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