debt

noun
\ ˈdet How to pronounce debt (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from debt

debtless \ ˈdet-​ləs How to pronounce debtless (audio) \ 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Last year was pretty tough for emerging-market debt. Washington Post, "When a Spy Network Beats an Investing Spreadsheet," 18 Sep. 2019 Facing more than $10 billion in debt and other liabilities, Weatherford filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 1 in a prepackaged plan that was supported by 80 percent of the company's creditors. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Bankruptcy judge accepts Weatherford reorganization plan," 13 Sep. 2019 According to Credit Karma, the top reasons people report going into debt to attend a bachelorette are a sense of obligation and not wanting to seem broke to their friends. Hope Corrigan, Quartzy, "Today’s bachelorette parties have everything—except budgets," 6 Sep. 2019 Those moves backfired, and as debt mounted and earnings dwindled, restless shareholders forced out Immelt in August of 2017. Oliver Staley, Quartz at Work, "Whatever happened to Six Sigma?," 3 Sep. 2019 Net debt had swelled to 1.8 billion euros at the end of December and the company is likely to consume about 155 million euros of cash in fiscal 2019, according to the Bloomberg consensus of analyst estimates. Washington Post, "Holiday Giant Pays a Price for Grounded 737 Max," 18 Sep. 2019 However, Anderson has drummed up debts of around £8,000 from running the service. Dominic Rech, CNN, "A plumber fixed the boiler of a 91-year-old terminally ill woman. He billed her $0," 17 Sep. 2019 By 2020, interest payments on the nation's debt will exceed federal spending on children, the report found. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Why the U.S. may soon spend more on its debt than on kids," 17 Sep. 2019 The advisory group’s estimate differs, estimating the city could pay down enough debt to have no more than a 5 cent increase to the rate. Carissa D. Lamkahouan, Houston Chronicle, "Public safety facilities focus of Friendswood bond proposition," 16 Sep. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about debt

Statistics for debt

Last Updated

14 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for debt

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce debt (audio) \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

History and Etymology for debt

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on debt

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with debt

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for debt

Spanish Central: Translation of debt

Nglish: Translation of debt for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debt for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about debt

Comments on debt

What made you want to look up debt? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

transposition of initial sounds of words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Word Puzzles

  • alt 57589b2b4c6a3
  • Which answer pairs best with each of the following words? living, estate, club, music, road, mile
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!