From Middle English owen, from Old English āgan, from Proto-West Germanic *aigan (“to own”), from Proto-Germanic *aiganą, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eh₂óyḱe (“to possess, own”), reduplicated stative of *h₂eyḱ- (“to own”). See also own, ought.
- (ditransitive) To be under an obligation to give something back to someone or to perform some action for someone.
- I owe Kevin five bucks which he lent to me last week.
- This time I'll cover for you, but now you owe me a favour.
- c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [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.
- (intransitive) To have debt; to be in debt.
- (transitive) To have as a cause; used with to.
- 'The record owes its success to the outstanding guitar solos.
- 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 survives in the adjective own.
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
- Terry Crowley et al, The Avava Language of Central Malakula (Vanuatu) (2006)
- Alternative form of
Folk etymology explains that it comes from ò- (“nominalizing prefix”) + wé (“to wrap, to twist”), literally “That which wraps something around something else (another meaning)”. Compare with possibly related terms, ìwé, ewé, fi wé, and àlọ́