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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Two years ago, feeling crushed by debt and exhausted by a corporate sales career, Smith sold her belongings and left her job and expensive San Francisco apartment to travel abroad with her 10-year-old son. Allison Gibson, Bon Appétit, "Whatever Happened to #Vanlife? Well, Things Are Changing," 20 June 2019 Just over seven years ago, the government’s debt was close to 150% of the country’s GDP, unemployment was over 15%, and economic growth was just under 1% annually. Washington Post, "Economic reggae: Jamaican bank sells recovery with songs," 18 June 2019 Under the programme, state exchequers are taking on three-fourths of the utilities’ debt. Kuwar Singh, Quartz India, "Can smart meters re-energise India’s crumbling power distribution companies?," 18 June 2019 And while both ex-presidents wrestled with disbarment and serious legal debts in post-presidential life, Trump lacks a law license and is far wealthier than either of his predecessors. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Ex-President Trump on Trial," 18 June 2019 For ballast in a bond portfolio, government debt may be the exception. Mike Bird, WSJ, "The One Chinese Asset You Should Own," 17 June 2019 The retailer still generates cash — sales were almost $3.6 billion last year — and the little outstanding debt on its balance sheet isn’t due until 2023. Anne Riley Moffat, Fortune, "Beleaguered Bookstore Barnes & Noble Gets a Buyer," 7 June 2019 The federal fiscal oversight board set up by Congress in 2016 to manage the island's debt is deeply unpopular, with many denouncing it as an undemocratic institution which has hindered Puerto Rico's recovery by ordering austerity measures. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "Some progressives worry Puerto Rico is being left behind on 2020 campaign trail," 7 June 2019 In the United States, politicians from both parties have begun to question decades of consensus that government debt is bad. Ben Dooley, New York Times, "Modern Monetary Theory’s Reluctant Poster Child: Japan," 5 June 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.

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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

24 Jun 2019

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 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.

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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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