrasal verb

1 . to give someone the money that you owe them SYN repay :

I’ll pay you back on Friday.

We’re paying back the loan over 15 years.

2 . to make someone suffer for doing something wrong or unpleasant

pay somebody back for something

I’ll pay Jenny back for what she did to me!

pay something ↔ in ( also pay something into something ) phrasal verb

to put money in your bank account etc:

Did you remember to pay that cheque in?

I’ve paid $250 into my account.

pay off phrasal verb

1 . pay something ↔ off to give someone all the money you owe them:

I’ll pay off all my debts first.

He finally paid his overdraft off.

2 . if something you do pays off, it is successful or has a good result:

Teamwork paid off.

3 . pay somebody ↔ off British English to pay someone their wages and tell them they no longer have a job:

Two hundred workers have been paid off.

4 . pay somebody ↔ off to pay someone not to say anything about something illegal or dishonest

⇨ ↑ payoff (2)

pay out phrasal verb

1 . pay out (something) to pay a lot of money for something:

Why is it always me who has to pay out?

pay out (something) for

Altogether he had paid out almost £5000 for the improvements.

2 . pay out (something) if a company or organization pays out, it gives someone money as a result of an insurance claim, ↑ investment , competition etc:

Insurance companies were slow paying out on claims for flood damage.

⇨ ↑ payout

3 . pay something ↔ out to let a piece of rope unwind

pay something ↔ over phrasal verb

to make an official payment of money

pay something ↔ over to

Clancy’s share of the inheritance was paid over to him.

pay up phrasal verb

to pay money that you owe, especially when you do not want to or you are late:

She refused to pay up.

⇨ ↑ paid-up

II. pay 2 S1 W2 BrE AmE noun [uncountable]

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ pay , ↑ payment , ↑ repayment , ↑ payer , ↑ payee ; verb : ↑ pay , ↑ repay , ↑ underpay ≠ ↑ overpay ; adjective : paid ≠ ↑ unpaid , ↑ underpaid ≠ ↑ overpaid , ↑ payable ]

1 . money that you are given for doing your job:

Staff have been working without pay for the last month.

The tax is deducted from your pay every week.

He was suspended on full pay until the hearing.

2 . in the pay of somebody written someone who is in someone else’s pay is working for them, often secretly:

an informer in the pay of the police

• • •



▪ low

Nurses often work long hours for relatively low pay.

▪ good

The work was steady and the pay was pretty good.

▪ higher/better

Workers demanded higher pay.

▪ equal pay (=the same pay for the same type of work)

The women at the factory went on strike for equal pay.

▪ basic pay British English , base pay American English (=not including overtime pay or bonuses)

The basic pay is so low you end up doing lots of overtime.

▪ take-home pay (=after tax etc has been taken away)

Their average take-home pay is just £120.

▪ overtime pay (=for extra hours that you work)

Their bosses had to approve any overtime pay.

▪ holiday pay British English , vacation pay American English (=pay when you are on holiday)

Servicemen and women get no holiday pay, no overtime, no weekends off.

▪ sick pay (=pay when you are ill)

As a self-employed person, you get no sick pay or benefits.

▪ maternity pay (=pay while a woman takes time off to have a baby)

If you have worked here a year, you are entitled to 3 month’s maternity pay.

▪ redundancy pay British English , severance pay American English (=pay when there is no longer a job for you)

We invested our redundancy pay in a new business venture.

▪ full pay

They were immediately suspended on full pay pending a full inquiry.

▪ half pay

In 1822 he retired from the army as captain on half pay.

■ pay + NOUN

▪ a pay increase

Teachers will be awarded a 6% pay increase this year.

▪ a pay rise British English , pay raise American English

If you get promoted, will you get a pay rise?

▪ a pay cut

Staff were asked to take a 10% pay cut.

▪ a rate of pay ( also a pay rate ) (=the amount paid every hour, week etc)

Many workers in the catering industry are on low rates of pay.

▪ a pay cheque British English , a paycheck American English (=the money you earn every week or month)

Stretching your money until the next pay cheque arrives often becomes difficult.

▪ a pay freeze (=when no one’s pay is increased)

Ministers have approved a public sector pay freeze.

▪ a pay claim British English (=official request for more pay)

The miners voted for strike action in support of their pay claim.

▪ a pay dispute (=disagreement between an employer and employees about pay)

Many flights were cancelled because of a pilots’ pay dispute.

▪ pay and conditions (=the conditions in which people work and the pay they get)

The unions are demanding better pay and conditions.


► Do not say ' the salary pay '. Just say the pay .

• • •


▪ income money that you receive from working, investments etc:

families on a low income

▪ salary the pay that professional people such as teachers or lawyers earn every year:

a salary of $65,000 a year

▪ wages the pay that someone earns every hour or every week:

Her wages barely cover the rent.

▪ bonus money added to someone’s pay, as a reward for good work or as a reward when the company does well:

The company pays an attendance bonus – if you go 30 days without being late or absent, you get the bonus.

▪ earnings all the money that you earn by working:

In a good year, a bonus can double an executive’s earnings.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.