noun def·i·cit \ ˈde-fə-sət , British also di-ˈfis-ət or ˈdē-fə-sət \
Updated on: 19 Mar 2018

Definition of deficit

1 a (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
2 a : 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 4b) in business operations
  • the year's operating deficit

Examples of deficit in a Sentence

  1. The government is facing a deficit of $3 billion.

  2. We will reduce the federal budget deficit.

  3. The team overcame a four-point deficit to win the game.

  4. She has a slight hearing deficit in her left ear.

Recent Examples of deficit from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

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.

DEFICIT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of deficit for English Language Learners

  • : 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

DEFICIT Defined for Kids


noun def·i·cit \ ˈde-fə-sət \

Definition of deficit for Students

: a shortage especially in money

Medical Dictionary


noun 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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mournful or dismal

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