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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun WhatsApp is the only Facebook chat app that supports end-to-end encryption by default, while Messenger and Instagram don’t. Chris Smith, BGR, "Facebook Messenger and Instagram encryption aren’t coming anytime soon," 4 May 2021 The Vikings, by default, gain a lot of ground if somehow both Rodgers and Matthew Stafford exit the NFC North in the same offseason. Andrew Krammer, Star Tribune, "Vikings mailbag: Linebacker change coming in 2022? Taking stock of NFC North?," 3 May 2021 So, Medina Spirit became Baffert’s Kentucky Derby horse almost by default. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, "Medina Spirit gives Bob Baffert a record seventh win in Kentucky Derby," 1 May 2021 One is the ability to use Siri to work with a music player other than Apple Music, such as Spotify, by default. New York Times, "To Be Tracked or Not? Apple Is Now Giving Us the Choice.," 26 Apr. 2021 The fund is an example of blended finance, where public or philanthropic money reduces the risk from investments for the private sector, using financial vehicles such as default insurance or loan guarantees. The Economist, "Seeking scale Blended finance is struggling to take off," 15 Aug. 2020 Today, default insurance for California and New York costs around four times that for Florida or Texas. Fortune, "To fight the coronavirus budget crisis, act like Alexander Hamilton," 3 July 2020 On one hand, Apple puts the Podcasts app on every iPhone and iPad by default, and there is no additional subscription fee associated with the app. Jacob Siegal, BGR, "Spotify might crush an exciting new Apple service before it even launches," 23 Apr. 2021 While Fulton may enter the summer as the first-team middle linebacker by default, all eyes will shift to four-star 2021 signee Trevin Wallace for a possible immediate impact. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Season-ending injury complicates Kentucky football's quest to replace Jamin Davis," 17 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Because in lieu of that, too many people default to the convenience of memory and reuse passwords or create too many that are easily memorable (and, thus, easily guessable for hackers). Jacob Siegal, BGR, "If you use this popular password manager, all of your passwords may have been stolen," 23 Apr. 2021 According to the Federal Reserve, 37% of adults with outstanding college student loans who did not complete an associate degree are behind on their payments and are most likely to default. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, "Can Biden really cancel student debt? Here’s where the debate stands," 13 Apr. 2021 Germantown Schools Superintendent Brett Stousland noted that, if the storm ramps up at the last minute, the district might default to a traditional snow day, even though virtual teaching has become routine. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In an era of remote learning, are snow days a thing of the past?," 19 Nov. 2020 That means if Foxconn were to default for whatever reason and the local governments were burdened with the debt, the state would pay for 40% of the debt. Ricardo Torres, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Foxconn's new deal shows how project has changed since 2017; here are some of the major changes and points," 21 Apr. 2021 This tendency for workplace leaders to default to the path of addition instead of subtraction eliminates a vast array of potential creative solutions to workplace problems. Bryan Robinson, Forbes, "Business Leaders Often Overlook This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy When Making Career Decisions," 17 Apr. 2021 The debt management office has said the country would not default on its loans. Allwell Okpi, Quartz, "How much money does Nigeria owe China?," 11 Apr. 2021 Barrett Stanghill, a Montana native and member of the Minnesota Storm club, had to default after he was injured in the first period of his third-place match in the Greco-Roman 87 kg class. Rachel Blount, Star Tribune, "Minnesotans stumble in Greco-Roman Olympic wrestling trials," 3 Apr. 2021 In 2020, banks rushed to build up their stockpiles to cover losses on the assumption that consumers and businesses would default on their loans after government stimulus ran out. David Benoit, WSJ, "U.S. Banks Will Turn Last Year’s Fear Into This Year’s Profits," 15 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about default

Time Traveler for default

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for default

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Default.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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)
law : 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.
of a computer : 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

Comments on default

What made you want to look up default? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!