Skip to main content

Pay vs Compensate vs Remunerate vs Satisfy vs Reimburse vs Indemnify vs Repay vs Recompense

Paycompensateremuneratesatisfyreimburseindemnifyrepayrecompense are comparable when they mean to give money or an equivalent in return for something.

Pay is the ordinary term when the giving or furnishing of money to discharge an obligation (as for services rendered or goods delivered) is implied.

When, in extended use, pay does not imply the actual giving of money, the term is often employed purely as a figure of speech or it means merely to give as due or deserved or to give in the hope of a return in kind.

Compensate is often preferred to pay when no legal obligation is implied or no payment for services is expected, because the term stresses a return, usually in money, that is regarded as an equivalent for a service given or for trouble taken or time spent.

In this sense (see also COMPENSATE 1 ) compensate often does not imply an obligation to another or the passing of money; it often suggests a counterbalancing (as of something unpleasant by something pleasant or of something lost by something gained).

Remunerate, like pay, usually implies the discharge of an obligation in money and, like compensate, usually suggests the giving of an equivalent for services rendered rather than for goods delivered, but unlike both of these terms it often carries a suggestion, sometimes a mere hint, sometimes a distinct implication, of a reward. Both compensate and remunerate can replace pay when pay might seem offensive or indelicate.

Satisfy (see also SATISFY 1 & 3 ) implies the payment of something that is asked, demanded, or required especially by the terms of the law or the decree of a court.

Reimburse implies a return for money that has been expended by oneself in hope of making a profit or by another (as one’s agent or attorney) in doing one’s business.

Indemnify implies promised or actual reimbursement for loss (as by fire), for injury (as by accident), or for damage (as by war or disaster).

But indemnify may approach compensate and implies less a reimbursing than a counterbalancing.

Repay and recompense carry a weaker implication of giving or furnishing money than any of the preceding terms and a stronger implication of returning like for like; both therefore stress the demands of justice and usually the compulsion of an obligation.

When the passing of money or of an equivalent is implied, repay may be preferred when there is a suggestion of giving something back that has been paid out to one and recompense when compensation for voluntary services or for losses or injuries sustained is suggested and a due or adequate return is implied.

But repay and recompense sometimes imply reciprocation of something given, advanced, or inflicted. Repay usually implies little more than paying back in kind or amount, but it is sometimes used when the return is not what might be expected but is its diametrical opposite.

Recompense often in this extended sense specifically implies a desire to make amends or to atone for a wrong that has been inflicted.