Definition of borrow in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈbɒrəʊ/


[with object]
1Take and use (something belonging to someone else) with the intention of returning it: he had borrowed a car from one of his colleagues
More example sentences
  • Recovering from knee replacement surgery in Lismore Base Hospital, Elaine Avery is well aware of the need to return borrowed orthopaedic equipment when it is no longer needed.
  • Mr O'Brien told investigators in 1975 that on the day Hoffa vanished, he borrowed a car belonging to Giacolone's son to run some errands.
  • Meanwhile, retired dairy farmer Ted Dibble has vowed to borrow a horse and return to the sport if the Government's anti-hunting proposal becomes law.
take, take for oneself, help oneself to, use as one's own, abscond with, carry off, appropriate, commandeer, abstract;
steal, purloin, shoplift
informal filch, rob, swipe, nab, rip off, lift, ‘liberate’, snaffle, snitch
British informal nick, pinch, half-inch, whip, knock off, nobble, bone, scrump, bag, blag
North American informal heist, glom
Australian/New Zealand informal snavel
West Indian informal tief
archaic crib, hook
1.1Take and use (money) from a person or bank under an agreement to pay it back later: to meet this deficit the government has to borrow money [no object]: lower interest rates will make it cheaper for individuals to borrow
More example sentences
  • The reason they can do that is that trading banks actually borrow large sums of money, and they are able to put up for taxation purposes the interest they pay on it.
  • It is unlikely that the politicians and leaders of the area would empathize with the plight of Sabitri and other such women or children being held at ransom for a paltry sum of money borrowed by labourers.
  • Companies need to borrow enormous sums of money to buy back their shares in the market.
1.2Take and use (a book) from a library for a fixed period of time: you could easily have borrowed a book from your local library
More example sentences
  • At the end of the 20-30 minute session, mothers are able to peruse parenting resources provided by the library and borrow picture books with the babies.
  • Space is all very well, in the right place, but people come to libraries mainly to borrow books.
  • She pointed out that it costs nothing for teenagers to join the library and borrow books, CDs, videos and tapes from the new multimedia section for their age group.
1.3Take (a word or idea) from another language, person, or source and use it in one’s own language or work: the term is borrowed from Greek
More example sentences
  • Most English words were borrowed from some other language.
  • The idea was borrowed from Vancouver, where a help meter in front of a store proved so popular with customers that panhandlers stopped begging there.
  • Deconstructivism ideas are borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.
adopt, take on, take in, take over, acquire, embrace
2 Golf Allow (a certain distance) when playing a shot to compensate for sideways motion of the ball due to a slope or other irregularity.


A slope or other irregularity on a golf course which must be compensated for when playing a shot.
Example sentences
  • I played the round in the company of an ancient caddie, unusually talkative for a Scot, who shaped the sightlines of the present to the borrow of the past.
  • Pat's ‘method’ is to read the borrow, adopt the line, and then approach every putt as if it was only six inches.
  • This hole provides a challenge: the right is nothing but trouble and the huge green has both slope and borrow to conclude a fine golf hole.


Some people confuse the two words lend and borrow, which have reciprocal but different meanings: see lend (usage).



be (living) on borrowed time

Used to convey that someone has survived against expectations, with the implication that they will not do so for much longer: the government is living on borrowed time
More example sentences
  • But all that borrowed money might be living on borrowed time.
  • We're on borrowed time, there's no doubt about that.
  • Bradford City's Premiership dream continues to look on borrowed time, and Newcastle showed no mercy at St James' Park where Gary Speed struck in the sixth minute and England captain Alan Shearer added Newcastle's second without reply.

borrow trouble

North American Take needless action that may have detrimental effects.
Example sentences
  • I suppose I'm borrowing trouble, but has anyone thought about how to forgive and move on, one way or another?
  • It's not borrowing trouble to consider the possibility that he might not come home when this is all over.
  • Perhaps her mother was just borrowing trouble, as she was prone to doing.


Old English borgian 'borrow against security', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German borgen.

Words that rhyme with borrow

Corot, morrow, sorrow, tomorrow

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bor¦row

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.