def·i·cit | \ ˈde-fə-sət , British also di-ˈfis-ət or ˈdē-fə-sət \

Definition of deficit 

1a(1) : deficiency in amount or quality a deficit in rainfall

(2) : a lack or impairment in an ability or functional capacity cognitive deficits a hearing deficit

b : disadvantage scored two runs to overcome a 2–1 deficit

2a : an excess of expenditure over revenue facing a deficit of $3 billion raise taxes to help reduce the budget deficit

b : a loss (see loss sense 4b) in business operations the year's operating deficit

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Examples of deficit in a Sentence

The government is facing a deficit of $3 billion. We will reduce the federal budget deficit. The team overcame a four-point deficit to win the game. She has a slight hearing deficit in her left ear.
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Recent Examples on the Web

No deficit was too big en route to six victories in a row, tied for the Phils’ longest winning streak since September 2012. Scott Lauber,, "Phillies' whole is greater than sum of their parts, as All-Star voting proves | Extra Innings," 9 July 2018 That large trade deficit is a major reason behind Trump’s proposal to impose new duties. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "The EU Is Preparing New Tariffs to Strike Back in Its Trade War With Trump—Ketchup, Beware," 6 July 2018 But a three-run deficit isn’t much these days for the Reds' lineup. Bobby Nightengale,, "Six-run inning, Billy Hamilton's arm hands Cincinnati Reds a series win over White Sox," 4 July 2018 To be sure, a rising deficit can sometimes be good policy. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Always-Wrong Economist Lawrence Kudlow Wrongly Says Deficit Is Falling," 29 June 2018 The district’s monthly deficit was $15 million in May. Its total accumulated debt was pegged at $98 million, down from an estimated $104 million in June, Parish said. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "Gary schools detail progress on debt as unions say it came at their expense," 28 June 2018 Trump's thinking on the deficit has been inconsistent over time. NBC News, "CBO: Ballooning national debt could hurt U.S. economy, increase likelihood of crisis," 26 June 2018 Those promises alone would cost 1.7% of GDP each year at a time when the budget deficit is 2.9% of GDP. The Economist, "How Andrés Manuel López Obrador will remake Mexico," 23 June 2018 The deficit is up to $24.3 million from $15.3 million last year and projected to reach $34.4 million in 2019-20. Julia Sclafani, sacbee, "$24.3 million in the red, Sac City Unified district cuts its newly launched summer program," 22 June 2018

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

1782, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for deficit

borrowed from French déficit, going back to Middle French, "item lacking in an inventory," borrowed from Latin dēficit "it is lacking," 3rd person singular present indicative of dēficere "to be lacking, run short, fail" — more at deficient

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Phrases Related to deficit

trade deficit

Statistics for deficit

Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deficit

The first known use of deficit was in 1782

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More Definitions for deficit



Financial Definition of deficit

What It Is

A deficit occurs when expenses exceed revenues, imports exceed exports, or liabilities exceed assets. A deficit is the opposite of a surplus.

How It Works

Fiscal deficits occur when an entity's (usually a government) expenditures exceed its revenue. A government usually borrows money to fill the gap or "fund the deficit." Most governments finance their debt by selling government bonds.

Trade deficits (also called current account deficits) occur when a country imports more than it exports. The difference between exports and imports is called net exports.

Why It Matters

Deficits are controversial. The famous economist John Maynard Keynes argued that fiscal deficits stimulated economies by allowing governments to purchase goods and services and were thus particularly useful for getting countries out of recessions. However, many scholars argue that governments should not incur fiscal deficits regularly because the cost to service the debt takes away from government spending that could be better used elsewhere.

Meanwhile, supporters of trade deficits say they are the direct result of global competition. Thus, the deficits exists because consumers are making a choice to buy foreign goods whether it be because of a difference in quality, price, or any other reason. Opponents of large trade deficits believe the deficit provides jobs to foreign countries instead of creating them at home, thus hurting the domestic economy.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of deficit

: an amount (such as an amount of money) that is less than the amount that is needed

: the amount by which a person or team is behind in a game or contest

: a problem that causes a decrease in some ability


def·i·cit | \ ˈde-fə-sət \

Kids Definition of deficit

: a shortage especially in money

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de·fi·cit | \ ˈdef-(ə-)sət; British also di-ˈfis-ət, ˈdē-fə-sət \

Medical Definition of deficit 

: a deficiency of a substance a potassium deficit also : a lack or impairment of a functional capacity cognitive deficits

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More from Merriam-Webster on deficit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for deficit

Spanish Central: Translation of deficit

Nglish: Translation of deficit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deficit for Arabic Speakers

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