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



owe (third-person singular simple present owes, present participle owing, simple past and past participle owed)

  1. To be under an obligation to give something back to someone or to perform some action for someone.
    • 1854, 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. To have debt, to be in debt.

Usage notesEdit

  • 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.