What does the word "repay" in essence mean in the phrase "the book repays close study"?

My OED defines "repay" as

to make return for; requite [a service, action, etc.]... must repay their kindness

Which is clear as a bell to me. However, the context that doesn't seem to go home is what it means to "requite" or "make return for" close study.

The Oxford's definitions for close and study that seem plausible to me are these:

1. concentrated, searching, e.g. "close examination"; "close attention".
2. Leaving no gaps or weaknesses, rigorous [strict, severe], e.g. "close reasoning".
1. the devotion of time and attention to acquiring information or knowledge, esp. from books.
2. the portrayal in literature or another art form of an aspect of behaviour or character etc.

To my mind, sense # 1 seems to win out and should fit for both words.

Yet, what does it mean to say that something "requites" or "pays back" thorough devotion/dedication/examination/research/inspection?

Does it by any means mean studying the book in question yields good results... pays off?

  • 5
    It means the knowledge you gain from studying a book in detail will offset the effort of studying a book in detail.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 24 '14 at 12:41
  • "Offset" is most apt. Thanks. I got the idea. In fact, as evident in my closing lines, I had thought as much as that.
    – Uni Guy
    Nov 24 '14 at 12:45
  • Cool. Though offset may be a little weak here, because the value of the knowledge gained through close study may be equal or greater than the effort spent gaining it. In re your final sentences, I'd say a closer idiom than pay off is pay back (sometimes with interest). The idiom "pay off" smacks too much of a risk or gamble for this context; the.author is offering a guarantee.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 24 '14 at 13:06
  • Please try to quote the complete sentence. If possible, also include the broader context. Provide a link to the source if it is available online.
    – Kris
    Nov 24 '14 at 13:30
  • 1
    It's entirely a matter of opinion what metaphorical "currency" the book uses to compensate the close reader for his time and effort. He might well gain knowledge, but that's just one possibility. He might simply gain enjoyment, for example, or higher status within his literature-loving social circle. Regardless of all that, I think this is General Reference. Nov 24 '14 at 17:52

It would have been clearer if they had said "rewards". That allows for a payback that is less or more than an equal payoff, and includes the less tangible benefits alluded to.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.