Definition of earn in English:

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Pronunciation: /əːn/


[with object]
1Obtain (money) in return for labour or services: he earns his living as a lorry driver [with two objects]: earn yourself a few pounds
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, receive a salary of, take home, take home earnings of, gross;
receive, get, make, obtain, draw, clear, collect, bring in
informal pocket, bank, rake in, pull in, haul in, net, bag
1.1 [with two objects] (Of an activity) 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: the dollars can be placed on deposit and earn interest
More 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.
2Gain deservedly in return for one’s behaviour 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 entitled to, be worthy of, be deserving of, have a right to;
gain, win, attain, achieve, secure, establish, obtain, procure, get, acquire, come to have, find
informal clinch, bag, net, land



earn one's corn

British informal Put in a lot of effort to show that one deserves one’s wages.
Example sentences
  • In truth the youngsters are providing some of the best racing seen at the venue in a long while and the eventual winner will have certainly earned their corn.
  • A former high-class handicapper on the Flat for Sir Mark Prescott, Chivalry earned his corn over hurdles last winter and is now set to tackle fences.
  • And it was at this stage that Stephen Havern earned his corn, the keeper making several fine blocks at feet.

earn one's keep

Work in return for food and accommodation.
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.
2.1Be worth the time or money spent on one: his media advisers were earning their keep
More 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 something out

(Of an author, book, recording artist, etc.) generate sufficient income through sales to equal the amount paid in an advance or royalty: four out of five of his books did not earn out their advance
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, of West Germanic origin, from a base shared by Old English esne 'labourer'.

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

Line breaks: earn

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