There are 2 definitions of pawn in English:


Syllabification: pawn
Pronunciation: /pôn


1A chess piece of the smallest size and value. A pawn moves one square forward along its file if unobstructed (or two on the first move), or one square diagonally forward when making a capture. Each player begins with eight pawns on the second rank, and can promote a pawn to become any other piece (typically a queen) if it reaches the opponent’s end of the board.
More example sentences
  • The game of chess with sword-wielding pawns and deadly queens is both dramatic and mightily beautiful.
  • Finally when a player promotes a pawn, they swap it for one of the pieces that their partner's opponent is waiting to place on their board.
  • Also important is the number of pawns on the board, especially when the minor piece is the knight.
1.1A person used by others for their own purposes: they had allowed themselves to be used as pawns within the Cold War
More example sentences
  • To her father, she was merely a bargaining tool, a pawn in the game of politics, not a daughter.
  • They were no longer willing to be pawns in the game of power being played out between the Indian and Pakistani governments, or indeed the militants.
  • Up to now, these nations have been able to play around with terrorists as if they were pawns in this geopolitical game.


late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French poun, from medieval Latin pedo, pedon- 'foot soldier', from Latin pes, ped- 'foot'. Compare with peon.

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There are 2 definitions of pawn in English:


Syllabification: pawn
Pronunciation: /


[with object]
Deposit (an object) with a pawnbroker as security for money lent: I pawned the necklace to cover the loan
More example sentences
  • When Florentine grooms gave presents of jewels and clothes to their brides, they expected to retain or reappropriate the use of them at a later date, sometimes lending or pawning them.
  • In earlier centuries, the principal assets people had were their clothes, and they borrowed money by pawning their clothing.
  • I loved her, really, but I needed to pay for a late payment on my car insurance so I pawned her diamond necklace.
pledge, put in pawn, give as security, use as collateral
informal hock, put in hock


archaic Back to top  
An object left as security for money lent.


late 15th century (as a noun): from Old French pan 'pledge, security', of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch pand and German Pfand.


in pawn

(Of an object) held as security by a pawnbroker: all our money was gone and everything was in pawn
More example sentences
  • A forty-dollar shovel will net you less than six bucks in pawn.
  • Unfortunately, his guitar is in pawn down at the local hock shop because he can't pay his bills on time.
  • She can't afford to pay off the money all at once and must leave her things in pawn.

Phrasal verbs

pawn someone/something off

Pass off someone or something unwanted: newly industrialized economies are racing to pawn off old processes on poorer countries
More example sentences
  • Both boys are pawned off on grandmothers, who will die early and represent the only selfless love either child will know.
  • The federal government pawned this responsibility off to the municipalities.
  • I think you need to think about this the next time you decide to support someone who clearly has taken someone else's solution and tried to pawn it off as her own.

Definition of pawn in: