Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A promise to pay a debt, especially a signed paper stating the specific amount owed and often bearing the letters IOU.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • I owe you.
  • n. An informal written note promising to pay the stated sum.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • A paper having on it these letters, with a sum named, and duly signed; -- in use in England as an acknowledgment of a debt, and taken as evidence thereof, but not amounting to a promissory note; a due bill.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A memorandum or acknowledgment of debt less formal than a promissory note, and in England sometimes containing only these letters, with the sum owed and the signature of the debtor. It is not a promissory note, because no direct promise to pay is expressed.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an informal debt instrument; representing `I owe you'

Etymologies

From the pronunciation of I owe you.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the pronunciation of "I owe you", not the initial letters. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • European banks also depend heavily on so-called wholesale funding—borrowing in a short-term IOU market—to fund dollar-denominated loans and securities positions.

    Global Markets Skittish About Europe's Banks

  • A middle class person working everyday and after filing taxes, instead of their legal tax refund (if owed one) they will receive a IOU from the state.

    Cash-poor California turns to IOUs

  • Whew there is a Social Security surplus, the extra money is put in the general fund, and in exchange SS is given a non-marketable security for that amount (basically an IOU from the government to itself).

    Matthew Yglesias » Saving Money vs Spending Less Money

  • Campbell's campaign, meanwhile, said the endorsement is nothing more than an "IOU from the 2008 election cycle."

    Palin irks her supporters with California endorsement

  • A prediction from this guy is about as dependable as an IOU from the mob.

    Cheney makes big 2010 prediction

  • KKR Financial invested in Alt-A loans that range between prime and subprime and funded those purchases largely by issuing commercial paper, short-term IOU's typically issued only to the most creditworthy borrowers.

    KKR Financial Increases

  • Adding to the credit crunch: Commercial paper, a type of short-term IOU that banks use to raise cash and thus a cog of daily banking operations, is finding little demand among investors.

    Wells Fargo Eyes Wachovia;

  • Also Anita and I were worried about the anti-intellectual attitudes towards the University of California expressed by the state legislature, worries that proved well-founded when a few years later salaries were capped, teaching loads were increased, and the state budget was not passed on time, causing faculty to be paid in IOU's.

    Robert B. Laughlin - Autobiography

  • US dollars are created when the Treasury issues a bond, in other words an IOU or a debt and it gets sold on the open market.

    Crooks and Liars

  • Commercial paper, which helps lubricate the flow of business operations, is a short-term IOU available to corporations that banks usually know are good for the money.

    Taipei Times

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