def·​i·​cit | \ ˈde-fə-sət How to pronounce deficit (audio) , British also di-ˈfi-sət 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 Still, New Delhi and Beijing had sought common ground in areas such as climate change and commerce, with China emerging as one of India’s biggest trading partners, albeit with India running a large trade deficit. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Behind deadly clash with India, a pattern of Chinese assertiveness," 19 June 2020 Catcher Fran Healy delivered an RBI single to cut the Giants’ deficit to 9-7, and the bases remained full. Steve Kroner,, "June 18, 1971: Giants give up five in ninth to Padres, then score five to win 10-9," 18 June 2020 Trump’s polling deficit to former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has grown in recent weeks in national and battleground-state polls. Philip Rucker,, "Bolton book and Supreme Court ruling on ‘dreamers’ amount to twin defeats to Trump," 18 June 2020 Despite this effort to keep three pedals—a very much appreciated effort, mind you—the manual version suffers a performance deficit that will likely drive some sales to the automatic. K.c. Colwell, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Reminds Us of the Importance of a Clutch Pedal and Shifter," 18 June 2020 Terri Spann of Chandler Basha High School was recognized as our Coach of the Year for leading the Bears to its first state volleyball championship in dramatic fashion, overcoming a two-sets deficit to beat Gilbert Perry in five sets in the 6A final. Mark Faller, azcentral, "Daschbach, Thrun win top honors at azcentral Sports Awards show," 18 June 2020 So far in the fiscal year 2020, the U.S. budget deficit has ballooned to about $1.9 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) website. Danielle Garrand, CBS News, "U.S. plummets to 10th spot in World Competitiveness Ranking," 16 June 2020 In the 2012-13 school year, Pontiac schools had a $51 million deficit and district officials have been whittling it down ever since. John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, "Schools eyeing big cuts amid funding crash," 15 June 2020 However, the survey also underscores Biden's deficit with Latinos. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Michelle Lujan Grisham as veep pick unlikely to buoy Biden with Latino Democrats," 12 June 2020

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

Time Traveler for deficit

Time Traveler

The first known use of deficit was in 1782

See more words from the same year

Statistics for deficit

Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deficit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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


How to pronounce deficit (audio)

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
chiefly US : a problem that causes a decrease in some ability


def·​i·​cit | \ ˈde-fə-sət How to pronounce deficit (audio) \

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!