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de·​fault di-ˈfȯlt How to pronounce default (audio)
: failure to do something required by duty or law : neglect
archaic : fault
economics : a failure to pay financial debts
was in default on her loan
mortgage defaults
law : failure to appear at the required time in a legal proceeding
The defendant is in default.
: failure to compete in or to finish an appointed contest
lost the game by default
: 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
computers : a selection automatically used by a program in the absence of a choice made by the user
using the default settings


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defaulted; defaulting; defaults

intransitive verb

: to fail to fulfill a contract, agreement, or duty: such as
: to fail to meet a financial obligation
default on a loan
law : to fail to appear in court
: to fail to compete in or to finish an appointed contest
also : to forfeit a contest by such failure
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

: to fail to perform, pay, or make good
default a loan
: forfeit
defaulted the game
: to exclude (a player or a team) from a contest by default
was defaulted from the tournament
defaulter noun
in default of
: in the absence of

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
In a world where everyone elegantly lies by default, Vittoria speaks the brutal, destabilizing truth. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 17 Jan. 2023 Second-year center Robert Hainsey, the starter by default, likely will be available after suffering a hamstring injury in the regular-season finale against the Falcons. Joey Knight, Dallas News, 15 Jan. 2023 The companies themselves may also filter explicit or other inappropriate content for minors by default. Google, which owns YouTube and YouTube Kids, also switched to asking for a birth date when users first sign up. Heather Kelly, Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2023 Thus, by some metrics, trophy hunters have helped conservation, if only by default. Mark Jenkins, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Jan. 2023 And in December, Christen Ritchie dropped out of the race for the vacant City Council Seat B, leaving Marc Widner as the winner by default. Wells Dusenbury, Sun Sentinel, 10 Jan. 2023 The clearing rules would cover instruments such as interest-rate swaps and derivatives, and credit-default swaps. Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ, 7 Dec. 2022 Amateur traders who gather on social media can’t trade sophisticated products like credit-default swaps — products that protect against companies’ reneging on their debts. Joe Rennison, New York Times, 17 Oct. 2022 These opaque instruments, which included credit default swaps, helped conceal growing risks to financial stability in the lead-up to the 2008 global crisis. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 11 Oct. 2022
Economists warn that not raising the debt limit could cause the United States to default, sparking a major panic on Wall Street and leading to millions of job losses. Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, 19 Jan. 2023 Unlike loans where some people default, the bank gets paid back the very next deposit that comes into your account. James Brown, USA TODAY, 15 Jan. 2023 Economists warn that not raising the debt limit could cause the United States to default, sparking a major panic on Wall Street and leading to millions of job losses. Arkansas Online, 15 Jan. 2023 Microsoft is rolling out an update to its Xbox Series X and Series S consoles that will automatically switch power settings to default to shutting down completely, rather than staying on in rest mode. WIRED, 14 Jan. 2023 Xbox One users will also be able to configure active hours, which will default to always active unless they’re changed. Tom Warren, The Verge, 11 Jan. 2023 Dallas needed to be more insistent with the run and not default to the passing game at the first sign of resistance. Dallas News, 30 Dec. 2022 One of Knopp’s key insights is that companies should be cautious about their recession response and not default to mass layoffs. Lila Maclellan, Fortune, 16 Dec. 2022 Is this the start of a potential Blonde-back or simply a reminder that the HFPA will always default to the more famous name, particularly when Netflix is involved? Vulture, 12 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near default

Cite this Entry

“Default.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
de·​fault di-ˈfȯlt How to pronounce default (audio)
: failure to take action
lost a great opportunity by default
a decision made by default, not by deciding
: failure to do something required (as make a payment or appear in court)
in default on a loan
lost a court case by default
: a selection to be made automatically according to a computer program when the user does not specify a choice


2 of 2 verb
: to fail to carry out a contract, obligation, or duty
defaulter noun

Legal Definition


: failure to do something required by duty (as under a contract or by law): as
: failure to comply with the terms of a loan agreement or security agreement especially with regard to payment of the debt
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.

: 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
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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