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 Trump’s core belief seems to have been that Ukraine, by receiving aid from America, incurred a debt that should be paid to him personally. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "Trump’s Impeachment and the Degrading of Presidential Accountability," 1 Feb. 2020 For all of the similarities of Warren’s and Sanders’ messages — attacking corporate power, decrying income inequality, eliminating college debt — the biggest difference between the two campaigns might be Sanders’ insurgency versus Warren’s unity. NBC News, "Warren surrogates preach party unity," 1 Feb. 2020 According to his campaign, Mr. Bloomberg is concerned about federal budget deficits and debt but doesn’t view reducing them as an urgent priority. Richard Rubin And Tarini Parti, WSJ, "Bloomberg Offers Trillions in Tax Increases to Pay for His Agenda," 1 Feb. 2020 More than three-quarters of millennials carry debt. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Retirement planning: Millennials are stashing money away earlier than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers," 31 Jan. 2020 The deal, which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali will consider at a hearing next week, will save customers about $1 billion because PG&E will be able to refinance debt on more favorable terms, according to the company. J.d. Morris, SFChronicle.com, "PG&E outlines sweeping changes: stricter safety, regional focus," 31 Jan. 2020 The Financial Opportunity Center provides services such as income support coaching, workforce development coaching and financial coaching, including banking, budgeting, savings, loans, debt and more. Katherine Feser, Houston Chronicle, "Business calendar: Upcoming events in the area," 31 Jan. 2020 In May 2019, the electric carmaker was selling debt and additional shares of stock to raise $2.7 billion to replenish its coffers. Chris Isidore, CNN, "Tesla just proved all its haters wrong. Here's how," 31 Jan. 2020 The most recent rise in farm bankruptcies was to be expected, the bureau said in its findings, citing factors including a multi-year downturn in the farm economy, record amounts of farm debt, and headwinds on the trade front. Kate Gibson, CBS News, "Farm bankruptcies jumped 20% in 2019, even with billions in aid from U.S.," 31 Jan. 2020

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

Time Traveler for debt

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for debt

Last Updated

4 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Debt.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debts. Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

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
How to pronounce debt (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for debt

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!