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.’
    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.’


  • 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.