Definition of pair in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /pɛː/


1A set of two things used together or regarded as a unit: a pair of gloves three pairs of shoes
More example sentences
  • Skaters whizzed by in the rink behind them, but nobody moved to put on a pair of four-wheelers and join the throng.
  • There are four main landing gear units fitted in tandem pairs.
  • Whilst I was out, I also bought a couple of pairs of stockings.
set of two, set, matching set, matched set, two of a kind
1.1Two playing cards of the same denomination: Jacobs had two pairs
More example sentences
  • One of my opponents had a pair of aces in her hand.
  • The lowest winning hand can be a single pair, an ace and king, or even a single high card.
  • Well, fate seemed to deny him any runs, pairs or face cards and even any metal implement to do some damage.
1.2Two people related in some way or considered together: a company run by a pair of brothers get out, the pair of you
More example sentences
  • Sometimes Eileen will work with the children on a one to one basis, other times she will host a session with the children in pairs, so that they can speak and relate to each.
  • In this race everybody goes in pairs and each pair had to get a board and paddle out to a buoy about 10 meters out and back.
  • Players are invited to enter in pairs, although individuals can enter and be paired up on the day.
couple, man and wife, husband and wife, partners, lovers
1.3The second member of a pair in relation to the first: each course member tries to persuade his pair of the merits of his model
More example sentences
  • So singletons out there, don't give up hope, your pair is out there somewhere!
  • The same questionnaire asks you to indicate the qualities you would want your dating pair to possess.
1.4A mated couple of animals: 76 pairs of red kites
More example sentences
  • Spring is when many songbirds are most active, busy competing for mates, establishing breeding pairs, setting up territories.
  • On May 1, 1999, five birds (two breeding pairs and a solitary male) remained on the plantation.
  • Brian, a keen ornithologist, also informed me that there's a breeding pair of herons right there in the harbour.
1.5Two horses harnessed side by side: she enjoys driving her pair
More example sentences
  • A neatly dressed footman in navy blue livery stood, alert, by its side and a pair of gleaming chestnut horses were in harness.
  • In the distance, a pair of horses cantered cheerfully by, one of them supporting a red flag in his teeth and the other neighing joyfully at him.
  • The driver tied the long reins that controlled a pair of black horses to a post by his seat and then proceeded to open the door of the carriage.
two horses, team, yoke, span
1.6Either or both of two members of a legislative assembly on opposite sides who absent themselves from voting by mutual arrangement, leaving the relative position of the parties unaffected: one minister was flatly refused a pair by his Tory opposite number
More example sentences
  • Voting by proxy is not allowed in Parliament but a similar effect is achieved through the practice known as 'pairs'.
  • The arrangement of pairs is left in the hands of the 'Party Whips'.
2An article consisting of two joined or corresponding parts not used separately: a pair of jeans a pair of scissors
More example sentences
  • She went to join Caleb who had donned a pair of jeans and a sweater and was in the kitchen making breakfast.
  • Pair a basic pair of jeans with a shirt you really like, or a cool belt or shoes.
  • Take the necessary only… some underwear, a couple of T shirts, a pair of sneakers, a pair of jeans and maybe two pairs of shorts.


[with object]
1Put together or join to form a pair: a cardigan paired with a matching skirt
More example sentences
  • Twelve months ago, the two teams were paired together in the quarter-finals.
  • This was designed to protect the integrity of the championship because of the possibility of leading contenders being paired together in the first round.
  • ‘Clarke and I were paired together to present a documentary on that year's Festival,’ says Bakewell.
match, put together, couple, twin, partner, marry up
1.1 [no object] (Of animals) form a pair for breeding purposes: killer whales pair for life
More example sentences
  • White plumage may be critical for attracting a mate, but even after pairing with a female during the breeding season, a male that keeps a clean profile may have an advantage.
  • In many species pairs are stable for at least three years, and some butterflyfishes may pair for life.
  • These fish stay paired for at least a year and sometimes for their entire lifetime. They spawn year-round, usually near the full moon.
1.2 [no object] (pair off/up) Form a romantic or sexual relationship: my friends had paired off and I was the only one playing the field
More example sentences
  • Match-makers Jane Gledhill and Chris Cunningham had hoped to be swamped with single people wanting to be paired off - but their romantic speed-dating notion has had so few admirers that they have had to call the whole thing off.
  • In one deft sequence, Carrington sits outside Ham Spray House, draped in a blanket, watching the loves of her life pair off into new relationships.
  • It wasn't until he became a teenager and everyone in his circle of friends began to pair off and have relationships did he come to understand what it was he felt for his long lost friend.
get together, join up, link up, team up, unite, form a partnership, form a couple, make a twosome
1.3Give (a member of a legislative assembly) another member as a pair, to allow both to absent themselves from a vote without affecting the result: arrangements are usually made between the party whips for an absent member on one side to be paired with an absentee on the other
More example sentences
  • When they agree to pair themselves they indicate their respective positions on the issue and the fact that their absences did not effect the outcome.
  • Notwithstanding the newly formalized way of arranging pairs, House of Commons Speaker John Fraser noted in a 1992 ruling that agreements to pair still are private arrangements between Members and not matters in which House or the Speaker can intervene.



