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Paid vs. Payed – Pick the Correct Word

Paid vs. Payed – Pick the Correct Word

This is an interesting pair of words with some fun history behind them! Learn whether to use paid or payed and why.

Short and Sweet: Paid vs. Payed

Technically, paid and payed are both valid past tenses of the verb pay. However, you will probably never need to use payed.

  • Paid is the past tense of pay. It means to have settled a debt.
  • Payed is also a past tense verb, but it has a very specific historical meaning that has to do with sailing.

Paid is almost always the correct past tense of pay. Do not use payed unless you are certain it applies to your sentence about rope or boats.

What Does Paid Mean?

Meaning of Paid: Paid is the past tense of the verb to pay. Usually, pay means to give money or compensation for goods or services.

For example,

  • The employees are paid minimum wage.
  • I paid for my meal and then left the restaurant.

Pay can also be used in phrases with the nouns respect and attention.

  • I attended the funeral and paid my respects.
  • You would not have so much difficulty studying right now if you had paid more attention in class!

Lastly, pay can also be used with visit.

  • We paid Aunt Tanya a visit last week.

Choosing payed or paid doesn’t have to be difficult, however. Paid is really the only commonly used past tense of pay (see why in the next section).

What Does Payed Mean?

Meaning of Payed: Technically, payed is also a past tense form of the verb pay. However, the verb pay means something rather unusual in this case.

Pay has a few different meanings as a nautical term. One can pay out, or slacken, a rope. A ship can also pay off or pay away (from the wind). Lastly, one can pay joints with tar or resin to waterproof them. When pay is used to mean one of these things, then the past tense is payed.

Examples include:

  • I payed out the rope, but it’s still too tight!
  • Once we’ve payed that over, it should stop the leak.

These are such niche uses of pay that the spelling payed is pretty much obsolete. For most of your everday uses, you will never use payed.

Payed vs. Paid: How to Remember the Difference

A good way to think about these words it to think of a mnemonic device involving their spellings.

Paid is the spelling you will use the most often, as it has to do with finances and income. Think of the I in paid as standing for income. This will allow you to keep track of these words in your writing.

Recap: When to Use Paid and Payed

While these are both past tenses of the word pay, they are past tenses for different senses of the word.

  • When you are talking about finance, income, or debt, paid is the correct spelling.
  • The only exception is if you are writing about nautical uses of pay, such as pay out a rope. In this rare instance you can use payed as the past tense of pay.


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