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 The inconsistencies were more akin to life in the NCAA, which just happens to be the default training ground for so many Olympic hopefuls., 18 July 2021 After predicting a Trump presidency, FIFA corruption scandal, Siegfried and Roy's tiger attack, and Greece's financial default, The Simpsons has come through with another glimpse into the future. Vanessa Etienne,, 16 July 2021 Your default reaction may be sympathy, sadness or some misdirected judgment about what my child must be lacking. Allison Hope, CNN, 14 July 2021 One reason government debt binges have a bad reputation is the experience of developing nations that lurch from one default to another. Marcus Walker, WSJ, 12 July 2021 But most families, especially lower-income ones who are struggling the most, are expected to prefer to receive the default advance monthly payments. Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune, 10 July 2021 The letter came weeks after the New York Times reported that former president Donald Trump’s campaign and WinRed had set up recurring donations by default for online donors in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Washington Post, 8 July 2021 Credit default swaps are insurance for bondholders and therefore serve as an excellent bellwether for credit risk. Brendan Ahern, Forbes, 6 July 2021 Covering economics is by default about covering people for whom the economy doesn’t work. Michelle Cheng, Quartz, 5 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Absent a fix there, the United States would default — and send the global economy into a spiral. Philip Elliott, Time, 25 May 2021 Most virtual assistants still default to a female voice, though users have the option to switch. Rishi Iyengar, CNN, 31 Mar. 2021 Don’t just default to a check list of their assignments and ask for status updates. David Sturt, Forbes, 29 June 2021 The federal budget assumes the government will recover 96 cents of every dollar borrowers default on. Josh Mitchell, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2021 City Attorney Glenn Sabine said that if the council remains deadlocked at two in favor of a special election and two for an appointment, the decision will default to a special election. San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Apr. 2021 Since homeowner loans would be repaid through property tax bills, some county collectors worried that borrowers would fall behind and default. Jeremy Kohler, ProPublica, 23 Apr. 2021 Black students who drop out are almost three times likelier to default than those who graduate. Scott Pulsipher, Forbes, 20 Apr. 2021 People naturally default to collective engagement in decision-making processes. Craig Wiley, Forbes, 18 May 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

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best gaming headsets of 2021.

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

Dictionary Entries Near default




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for default

Last Updated

21 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Default.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on default

Nglish: Translation of default for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of default for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 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!