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

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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 Congress is already considering more coronavirus relief, despite a growing concern for an annual budget deficit projected to near a staggering $4 trillion. Lisa Friedman, New York Times, "Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy," 30 Apr. 2020 Next year, for the budget that begins June 1, projections show as much as an $80 million deficit. Sharon Coolidge,, "Coronavirus economy: Cincinnati council asked to cut programs that help the poor," 15 Apr. 2020 Before the coronavirus crisis, debt and deficits were pushed higher by ramped up government spending on military and other programs and tax cuts enacted in 2017. Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, "Coronavirus Crisis Legacy: Mountains of Debt," 9 Apr. 2020 After sleepwalking through the better part of three quarters, the Blazers awoke just in time to outscore the Mavericks 35-15 in the fourth, overcoming an 18-point deficit in the final quarter to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers classics: Brandon Roy’s breathtaking 4th quarter sparks comeback playoff win over Dallas Mavericks," 29 Mar. 2020 Debt and deficits will be mind boggling, not just here but around the world. Rachel Siegel, Anchorage Daily News, "Stocks up dramatically after Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus bill," 26 Mar. 2020 And then Xavier Tillman got going, outgrinding Bob Huggins’ squad down low for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the second half alone as the Spartans came back from an eight-point deficit in the final 10 minutes. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "The 2020 NCAA tournament that could have been: A Sweet 16 for Michigan State basketball?," 20 Mar. 2020 The Sooners rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit but G Austin Reaves missed a would-be go-ahead 3-pointer with 6 seconds left. Geoff Clark, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Baylor at Oklahoma college basketball odds, picks and best bets," 18 Feb. 2020 Twice already, the Chiefs had overcome double-digit deficits behind Mahomes. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "In Super Bowl LIV, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs Won More Than the 49ers Lost," 3 Feb. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for deficit

Time Traveler

The first known use of deficit was in 1782

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Statistics for deficit

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deficit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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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


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

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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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