de·​fault | \di-ˈfȯlt, 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



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

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Other Words from default


defaulter noun

Examples of default in a Sentence


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?


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

The history of the keyboard default involves a gaming legend and the start of a new era in games. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "Vox Sentences: The Catholic sex abuse reckoning continues in Pennsylvania," 19 Oct. 2018 But the state has guaranteed significant amounts of private-sector borrowing that, in the event of corporate defaults, could transform a private liability into a taxpayers’ headache. David J. Lynch, The Seattle Times, "Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead," 4 Sep. 2018 On Monday, the plaintiffs sought an entry of default against Padilla’s companies and his son, Mauro Joe Padilla. Patrick Danner, San Antonio Express-News, "Federal suit against disgraced Tundra Village developer goes to trial," 11 July 2018 Banks stopped extending credit to students at for-profit colleges because of their historically high default rates. Danielle Douglas-gabriel,, "Defunct for-profit college firm ITT's former executives settle fraud charges," 10 July 2018 The default rate on federal student loans was 11.5 percent in 2014, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Education. Nanette Asimov,, "Student loan servicer cheats borrowers, California attorney general says," 28 June 2018 Every American, every business, every institution would have the option of a FedAccount, with all the functionality of a normal bank account, like debit cards, direct deposit, online bill pay, and mobile banking, and no chance of default. David Dayen, The New Republic, "Give Everyone Government Bank Accounts," 13 June 2018 Leake in October 2016 received a notice of default on her mortgage., "$30,000 loan by state of Oregon keeps flophouse open," 13 June 2018 There has been a spate of defaults on Chinese loans in recent weeks, and local contractors complain the government is not meeting its obligations. The Economist, "Ethiopia’s new prime minister wants peace and privatisation," 7 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

More than 20 people died in protests and looting that swept Argentina in December 2001 as Latin America's third-largest economy unraveled and eventually defaulted on a debt of more than $100 billion. Almudena Calatrava, Fox News, "Argentines seek soup kitchens, barter markets amid crisis," 10 Sep. 2018 Investors holding defaulted Venezuela bonds have expressed alarm that such rulings or bond payments by Venezuela could disadvantage the country’s other creditors. Andrew Scurria, WSJ, "Venezuela Uses Bonds to Pay Settlement With Mining Company," 16 Aug. 2018 Jones filed a motion June 20 asking the court to vacate the default judgment, saying that Simmons did not have time to respond to a motion to default for failure appear after her previous attorney withdrew from the case. Genevieve Bookwalter,, "Cook County judge vacates Evanston alderman's $64K default judgment," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, last week, Facebook revealed a bug setting users default privacy for posts from private to public. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "Why you might start seeing 'Login with Snapchat' on other apps," 15 June 2018 Ad tech emerged because advertising is the internet’s default business model. The Economist, "Who will be the main loser from Europe’s new data-privacy law?," 24 May 2018 Just 15 percent of borrowers who owed $35,000 or more defaulted on the same timeline. Brianna Mcgurran, The Seattle Times, "Ask Brianna: When a student debt becomes a lot of trouble," 2 Oct. 2018 The company also faced the real possibility of defaulting on some of its debt. David R. Baker,, "SolarCity, once king of rooftop solar, slips into shadow," 29 June 2018 Greece, of course, went on to default on its bonds and briefly use capital controls to suspend convertibility of its euros into the euros used in the rest of the region, while no other country followed suit. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "What to Make of Italy’s Astonishing Bond Moves," 30 May 2018

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


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


see default entry 1

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Statistics for default

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for default

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

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More Definitions for default



Financial Definition of default

What It Is

A default is a violation of a promise to pay debt in agreed amounts at agreed times.

How It Works

Let's assume Company XYZ has a line of credit for $10 million from Bank ABC, and $5 million of that line is outstanding. Company XYZ must make a $25,000 monthly payment on the outstanding debt every month.

Company XYZ is having trouble with the launch of its new product and is dealing with a recall on four of its other products. Sales dropped 75% and cash flow dried up, making it hard to make the debt payments. For a few months, Company XYZ makes late payments, and then after six months it stops making payments altogether. Bank ABC declares Company XYZ in default and demands immediate repayment of the $5 million outstanding principal.

This of course is very hard for Company XYZ to handle, and Bank ABC begins the process of seizing the collateral that secured the debt. Without these assets (let's say they're machinery), Company XYZ cannot continue production and thus closes its doors.

In general, there are six events involved in a default (in this example, we assume the borrower has obtained a mortgage for a house from the lender).

1. The borrower signs a contract agreeing to repay the lender over a period of time, usually in predetermined installments.
2. The borrower misses one or more payments.
3. The lender sends the borrower one or more notices of delinquency.
4. The borrower and the lender try to adjust the repayment schedule so that the borrower is more likely to make at least some of the payments until he or she gets back on his feet. (This process is called special forbearance or mortgage modification.)
5. The borrower still misses payments.
6. The lender sends the borrower a notice of default and initiates foreclosure proceedings.

Why It Matters

Defaults are serious matters, and they are far more serious than simply being overdue in a payment (though this can trigger a lender to declare default). Foreclosure occurs when a lender seizes and sells a borrower's collateral when the borrower has failed to repay the lender. The term is most often associated with real estate.

Defaults do long-term damage to a person's credit report and can hinder a company's ability to raise capital in the future. It is important to note that foreclosure laws vary by state, and they affect the order or duration of these steps. It is also important to note that the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act affects foreclosure proceedings by stipulating the methods lenders can use to go after bad debts.

Default risk is the chance that a bond issuer will not make the required coupon payments or principal repayment to bondholders. Many things can influence an issuer's default risk and in varying degrees. Examples include poor or falling cash flow from operations (which is often needed to make the interest and principal payments), rising interest rates (if the bonds are floating-rate notes, rising interest rates increase the required interest payments), or changes in the nature of the marketplace that would adversely affect the issuer (such as a change in technology, an increase in competitors or regulatory changes). The default risk associated with foreign bonds also includes the home country's sociopolitical situation and the stability and regulatory activity of its government.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of default

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a failure to make a payment (such as a payment on a loan)

law : failure to appear in court

computers : a setting, option, etc., that a computer uses if you do not choose a different one



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.

of a computer : to automatically use a particular setting, option, etc., unless you choose a different one


de·​fault | \di-ˈfȯlt \

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.

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de·​fault | \di-ˈfȯlt, ˈdē-ˌfȯlt \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on default

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with default

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for default

Spanish Central: Translation of default

Nglish: Translation of default for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of default for Arabic Speakers

Comments on default

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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