in pairs

In groups of two: ravens are usually seen in pairs
More example sentences
  • The large macaws usually fly around in pairs, sometimes accompanied by their offspring.
  • I buy a coffee and watch the people arrive in pairs or groups as I drink it.
  • This exchange of ideas takes no more than a minute and is especially profitable when children spend 20 seconds or so discussing their ideas in pairs before responding in a whole class context.

pair of hands

Used in reference to a person seen in terms of their participation in a task: we can always do with an extra pair of hands
More example sentences
  • So even if you are just someone who needs an extra pair of hands around the house for a day here is your chance to get all those jobs done that never seem to get done!
  • Home-Start York needs volunteers to visit young families at home, to offer a listening ear and an extra pair of hands.
  • They will provide an extra pair of hands to allow the pre-school staff and volunteers to spend more time with all the children in the group.



adjective& adverb
Example sentences
  • Additional tests were performed until all pairwise combinations of markers were examined for each trait.
  • The distribution of pairwise differences in a set of sequences plays a major role in molecular evolution studies.
  • Because the algorithm uses pairwise relationships the final number of clusters is identical in both species.


Middle English: from Old French paire, from Latin paria 'equal things', neuter plural of par 'equal'. Formerly phrases such as a pair of gloves were expressed without of, as in a pair gloves (compare with German ein Paar Handschuhe).

  • Pair comes from Latin paria ‘equal things’, formed from par ‘equal’. Latin par also lies behind compare (Late Middle English) ‘to pair with, bring together’; disparage (Middle English) originally ‘a mis-pairing especially in marriage’, later ‘to discredit’; nonpareil (Late Middle English) ‘not equalled’ (taken directly from the French); par (late 16th century) ‘equal’, a golfing term from L19th; parity [L16] ‘equalness’; peer (Middle English) ‘equal’; and umpire (Middle English) originally noumpere, from the same source as nonpareil, because an umpire is above all the players. A noumpere was later re-interpreted as ‘an umpire’ and the initial ‘n’ was lost.

Words that rhyme with pair

affair, affaire, air, Altair, Althusser, Anvers, Apollinaire, Astaire, aware, Ayer, Ayr, bare, bear, bêche-de-mer, beware, billionaire, Blair, blare, Bonaire, cafetière, care, chair, chargé d'affaires, chemin de fer, Cher, Clair, Claire, Clare, commissionaire, compare, concessionaire, cordon sanitaire, couvert, Daguerre, dare, debonair, declare, derrière, despair, doctrinaire, éclair, e'er, elsewhere, ensnare, ere, extraordinaire, Eyre, fair, fare, fayre, Finisterre, flair, flare, Folies-Bergère, forbear, forswear, foursquare, glair, glare, hair, hare, heir, Herr, impair, jardinière, Khmer, Kildare, La Bruyère, lair, laissez-faire, legionnaire, luminaire, mal de mer, mare, mayor, meunière, mid-air, millionaire, misère, Mon-Khmer, multimillionaire, ne'er, Niger, nom de guerre, outstare, outwear, pare, parterre, pear, père, pied-à-terre, Pierre, plein-air, prayer, questionnaire, rare, ready-to-wear, rivière, Rosslare, Santander, savoir faire, scare, secretaire, share, snare, solitaire, Soufrière, spare, square, stair, stare, surface-to-air, swear, Tailleferre, tare, tear, their, there, they're, vin ordinaire, Voltaire, ware, wear, Weston-super-Mare, where, yeah

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pair

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.