de·​fault | \ di-ˈfȯlt How to pronounce default (audio) , dē-; ˈdē-ˌfȯlt \

Definition of default

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : failure to do something required by duty or law : neglect
2 archaic : fault
3 economics : a failure to pay financial debts was in default on her loan mortgage defaults
4a law : failure to appear at the required time in a legal proceeding The defendant is in default.
b : failure to compete in or to finish an appointed contest lost the game by default
5a : a selection made usually automatically or without active consideration due to lack of a viable alternative remained the club's president by default the default candidate
b computers : a selection automatically used by a program in the absence of a choice made by the user using the default settings
in default of
: in the absence of


defaulted; defaulting; defaults

Definition of default (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to fail to fulfill a contract, agreement, or duty: such as
a : to fail to meet a financial obligation default on a loan
b law : to fail to appear in court
c : to fail to compete in or to finish an appointed contest also : to forfeit a contest by such failure
2 computers : to make a selection automatically in the absence of a choice made by the user The program defaults to a standard font.

transitive verb

1 : to fail to perform, pay, or make good default a loan
2a : forfeit defaulted the game
b : to exclude (a player or a team) from a contest by default was defaulted from the tournament

Other Words from default


defaulter noun

Examples of default in a Sentence

Noun The defendant has made no appearance in the case and is in default. You can enter your own settings or use the defaults. Which font is the default in that computer program? Verb If the borrower defaults, the bank can take the house. The program defaults to a standard font.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Genting Hong Kong, in a filing last Thursday, said the insolvency triggered cross-default on about $2.78 billion of debt. Dave Sebastian, WSJ, 19 Jan. 2022 Experts say letting the government default on its debts could trigger a financial crisis. Morgan Watkins, The Courier-Journal, 6 Dec. 2021 Without reform, student loan borrowers and their families will continue to be saddled with student loan debt and the federal government will be financially liable if student loan borrowers default on their student loans. Zack Friedman, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2021 President Biden on Friday signed a short-term debt ceiling suspension, averting an imminent default on US debt. Allison Morrow, CNN, 16 Oct. 2021 The House has approved a short-term increase to the nation's debt limit, ensuring the federal government can continue fully paying its bills into December and temporarily averting an unprecedented default that would have decimated the economy. Kevin Freking, ajc, 13 Oct. 2021 At some point in mid-October, the government is going to run out of legal borrowing authority, which means a technical default on the national debt, and from there, quite possibly, a shattering global financial crisis. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 6 Oct. 2021 Big creative projects foster passion by default, but little things that hold a company together and keep the cogs turning require us to bring our passion to the table. Melanie Fine, Forbes, 3 Jan. 2022 GEDmatch scrambled to opt all accounts out of law-enforcement searches by default. New York Times, 27 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Kaisa, which in 2015 became one of the first Chinese developers to default abroad, has defaulted again after not repaying a $400 million bond that came due this week, Fitch said. Frances Yoon, WSJ, 9 Dec. 2021 Neither party wants the country to default on its debts, and leaders seem keen to avoid another impasse. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 30 Nov. 2021 Yellen has repeatedly warned that failure to deal with the debt limit and allowing the government to default would be catastrophic and likely push the country into a recession. Martin Crutsinger, ajc, 16 Nov. 2021 Should the country default on its debts, there's a very real possibility of our credit rating being lowered -- a disastrous outcome for an economy still-trying to dig out from the effects of the pandemic. Chris Cillizza, CNN, 10 Nov. 2021 In practice, the debt ceiling is irrelevant because Congress will not allow the U.S. to default on its obligations. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Oct. 2021 The company had to default on its international orders and was able to fully resume exports only by September. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 8 Dec. 2021 Which brings me to the debate over raising the debt ceiling, which is currently roiling official Washington less than two weeks before the country is set to default on its debts. Chris Cillizza, CNN, 6 Oct. 2021 The move also could force the U.S. to default on its debt. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'default.' 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 default


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for default

Noun and Verb

Middle English defaute, defaulte, from Anglo-French, from defaillir to be lacking, fail, from de- + faillir to fail

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Time Traveler for default

Time Traveler

The first known use of default was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Default.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for default



English Language Learners Definition of default

 (Entry 1 of 2)

used to describe something that happens or is done when nothing else has been done or can be done usually used in the phrase by default sometimes used before another noun
: a failure to make a payment (such as a payment on a loan)
: failure to appear in court



English Language Learners Definition of default (Entry 2 of 2)

: to fail to do something that legally must be done especially : to fail to make the payments you must make on a loan, mortgage, etc.
: to automatically use a particular setting, option, etc., unless you choose a different one


de·​fault | \ di-ˈfȯlt How to pronounce default (audio) \

Kids Definition of default

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: failure to do something especially that is required by law or duty If we miss the game, we'll lose by default.


defaulted; defaulting

Kids Definition of default (Entry 2 of 2)

: to fail to do something required He defaulted on repaying the money.


de·​fault | \ di-ˈfȯlt, ˈdē-ˌfȯlt How to pronounce default (audio) \

Legal Definition of default

1 : failure to do something required by duty (as under a contract or by law): as
a : failure to comply with the terms of a loan agreement or security agreement especially with regard to payment of the debt
b in the civil law of Louisiana : a delay in performing under a contract that is recognized by the other party

Note: A party whose performance under a contract is delayed is not automatically in default. Rather, the law of Louisiana requires that the other party “put him or her in default” by a written or witnessed oral request for performance, by filing suit, or by invoking a specific provision in the contract. Moratory damages may be recoverable for loss caused by the delay.

2 : failure to defend against a claim in court (as by failing to file pleadings or to appear in court) — see also default judgment at judgment sense 1a
in default
: in the condition of having defaulted

Other Words from default

default verb
defaulter noun

History and Etymology for default

Anglo-French defalte defaute lack, fault, failure to answer a summons, from defaillir to be lacking, fail, from de-, intensive prefix + faillir to fail

More from Merriam-Webster on default

Nglish: Translation of default for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of default for Arabic Speakers


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