verb (used with object), com·pen·sat·ed, com·pen·sat·ing.

  1. to recompense for something: They gave him ten dollars to compensate him for his trouble.
  2. to counterbalance; offset; be equivalent to: He compensated his homely appearance with great personal charm.
  3. Mechanics. to counterbalance (a force or the like); adjust or construct so as to offset or counterbalance variations or produce equilibrium.
  4. to change the gold content of (a monetary unit) to counterbalance price fluctuations and thereby stabilize its purchasing power.

verb (used without object), com·pen·sat·ed, com·pen·sat·ing.

  1. to provide or be an equivalent; make up; make amends (usually followed by for): His occasional courtesies did not compensate for his general rudeness.
  2. Psychology. to develop or employ mechanisms of compensation.


  1. to make amends to (someone), esp for loss or injury
  2. (tr) to serve as compensation or damages for (injury, loss, etc)
  3. to offset or counterbalance the effects of (a force, weight, movement, etc) so as to nullify the effects of an undesirable influence and produce equilibrium
  4. (intr) to attempt to conceal or offset one’s shortcomings by the exaggerated exhibition of qualities regarded as desirable

1640s, “to be equivalent;” 1650s, “to counterbalance, make up for,” from Latin compensatus, past participle of compensare “to weigh one thing (against another),” thus, “to counterbalance,” from com- “with” (see com-) + pensare, frequentative of pendere “to weigh” (see pendant). Meaning “to recompense, remunerate” is from 1814. Related: Compensated; compensating.

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