Definition of debt in English:



  • 1A sum of money that is owed or due.

    ‘I paid off my debts’
    [mass noun] ‘a way to reduce Third World debt’
    • ‘Cash flow was very positive and had enabled the company to reduce its debt to a more manageable level.’
    • ‘At the meeting, Ms Blears had refused to write off the debt the PCT owes to the Government.’
    • ‘They can potentially tap into your bank account or run up debts without you knowing a thing about it.’
    • ‘Is the company's debt less than 40 percent of its capital?’
    • ‘Many creditors lost a lot of money and players went unpaid while debts were rescheduled.’
    • ‘The bills and the debts pile up when you're not working but she somehow made it through.’
    • ‘Needing money to pay off a debt, he tries to rob a wealthy neighbour and is finally arrested and jailed.’
    • ‘The plan of action is to use some of the money to clear all their debts and to use the rest to reduce their mortgage a little.’
    • ‘Interest is charged on the debt, but you do not make monthly repayments.’
    • ‘He left and the club was left with an enormous wage bill and debts it could not afford to pay.’
    • ‘However, the first use for surplus cash must be to reduce any outstanding debts.’
    • ‘Make sure you clear debts such as credit card balances, overdrafts and personal loans.’
    • ‘If you are earning money and have big debts it may not be worth over committing yourself in savings.’
    • ‘Samantha Leigh, mitigating, said he had taken the money to pay gambling debts.’
    • ‘Companies which owe the council money will not be charged interest on their debts.’
    • ‘* Total U.S. household credit card debt is more than $600 billion.’
    • ‘Garda sources believe the gangs may have been desperate to raise money to pay off debts.’
    • ‘The country spends a third of its budget on servicing its debt to western banks.’
    • ‘You want a mortgage that calculates interest daily so every overpayment reduces your debt.’
    • ‘However, it is likely to mean people looking to take out a loan to consolidate their debt will have to pay more after today.’
    bill, account, tally, financial obligation, outstanding payment, amount due, money owing
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    1. 1.1[mass noun]The state of owing money.
      ‘the firm is heavily in debt’
      • ‘It warns that we are getting deeper in debt and that a house price bubble still hangs over the economy.’
      • ‘In his late 20's, he's a sharp dresser, big smoker, has a mortgage and is up to his eyes in debt.’
      • ‘They have to sell a player each year to balance the books but they are not up to their ears in debt like many Brazilian teams.’
      • ‘I have never really been in debt and I would never buy anything I couldn't afford.’
      • ‘Our students in Canada don't need to be coming to college and coming out in debt.’
      • ‘Although companies are allowed to send reminders to a person in debt, they are not allowed to harass someone.’
      • ‘Personal bankruptcies are booming precisely because it's so easy to get in debt.’
      • ‘I have little choice but to find a better job in the same sector because student fees and loans have left me massively in debt.’
      • ‘He wanted to know why the trust was so severely in debt, despite receiving record funding from the government.’
      • ‘The club are #30m in debt, partly due to the antics of last season's management team.’
      • ‘I grew up in the years when to be in debt was shameful.’
      • ‘A travel policy is vital to ensure sickness or an accident don't leave you badly in debt when you come home.’
      • ‘After the divorce was granted, Rene discovered there would be no money as her husband was heavily in debt.’
      • ‘By his late twenties, Disraeli's sartorial and social extravagance had left him deep in debt.’
      • ‘Although the man did owe small sums of money, there is no evidence to suggest that he was heavily in debt.’
      • ‘This authority is so much in debt but they could cut the rates if they ran it properly and looked into the cost of repairing houses.’
      • ‘It may be the season to be jolly, but most of us are just up to our eyes in debt, run off our feet and completely partied out.’
      • ‘He took the cash when he was in debt to the tune of several thousand pounds.’
      • ‘Politicians there are concerned the burden is too great for a country already in debt.’
      • ‘In the film, Reeves plays a luckless, down-at-heel gambler heavily in debt to the bookies.’
      owing money, in arrears, behind with payments, late with payments, overdue with payments, overdrawn
      insolvent, bankrupt, bankrupted, ruined, in the hands of the receivers
      in liquidation
      in the red, in queer street, on the rocks, gone to the wall, bust
      in carey street
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    2. 1.2A feeling of gratitude for a service or favour.
      ‘I would like to acknowledge my debt to my teachers’
      • ‘He scared me the first few times I encountered him, but I owe him a huge debt.’
      • ‘The script is strong, owing a great debt to Frank Miller's graphic novel, Man Without Fear.’
      • ‘I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those past winners who have truly inspired me.’
      • ‘Harder to swallow but even more fundamental is the debt to society owed by the individual.’
      • ‘Council chairman Alex Carder said the volunteers were owed a debt of gratitude by the rest of the community.’
      • ‘How can you repay such a debt to a friend who tells you about a writer like Roth?’
      • ‘All owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her many years of dedicated service to the Church.’
      • ‘He spoke of the debt we owe to the nation's founders and to the documents they left us.’
      • ‘More interesting is the debt Sinatra owed D' Amato, who served as the young singer's role model.’
      • ‘Though acknowledging a debt to the genre, Phillips says he had no specific models in mind.’
      • ‘Yet he is always careful to acknowledge the debt he owes the series for boosting his public profile.’
      • ‘I do owe him a debt, as it was reading his blog that first got me hooked.’
      • ‘He says that every year or two a movie comes along that owes Stevenson an obvious debt.’
      • ‘He feels he owes a particular debt to Prowse, who first encouraged him to direct 11 years ago.’
      • ‘His early works owe a debt to van Gogh and Breitner, the Dutch Impressionist.’
      • ‘I owe a debt of thanks to Si for pointing out the deficiencies in my spelling.’
      • ‘The point is that horror fiction, especially gothic horror fiction seems to owe a debt to St Augustine.’
      • ‘Her writing life began at eight with a story that owed a heavy debt to Black Beauty.’
      • ‘The Count acknowledges his great debt to the writer and performer, Steve Delaney.’
      • ‘It truly is the end of an era but the people of Hull owe him a great debt and we must look at the great strides the city has made while has been leader.’
      indebtedness, obligation, liability
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  • be in someone's debt

    • Owe gratitude to someone for a service or favour.

      ‘God bless you—I am forever in your debt’
      • ‘If you know of any, drop me a line and I'll be in your debt forever.’
      • ‘It was as if since Luke had saved her life, she felt like she was in his debt.’
      • ‘Steve's contribution to date has been immense and is one for which the club and all associated with it will forever be in his debt.’
      • ‘But we will always be in his debt for lyrics like these.’
      • ‘He knows I would hate being in his debt, and I'll bet that he's enjoying every minute of it.’
      • ‘It should come as no surprise then that if the leader is able to secure a majority mandate, the party is in his debt, and not the other way around.’
      • ‘The continued support of this group of people over the years has made this a wonderful and memorable event and the soccer club will always be in your debt.’
      • ‘I have never really had friends like your cousin and you and I will forever be in your debt.’
      • ‘Everyone at the college is in his debt and thank him most sincerely.’
      • ‘You are a national treasure and I will always be in your debt.’
      indebted to, beholden to, obliged to, duty-bound to, honour-bound to, obligated to, under an obligation to, owing someone a debt of gratitude, owing someone thanks
      grateful, thankful, appreciative
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Middle English dette: from Old French, based on Latin debitum something owed, past participle of debere owe. The spelling change in French and English was by association with the Latin word.