verb (used with object), owed, ow·ing.
- to be under obligation to pay or repay: to owe money to the bank; to owe the bank interest on a mortgage.
- to be in debt to: He says he doesn’t owe anybody.
- to be indebted (to) as the cause or source of: to owe one’s fame to good fortune.
- to have or bear (a feeling or attitude) toward someone or something: to owe gratitude to one’s rescuers.
- Obsolete. to possess; own.
verb (used without object), owed, ow·ing.
- to be in debt: Neither lend nor owe. Who owes for the antipasto?
verb (mainly tr)
- to be under an obligation to pay (someone) to the amount of
- (intr) to be in debthe still owes for his house
- (often foll by to) to have as a result (of)he owes his success to chance
- to feel the need or obligation to do, give, etcto owe somebody thanks; to owe it to oneself to rest
- to hold or maintain in the mind or heart (esp in the phrase owe a grudge)
v.Old English agan (past tense ahte) “to have, own,” from Proto-Germanic *aiganan “to possess” (cf. Old Frisian aga, Old Norse eiga, Old High German eigan, Gothic aigan “to possess, have”), from PIE *aik- “to be master of, possess” (cf. Sanskrit ise “he owns,” isah “owner, lord, ruler;” Avestan is- “riches,” isvan- “well-off, rich”). Sense of “to have to repay” began in late Old English with the phrase agan to geldanne literally “to own to yield,” which was used to translate Latin debere (earlier in Old English this would have been sceal “shall”); by late 12c. the phrase had been shortened to simply agan, and own (v.) took over this word’s original sense. An original Germanic preterite-present verb (cf. can, dare, may, etc.). New past tense form owed arose 15c. to replace oughte, which developed into ought (v.).