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

In turn, Faraday Future started racking up new debts with suppliers, and the company’s problems quickly escalated from there. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Faraday Future dealt potentially crippling blow while almost out of cash," 30 Nov. 2018 The standoff has unsettled investors, who have sold off Italian debt in recent months, pushing up the country’s borrowing rates. Colleen Barry, The Seattle Times, "Italy’s doesn’t budge in clash with EU over budget deficit," 13 Nov. 2018 People doubted anyone would lend more cash to a company that already had around $10 billion in debt. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Why almost everyone was wrong about Tesla’s cash flow situation," 26 Oct. 2018 Puerto Rico was already more than $70 billion in debt before Hurricane Maria struck the island last September, or, according to CNBC, nearly $17,000 per capita. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "A Puerto Rico Debt Forgiveness Bill Has Been Launched by Senate Democrats," 25 July 2018 By the time Indian conglomerate Mahindra bought the company in 2015, Pininfarina was $125 million in debt. Jack Stewart, WIRED, "Pininfarina's Back With a $2 Million Electric Hypercar," 14 July 2018 Trump Effect Financial disclosure records show Trump’s Supreme Court nominee had $45,000 to $150,000 in credit card debt in 2016, which was later paid off. NBC News, "Kavanaugh ran up credit card debt buying Washington Nationals season tickets," 12 July 2018 In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Amy Brittain, courant.com, "Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh piled up credit card debt by purchasing Nationals tickets, White House says," 12 July 2018 Low teacher pay American Leadership's expansion has saddled the charter chain with $508 million in debt, which it's scheduled to repay through 2052. Craig Harris, azcentral, "Arizona charter school founder makes millions building his own schools," 11 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

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Learn More about debt

Statistics for debt

Last Updated

9 Dec 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

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

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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

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