Definition of default in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Failure to fulfil an obligation, especially to repay a loan or appear in a law court.

    ‘the company will have to restructure its debts to avoid default’
    [count noun] ‘the deteriorating economy pushed defaults to almost $20 billion’
    • ‘Past attempts to understand student loan defaults have essentially drawn from four perspectives: economic, sociological, psychological, and federal.’
    • ‘With collapsing technology shares and disintegrating manufacturing profits in an environment of general corporate over borrowing, there is now the clear specter of large-scale debt defaults.’
    • ‘He also offered to consent to the discontinuance of the actions against the defendants other than Her Majesty, without costs and without prejudice to his right to rely on their alleged defaults in support of the claims against the Crown.’
    • ‘The plaintiff undertakes not to enforce the judgment until default or other determination of the proposal.’
    • ‘That subsection does not distinguish between non-appearance and non-compliance defaults.’
    • ‘The finance company is unable to repay their debenture due to defaults on their loan book, so they are unable to recoup their principal.’
    • ‘‘The two biggest risks are default and recovery of loan to a defaulted company’.’
    • ‘Debt defaults are soaring and forced asset sales are exacerbating the decline.’
    • ‘In 1998 KWP faced major defaults on a succession of sales to Italian buyers.’
    • ‘Banks in the creditor country may have branches or subsidiaries in the crisis country that lose money due to loan defaults caused by the crisis-induced recession.’
    • ‘Some small insurers may not be able to make good on all their obligations if several defaults surface at once.’
    • ‘In the interim, the number of defaults and debt reschedulings increased around the globe notwithstanding the specificity of each case involved.’
    • ‘There are one or two ways of fine tuning the format, but the big issue is that defaults need to be avoided.’
    • ‘This could cause defaults on debt repayments and require economic assistance from the international community.’
    • ‘As the economy has improved and defaults have slowed, many decided they didn't need as much in reserve as they did in 2003, and presto, their earnings per share would rise a few cents.’
    • ‘That could lead to more mortgage delinquencies or defaults.’
    • ‘Additionally, defaults on loans could result in higher levels of bad debts.’
    • ‘The purpose of credit derivatives is to enable banks to transfer to a broader market the risk of defaults on corporate debt they've issued.’
    • ‘However, the court did not simply find that the plaintiff's default raised a complete defence.’
    • ‘Although the default rate for investment grade bonds is extremely low, there is a huge gulf between investment grade and sub-investment grade debt in defaults.’
    non-payment, failure to pay, non-remittance
    View synonyms
  • 2[in singular] A preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer.

    ‘the default is fifty lines’
    [as modifier] ‘default settings’
    • ‘This behavior occurs even if you select the ‘Make this the default Internet connection’ option in the New Connection Wizard.’
    • ‘Stephen informed us that there is such an option in the software but that the default setting is off.’
    • ‘Want to use a different audio CD program, rather than the default Windows CD player, on your computer?’
    • ‘The court document noted that personal computer makers are free to set the default search engine to any service they choose.’
    • ‘It also is visible within any folder that lacks a default index html document.’
    • ‘Now that looks much better than the default uninstaller program!’
    • ‘The voice acting on the English dub, which is the default audio option, is wretched.’
    • ‘From this point the headset could be used as a soundcard, by selecting it from the list in the application software, or in Control Panel to make it the default audio device for the current user.’
    • ‘Leaving software on the default installation settings is akin to buying a safe and not changing the combination on the lock from the factory settings.’
    • ‘Even though you have the option of turning it off, it's a default option and takes the challenge out of the game.’
    • ‘You can choose which engines to use, or let the program utilize the default engines.’
    • ‘It can be set up as the default program for reading feeds, allowing you to click directly on a feed link from your favourite browser and be taken straight to Sauce Reader to look at it.’
    • ‘It was probably just a default failover message that automatically responds when the main service is unavailable.’
    • ‘There are plenty of other options for the default file.’
    • ‘The program will choose a default filename for you.’
    • ‘Although it's not overly tricky to use, we did find a few oddities, such as a default option not to index.’
    • ‘This is also the default mode a user is placed into when using Telnet to connect to a router.’
    • ‘Other options include changing the default Web browser, proxy server settings, and a time-out setting.’
    • ‘For the moment, make that the default e-mail program.’
    • ‘Setting up Ethernet and using a default gateway on my LAN gave me Internet access in less than 30 seconds.’
    1. 2.1[usually as modifier]Something that is usual or standard.
      ‘all my life, envy has been my default emotion’
      ‘SSRIs have become the default for adults with depression’
      • ‘The military are the default bad guys in sci-fi.’
      • ‘Peevishness at news conferences is often his default position these days.’
      • ‘His face is increasingly frozen in a grotesque rictus of appalled indignation, which seems to be his default response to the world.’
      • ‘She's in her default purple, in what fashionistas call 'soft tailoring'.’
      • ‘The company launched a $250 million campaign in February to position itself as the default software for corporations.’
      • ‘A smile is her default facial expression.’
      • ‘Untanned and unfit, his default dark suit and tailored white shirt draped a tall, soft frame.’
      • ‘The elderly workforce is expected to increase further when the default retirement age of 65 is abolished from October this year.’
      • ‘Bored and ambivalent is still the default setting for hipsters.’
      • ‘Living out of a suitcase is her default setting.’
      • ‘Non-design folk have grown accustomed to the default 12' text of word processing; typewriting as opposed to typesetting.’
      • ‘The default position ought to be individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
      • ‘Previous research has found that in most schemes over 80% of members accept the default option, many without considering the alternatives.’
      • ‘He is paid to be serious, but his default mode is loose and playful, with a touch of hipster diffidence.’
      • ‘"You need a priest," my mother had insisted, because that was her default for anything that was getting out of hand.’
      • ‘I think that 10 years from now, serving yourself will be the default, versus now, where it's the exception.’
      • ‘Her default mode is hip.’
      • ‘Others may ignore their accounts and settle for the default investment option, which will likely be conservative with a low investment return.’
      • ‘This fall, many on Madison Avenue are feeling sanguine about the prospects for TV advertising, the default choice of big marketers.’
      • ‘Einstein himself would have been sent home to change, sandals without socks being his default footwear.’
      normal, standard, usual, typical, stock, ordinary, customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted, everyday, regular, routine, established, settled, set
      View synonyms


  • 1Fail to fulfil an obligation, especially to repay a loan or to appear in a law court.

    ‘the dealer could repossess the goods if the customer defaulted’
    ‘some had defaulted on student loans’
    • ‘It alleged the company had defaulted on a bank loan and told manufacturing workers to take holiday leave, which prompted denials from firm bosses.’
    • ‘They took a mortgage loan and defaulted on the loan.’
    • ‘A few days later, First National Bank seized R1 million from her after she defaulted on a loan for a diamond export business.’
    • ‘You apply for a financial service, believe you have a good credit history and are told you have been declined because you have defaulted on a loan you know nothing about’
    • ‘It had defaulted on loans totaling $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Education used in part for two new dormitories in the 1960s.’
    • ‘The mortgage company made loans based on the inflated incomes and many of the taxpayers defaulted on the loans.’
    • ‘Last year, it defaulted on many short-term loans.’
    • ‘He brings word from Venice that Antonio has defaulted on his loan to Shylock, and needs Bassanio's help.’
    • ‘But they would've been shocked, shocked if we'd defaulted on our loans.’
    • ‘So in order to get some money to start this business we went to the bank to borrow a few dollars, unfortunately we got turned down and a friend of mine at the bank told me I was blacklisted as a bad creditor since I had defaulted on a loan.’
    • ‘Indeed, the course was completed in July 2000, but the original developers defaulted on loans and lenders foreclosed before the gates ever opened.’
    • ‘Through two lending cycles, only two groups defaulted on loans.’
    • ‘It has relaxed its longstanding proscriptions against budget deficits; it also has abandoned its taboo against lending to countries that have defaulted on external obligations.’
    • ‘Data were collected regarding certain characteristics of borrowers who defaulted on student loans from 1993 through 1995.’
    • ‘He did say, however, that in his view, Valleywood was profitable and that neither the companies nor Katana had ever defaulted on loans.’
    • ‘The situation worsened to such an extent that several boat owners lost their assets, as they defaulted on repayment of loans.’
    • ‘The customer had defaulted on the loan and, although the judge made no specific finding to this effect, the appellant had lost about £30,000.’
    • ‘During the period of the delay the value of the property upon which the loan was secured fell and was therefore insufficient to cover the plaintiffs loss when X defaulted on the loan.’
    • ‘Two airlines have now defaulted on their pension obligations - US Airways, in February of this year, and now United - and many others may follow suit.’
    • ‘Overall, in the six years following the creation of the first rural rehabilitation agencies, the number of farmers who defaulted on federal loans amounted to only 2.6 percent of borrowers.’
    fail to pay, not pay, renege, fail to honour, back out, backtrack, backslide
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[with object]Declare (a party) to have defaulted and give judgement against that party.
      ‘two semi-finalists were defaulted’
      • ‘He won the junior US Open champion, was a runner-up in the boys' event at Roland Garros and made the semi-finals of junior Wimbledon in 1999 only to be defaulted for not turning up.’
      • ‘The train was running 50 minutes late, and so Illingworth came loping into club, just on the verge of being defaulted, and went directly on court with Walker, who had been warming up for a good fifty minutes.’
      • ‘Poor away form is the reason why the University are not challenging for the title and this was illustrated when they defaulted the game at Shepherds meaning Shepherds were awarded the game 6-0.’
      • ‘Salient was victorious in the annual Salient-VUWSA indoor soccer match last week, after the VUWSA team defaulted the match.’
      • ‘He raged at the umpire and then stormed off, defaulting the match, after announcing: ‘You are the most corrupt official.’
      • ‘In the York Evening League, Shepherds I's recent good run continued when they defeated Cavaliers ‘B’ by four points to two despite defaulting the bottom board at the last minute to a player falling ill.’
      • ‘After I made my payments, I was defaulted again and just last week I asked to how to file a complaint and the person hung up on me!’
      • ‘First, they defaulted me, then they defaulted him.’
      • ‘York ‘B’ were given a boost at the start of their match with Leeds when Leeds defaulted the bottom two boards.’
      • ‘The 17-year-old might even have gone further in the singles, but was defaulted for turning up late to his semi-final.’
      • ‘In other matches University made it two wins in a row with a 4-2 win over Whippersnappers, although University slipped back to their bad habits and defaulted the bottom two boards.’
  • 2(of a computer program or other mechanism) revert automatically to (a preselected option)

    ‘when you start a fresh letter the system will default to its own style’
    • ‘Mr Moore said: ‘Unfortunately for the defendant, but fortunately for justice, the printer defaulted to another printer and computer of a colleague in London, and an inquiry was launched.’’
    • ‘The new XP SP2 is said to have a beefed up version of this firewall, and it defaults to being automatically on (and they recommend that you leave it on).’
    • ‘The fancy font on your web page will default to what is on the person's computer, creating a distorted looking font.’
    • ‘Forwardslashes are correct in UNIX or Windows, although Windows persists in defaulting to backslashes.’
    • ‘You can speed up or slow down the refresh rate, which defaults to five seconds.’
    • ‘Windows XP defaults to a cartoonish graphical treatment that can be easily changed into the classic interface seen in Windows 98.’
    • ‘And entering a non-existent or non-functioning URL in the address bar will default to a Google search on that address.’
    • ‘Do I think it's an error to automatically default to logging you in as root?’
    • ‘One way is to make it easier for a user to default to your engine - by embedding a toolbar on his desktop, say, or putting a search box into his browser window.’
    • ‘Every time I disconnect from the Internet, my computer defaults back to ' Never Dial a Connection '.’
    • ‘Because they hid all drives with the profile system (to so called prevent people from messing with the computer) the computer illiterate students and teachers would save it wherever the program defaulted to.’
    • ‘It seems to default to either redrawing the menu or logging out if you select an invalid menu option, which again can be confusing if you're not in a harmless text editor.’
    • ‘Most systems default to booting from either the floppy disk drive or the hard drive.’
    • ‘Above the keyboard are four shortcut buttons that can be programmed to the applications of your choice but default to email and your web browser.’
    • ‘The problem is that wireless access points default to the insecure configuration (open access).’
    • ‘However, the keyboard defaults to the programmable function.’
    • ‘German vocabulary isn't required for this - the machines do a fine job with the vocabulary, though I'd love to see a translator that automatically defaults to the game terms for some words rather than the more common use.’
    • ‘The program defaults to the PAL format among other things.’
    • ‘He told the Committee that the e-mails had defaulted to his jokes folder automatically because they had been sent to him by friends and he had been too busy to open or delete them.’
    • ‘In this example, the top, right and bottom values default to the browser's internal style sheet values.’


  • by default

    • 1Because of a lack of opposition.

