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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Trade The trade deficit that Trump promised to reduce grew larger instead. Brooks Jackson,, "Trump's Numbers (Second Quarterly Update) | FactCheck," 11 July 2018 Jeff Faughender, Louisville Courier Journal Correction: An earlier version had an incorrect deficit. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville ranks in top 25 nationally in athletics revenue, expenses," 28 June 2018 In order to win the Division 1 state baseball championship, Grosse Pointe South had to shake off an early deficit, a mid-game rain delay — and a mid-season injury to its starting pitcher. Wright Wilson, Detroit Free Press, "Grosse Pointe South beats Woodhaven for Division 1 state baseball title," 16 June 2018 This is happening at the same time as record trade deficits. Michael Hicks, Indianapolis Star, "Hicks: What's a trade war? We may soon find out.," 10 June 2018 On that day, Beecher had to rally from an early deficit to win 10-4. Tony Baranek, Daily Southtown, "Picicco's pick-me-up: Adrianna Picicco cranks three-run homer as Beecher gets back to state finals," 28 May 2018 The UT Arlington baseball team could not recover from an early deficit, falling to Texas State 8-2 Saturday as the Bobcats swept the three-game series at Clay Gould Ballpark in Arlington. Star-telegram, star-telegram, "Texas State hands UT Arlington baseball 10th consecutive loss | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 19 May 2018 On the softball side, the North erased an early 5-0 deficit by scoring 14 unanswered runs - including a 7-run fifth - to win it, 14-5. Shelby Dermer,, "Reds Urban Youth Academy hosts CPS baseball, softball All-Stars," 12 May 2018 The Lions scored two goals in three minutes to erase an early 1-0 deficit – just another comeback for Orlando City in a season filled with them. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City rallies to defeat Real Salt Lake, wins sixth consecutive game," 6 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about deficit

Statistics for deficit

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deficit

The first known use of deficit was in 1782

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more


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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on deficit

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


full of whispering sounds

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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