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From Middle English owen, from Old English āgan, from Proto-Germanic *aiganą, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eh₂óyḱe (to possess, own), reduplicated stative of *h₂eyḱ- (to own). See also own, ought.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əʊ/
  • (US) enPR: ō, IPA(key): /oʊ/
  • (file)
  • Homophones: o, oh
  • Rhymes: -əʊ


owe (third-person singular simple present owes, present participle owing, simple past owed or (archaic) ought, past participle owed or (archaic) own)

  1. (transitive) To be under an obligation to give something back to someone or to perform some action for someone.
    • 1596-99, Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, scene i:
      [...] To you, Antonio,
      I owe the most, in money and in love;
      And from your love I have a warranty
      To unburden all my plots and purposes
      How to get clear of all the debts I owe.
    • 1854, Charles Dickens, Hard Times, Chapter 7:
      He inherited a fair fortune from his uncle, but owed it all before he came into it, and spent it twice over immediately afterwards.
  2. (intransitive) To have debt; to be in debt.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The original past tense form was ought, which during Middle English began to be used with indefinite signification and has become a distinct verb. The original past participle has become the adjective own.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.





  1. water

Further reading[edit]

  • Terry Crowley et al, The Avava Language of Central Malakula (Vanuatu) (2006)

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of yow