      ‘they won the last election by default’
      • ‘Efforts to support an uprising around a weak opposition fail and strengthen him by default.’
      • ‘Perhaps they will be re-elected in the next elections by default, with no-one having voted!’
      • ‘The opposite, by default, must then be the definition of an anti-politician.’
      • ‘The movement was partially empowered by default of serious opposition.’
      1. 1.1Through lack of positive action rather than conscious choice.
        ‘he became an actor by default’
        • ‘I wouldn't call her a feminist, except by default because for her it wasn't a conscious stance.’
        • ‘The time slot is probably more by default rather than design but it is quite apt that it should be shown at that time of the morning.’
        • ‘A judge has ruled hacking is legal by default in Argentina because of a lack of applicable computer crime laws.’
        • ‘It becomes a study in the corruption of friendship, by default, since it doesn't function well as a mystery thriller.’
        • ‘Not to choose and not to care is to conform by default - which is the most insidious choice of all, and self-defeating.’
        • ‘Which leaves a rather surprised looking Laura sitting at the top of my heap, by default rather than on account of any particular merit.’
        • ‘So those friends who are just always around each other could be friends almost by default, perhaps.’
        • ‘However, I am not wrong in stating that we lack this capability by default - not by conscious strategy.’
        • ‘If he is on the altcountry shelves then it is by default rather than design.’
        • ‘He got the job by default when the first choice dropped out, and even then it was only through the intervention of someone important.’
        failure to act, failure to appear, inaction, omission, lapse, lack, exclusion, neglect, negligence, disregard
        View synonyms
  • go by default

    • (of a case) be decided in favour of one party because of lack of opposition by the other party.

      ‘the case against us has gone by default’
      • ‘They may well let proceedings go by default: see, in relation to money lending agreements, the Crowther report, p.236, para.’
      • ‘It is not reasonable that they should be put to this trouble and expense, and that official time should be wasted, on a case which the patentees have, in effect, allowed to go by default.’
      • ‘I do not think it can have been intended that the importer before the Tribunal should have a second bite at the cherry of lawfulness, having failed in the condemnation proceedings, or let them go by default.’
  • in default

    • Guilty of failing to repay a loan or appear in a law court.

      ‘the company is already in default on its loans’
      • ‘Nationwide, only 6.9 percent of loans were in default in 1998, down from 8.8 percent in 1997.’
      • ‘The company needs its debtors to sign a waiver agreement that will allow it to start talks without being in default on its loans.’
      • ‘To qualify, individuals would have to work full time at a tribal college and not be in default on existing educational loans.’
      • ‘The move came after bankers said the company, which has its main operations in South Africa, was in default on its credit facility.’
      • ‘We recognise an asset as non-performing if it is in default for 180 days while the world norm is 90 days.’
      • ‘This in turn puts strains on the banking system on account of increases in the percentage of loans that are delinquent or in default.’
      • ‘The measure of nonperforming debt includes loans that are restructured or in default for three months or more from banks and credit cooperatives.’
      • ‘The firm, which is also in default on a $1bn loan, has warned that operations at some of its oilfields may grind to a halt this week.’
      • ‘Initially, I wasn't even sent the paperwork until my loans were in default.’
      • ‘When he arrives, the loan is in default and Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh.’
      behind, behindhand, late, overdue, in the red, in default, in debt
      View synonyms
  • in default of

    • In the absence of.

      ‘in default of agreement the rent was to be determined by a surveyor’
      • ‘I am going to, having looked at the figures - I am not concerned with the precise details because I am going to direct a detailed assessment in default of agreement, but I shall order a payment on account in the sum of £35,000.’
      • ‘Occasionally she could not redeem within that time and was therefore under pressure to repay in default of which the goods would have been sold.’
      • ‘The Claimant is to pay the Defendants costs, to include the costs of appeal, from 15 April 1999, such costs to be subject to a detailed assessment in default of the agreement.’
      • ‘His reply, of course, is that nature has given us work to do, in default of which we are necessarily unhappy, and that work is to put into action the power of reason.’
      • ‘The defendant will pay the claimant's costs of the action, including the costs of the appeal, to be agreed, in default of which the case would be submitted for detailed assessment.’
      • ‘Before drawing any remuneration you shall obtain the written approval of HM Customs & Excise to the payment being made and in default of agreement your remuneration shall be determined by the High Court.’
      • ‘But in default of any further explanation this would come down to saying merely that he did know them, but not by any ordinary means.’
      • ‘the Contractor is entitled to retain the copyright in default of some express or implied term to the contrary effect;’
      • ‘Unlike the 1993 contract, there is no mechanism such as arbitration to determine what a reasonable price would be in default of agreement between the parties.’
      • ‘Respondents shall pay the appellant's costs of the appeal to be subject of detailed assessment on the standard basis in default of agreement.’


Middle English: from Old French defaut, from defaillir to fail, based on Latin fallere disappoint, deceive.