debt

noun
\ˈdet \

Definition of debt 

1 : sin, trespass Forgive us our debts.

2 : something owed : obligation unable to pay off his debts owe them a debt of gratitude a criminal's debt to society

3 : a state of being under obligation to pay or repay someone or something in return for something received : a state of owing deeply in debt to creditors

4 law, business : the common-law action for the recovery of money held to be due

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Other Words from debt

debtless \-ləs \ adjective

Examples of debt in a Sentence

He is trying to pay off gambling debts. The company has run up huge debts. Their debts are piling up. He's been working three jobs in an attempt to get out of debt. The company was in debt but is now turning a profit. I am deep in debt. I'm thousands of dollars in debt. She went into debt to pay for college. I'm worried that we will fall into debt.
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Recent Examples on the Web

High-score achievers are not necessarily debt-free. Michelle Singletary, BostonGlobe.com, "An 850 credit score? It’s possible," 29 June 2018 And like him, many now support tuition- or debt-free public college. New York Times, "Bernie Sanders Is Winning Converts. But Primary Victories Remain Elusive.," 24 June 2018 A decade after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, a nearly debt-free Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FCAU -1.98% NV is preparing to unveil a growth plan for the next five years at a test track outside Milan. Chester Dawson, WSJ, "Fiat Chrysler Expected to Tell Investors What Its Future Looks Like Without CEO Marchionne," 26 May 2018 Read more: Parents take on more student loan debt for a variety of reasons. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Students aren't the only ones crushed by school debt," 11 July 2018 To create a better life for their son, the family had borrowed to cover his education, resulting in crushing student loan debt to faceless financial institutions unwilling to refinance to help the family make ends meet. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "The Crushing, Ever-Present Weight of Debt," 10 July 2018 Godlewski wants the board to buy student loan debt and give borrowers better interest rates. Max Bayer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Voters kept Wisconsin’s treasurer position but what’s next?," 6 July 2018 Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. New York Times, "Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.," 5 July 2018 Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Paulina Firozi, Washington Post, "The Health 202: 'Gag clauses' mean you might be paying more for prescription drugs than you need to," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'debt.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of debt

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for debt

Middle English dette, debte, from Anglo-French dette something owed, from Vulgar Latin *debita, from Latin, plural of debitum debt, from neuter of debitus, past participle of debēre to owe, from de- + habēre to have — more at give

Old French dette, ultimately from Latin debita, plural of debitum debt, from neuter of debitus, past participle of debere to owe

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Learn More about debt

Statistics for debt

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for debt

The first known use of debt was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for debt

debt

noun

Financial Definition of debt

What It Is

In the business world, debt is an amount borrowed.

How It Works

For example, let's assume Company XYZ has invented a new product that will revolutionize the widget market. The company is certain there will be demand from billions of people around the world, and therefore it needs to build a new factory. If Company XYZ's funds for constructing the factory were limited to its cash on hand, say $200,000, it certainly could not build the kind of factory it needs to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity and would thus be very limited in its output and profits (and would leave the market wide open for competitors to fill the void). With some debt, however, Company XYZ could build the factory and take advantage of the profit potential of its product. The debt essentially magnifies the profits.

Debt comes in several forms, but in the business world, bank loans and corporate or government bonds are the most common.

Why It Matters

Debt is a liability, meaning that the lender has a claim on a company’s assets. Debt due within one year is generally classified as short-term debt on a company’s balance sheet. Debt due in more than one year is considered long-term debt. It is important to note here that debt commonly comes to mind when one considers liabilities, but not all liabilities are debt. Companies may incur several other types of liabilities, including (but not limited to) upcoming payroll, bonuses, legal settlements, payments to vendors, certain derivatives, contracts, certain types of leases, and required stock redemptions. Common balance sheet categories for liabilities include accounts payable, accrued expenses and debt.

Information about a company’s debt is a key component of accurate financial reporting and a crucial part of thorough financial analysis. Excessive debt can ruin a company but is not always detrimental. The use of debt financing can magnify profits that would have otherwise gone unrealized.

Source: Investing Answers

debt

noun

English Language Learners Definition of debt

: an amount of money that you owe to a person, bank, company, etc.

: the state of owing money to someone or something

: the fact that you have been influenced or helped by someone or something

debt

noun
\ˈdet \

Kids Definition of debt

1 : sin entry 1 sense 1 We ask forgiveness of our debts.

2 : something owed to another

3 : the condition of owing something I am in debt to you for all your help.

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debt

noun

Legal Definition of debt 

1 : something owed: as

a : a specific sum of money or a performance due another especially by agreement (as a loan agreement) to pay the debts…of the United StatesU.S. Constitution art. I a debt for alimony

b : an obligation to pay or perform on another's claim discharged the debt — compare asset, equity sense 4

Note: It is often up to the courts to decide what is or is not a debt under various laws. Courts disagree whether criminal restitution is a debt under the Bankruptcy Code.

antecedent debt

: debt that is incurred prior to a property transfer paying or securing the debt — compare preference

bad debt

: a debt that cannot be collected

Note: An income tax deduction is allowed for bad debts.

consumer debt

: debt that is incurred by an individual primarily for the purchase of consumer goods or services — compare consumer credit

judgment debt

: a debt established by a judgment and enforceable by a legal process (as an execution of judgment or attachment)

c : a state of owing in debt

d : the aggregate of money owed the national debt

2 : the common-law action for the recovery of a specified sum of money or a sum that can be simply and certainly determined

called also action of debt, writ of debt

— compare assumpsit, covenant

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