Are there any difference in meaning between "take heed" and "pay heed"?

I notice from Google Ngram that "pay heed" is becoming more common as "take heed" is becoming less used. However, it seems that "pay heed" is somewhat redundant, since "heed" can be defined as "pay attention to". The fact that "give heed" is also used lends favor to "take heed".

My question is, is there a difference in meaning that gave rise to "pay heed", and which is preferred?

  • I think it's unlikely that "pay heed" is becoming more common in any meaningful sense. Even a couple of centuries ago take/pay heed were both far less common than take care / pay attention, and relatively speaking both heed versions have almost completely disappeared today. Dec 8, 2015 at 22:53
  • Good point, by zooming on the graph, it seems like "pay heed" has stayed steady for the past several decades.
    – neontapir
    Dec 8, 2015 at 22:57
  • Zooming in definitely highlights how much currency pay heed has lost over the past couple of centuries, but I have to say that to my ear pay heed just sounds "dated", whereas take heed sounds more "archaic". To the extent that both usages exist today, and could feasibly have different nuances, I think it nets down to the difference between pay attention and take care. Dec 8, 2015 at 23:28
  • Your question (and answer) could have mentioned also another variant give heed (to). Jul 27, 2019 at 7:07

1 Answer 1


To take/pay heed are just a formal way to say pay attention. There is no difference in meaning between the two expressions:.

  • (formal) If you take heed of what someone says or if you pay heed to them, you pay attention to them and consider carefully what they say. ■ EG: ⇒ But what if the government takes no heed?

Collins Dictionary


  • is an old word, meaning to listen to and follow. It can also be used as a noun: "Take heed of my instructions, little boy," said the old bearded man. "My potion will only work for the one who wears the ring."
  • The most common use of heed is with warnings. The word derives from Old English hēdan and is related to the Dutch hoeden and German hüten––from Germanic cultures where fairy tales with mysterious warnings and magical consequences abound.


  • I had checked Vocabulary.com but not Collins, thank you.
    – neontapir
    Dec 8, 2015 at 22:09

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