A Dictionary of the English Language
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To Owe. v.a. [eg aa, I owe, or I ought, Islandick.]

  1. To be obliged to pay; to be indebted.

    I owe you much, and, like a witless youth,
    That which I owe is lost.
    Shakesp. Merch. of Ven.

    Let none seek needless causes to approve
    The faith they owe.
    Milt. Par. Lost, b. ix.

    All your parts of pious duty done,
    You owe your Ormond nothing but a son.

    Thou hast deserv'd more love than I can show,
    But 'tis thy fate to give, and mine to owe.

    If, upon the general balance of trade, English merchants owe to foreigners one hundred thousand pounds, if commodities do not, our money must go out to pay it. Locke.

  2. To be obliged to ascribe; to be obliged for.

    By me upheld, that he may know how frail
    His fall'n condition is, and to me owe
    All his deliv'rance, and to none but me.

  3. To have from any thing as the consequence of a cause.

    O deem thy fall not ow'd to man's decree,
    Jove hated Greece, and punish'd Greece in thee.

  4. To possess; to be the right owner of. For owe, which is, in this sense, obsolete, we now use own.

                    Thou dost here usurp
    The name thou ow'st not, and hast put thyself
    Upon this island as a spy.
    Shakesp. Tempest.

    Fate, shew thy force; ourselves we do not owe;
    What is decreed must be; and be this so.

    Not poppy nor mandragora,
    Nor all the drowsy sirups of the world,
    Shall ever med'cine thee to that sweet sleep
    Which thou owed'st yesterday.
    Shakesp. Othello.

                    If any happy eye
    This roving wanton shall descry,
    Let the finder surely know
    Mine is the wag; 'tis I that owe
    The winged wand'rer.

  5. A practice has long prevailed among writers, to use owing, the active participle of owe, in a passive sense, for owed or due. Of this impropriety Bolinbroke was aware, and, having no quick sense of the force of English words, has used due, in the sense of consequence or imputation, which by other writers is only used of debt. We say, the money is due to me; Bolinbroke says, the effect is due to the cause.

  6. Consequential.

    This was owing to an indifference to the pleasures of life, and an aversion to the pomps of it. Atterbury.

  7. Due as a debt.

                    You are both too bold;
    I'll teach you all what's owing to your queen.

    The debt, owing from one country to the other, cannot be paid without real effects sent thither to that value. Locke.

  8. Imputable to, as an agent.

    If we estimate things, what in them is owing to nature, and what to labour, we shall find in most of them 99100 to be on the account of labour. Locke.

    The custom of particular impeachments was not limited any more than that of struggles between nobles and commons, the ruin of Greece was owing to the former, as that of Rome was to the latter. Swift.

Sources: Atterbury, Francis (75) · Crashaw, Richard (5) · Dryden, John (788) · Locke, John (269) · Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (83) · Milton, John (449) · Shakespeare's Othello (60) · Pope, Alexander (393) · St. John, Henry (Bolingbroke) (2) · Swift, Jonathan (306) · Shakespeare's Tempest (50) · Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (36)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Owe." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: May 29, 2012. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/owe/.

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