Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial.
pay (one) off
To pay one money in exchange for special treatment or avoiding punishment; to bribe one. Despite the huge amount of evidence, the criminal was still acquitted. He must have paid off the jury! We paid off the committee members, so our application should go through without a hitch.
1. To repay a debt or bill in full; to finish paying for something bought on credit. A noun or pronoun can be used between "pay" and "off." I should have enough in my account to pay the phone bill off this month. We just finished paying off the car, and you want to start looking at a newer model?
2. To yield profits or benefits following an investment (of time, money, energy, etc.). Wow, those private lessons have really paid off—your Spanish sounds totally fluent! If this venture doesn't pay off, we'll be forced to declare bankruptcy.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
pay someone off.
1. Lit. to pay what is owed to a person. I can't pay you off until Wednesday when I get my paycheck. I have to use this money to pay off Sarah.
2. Fig. to bribe someone. Max asked Lefty if he had paid the cops off yet. Lefty paid off the cops on time.
pay something off
to pay all of a debt; to pay the final payment for something bought on credit. This month I'll pay the car off. Did you pay off the gas bill yet?
to yield profits; to result in benefits. My investment in those stocks has really paid off. The time I spent in school paid off in later years.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Pay the full amount on a debt or on wages, as in The car's finally paid off, or Les pays off the workers every Friday evening. [Early 1700s]
2. Produce a profit, as in That gamble did not pay off. [Mid-1900s]
3. Also, pay off an old score. Get revenge on someone for some grievance, require, as in Jerry was satisfied; he'd paid off his ex-partner when he bought him out at half-price, or Amy went out with her roommate's boyfriend, but she was paying off and old score.
4. Bribe, as in The owner of the bar paid off the local police so he wouldn't get in trouble for serving liquor to minors . [Colloquial; c. 1900]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To pay the full amount of some debt: She paid off the mortgage ahead of schedule. He paid his college debt off six years after he graduated.
2. To result in profit; be lucrative: Your efforts will eventually pay off.
3. To result in some degree of profit or loss: My unwise bet paid off very badly.
4. To pay the wages that are due to an employee upon discharge: We were fired, so they paid us off and we left the building. The company didn't fire the workers because it couldn't afford to pay them off.
5. To bribe someone in order to ensure cooperation: The owner of the factory paid off the inspectors so that they wouldn't report the safety violations. I won't allow anyone to cheat here, and no one can pay me off.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.