Definition of earn in English:

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Pronunciation: /ərn/


[with object]
1(Of a person) obtain (money) in return for labor or services: they earn $35 per hour he now earns his living as a truck driver
More example sentences
  • He earns his living as a British Telecom engineer.
  • It is not only how he gets his pleasure but also how he earns his living.
  • She earns her living solely from painting, and her work hangs in important private and corporate collections in Trinidad and Jamaica.
be paid, take home, gross, net;
receive, get, make, obtain, collect, bring in
informal pocket, bank, rake in
1.1 [with two objects] (Of an activity or action) cause (someone) to obtain (money): this latest win earned them $50,000 in prize money
More example sentences
  • If an activity doesn't earn you money, or make you rich, then there is no value attached to it.
  • Completing missions swiftly earns you money with which to upgrade your squad with more experienced operatives.
  • He eked out a precarious living chiefly by writing short stories, some of which won praise but none of which earned him significant money.
1.2(Of capital invested) gain (money) as interest or profit.
Example sentences
  • The fund earns capital gains and losses from shares and not fixed interest.
  • It is a performance bond deposit that earns interest because it is usually held in the form of short-term Treasury bills.
  • Instead of having a current account that earns no interest, and a mortgage account on which you pay interest, the First Active Current Account Mortgage combines the two.
1.3Gain or incur deservedly in return for one’s behavior or achievements: through the years she has earned affection and esteem
More example sentences
  • He deservedly earned the tremendous esteem and the great regard of all with whom he came in contact with.
  • This is the biggest break to come along for The Hooks so far in their career, but they fully deserved and earned it.
  • Well done John and congratulations and best wishes to all who so deservedly earned their award.
deserve, merit, warrant, justify, be worthy of;
gain, win, secure, establish, obtain, procure, get, acquire
informal clinch


earn one's keep

Work in return for food and accommodations.
Example sentences
  • Mother has been complaining that since I don't contribute any money to the household I should be earning my keep through domestic work.
  • If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.
  • He has very little business this time of year, so it makes sure the stableboys are earning their keep.
1.1Be worth the time, money, or effort spent on one.
Example sentences
  • I have long been of the opinion that there is always a group of stars who are paid a whole lot of money, but who earn their keep.
  • He earns his keep with a subtle musical touch that gradually becomes the overwhelming reason why you'll love this record.
  • Sounds like the drug lobbyists are earning their keep.

Phrasal verbs

earn out (or earn something out)

(Of an author, book, recording artist, etc.) generate sufficient income through sales to equal the amount paid in an advance or royalty: my experience is that most authors don’t earn out don’t confuse earning out the advance with being profitable
More example sentences
  • For your first novel the sales figures they want are the ones that earn out your advance.
  • I can also assure you that most books never earn out their advance.
  • The distinguished lady novelist who boasted proudly that her books always earned out their advances.


Old English earnian, from a base shared by Old English esne 'laborer'.

Words that rhyme with earn

adjourn, astern, Berne, burn, churn, concern, discern, fern, fohn, kern, learn, Lucerne, quern, Sauternes, spurn, stern, Sterne, tern, terne, Traherne, turn, urn, Verne, yearn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: earn

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