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[noun ded-beet; adjective ded-beet] /noun ˈdɛdˌbit; adjective ˈdɛdˈbit/
a person who deliberately avoids paying debts.
a loafer; sponger.
being a parent who neglects parental responsibilities, especially one who does not pay child support:
deadbeat dads.
Horology. noting any of various escapements acting without recoil of the locking parts from the shock of contact.
Electricity. (of the indicator of an electric meter and the like) coming to a stop with little or no oscillation.
Origin of deadbeat
First recorded in 1760-70; dead + beat Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for dead beat
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Their horses were dead beat too, and they looked as miserable a crew as ever you set eyes on.

    Jack Hinton Charles James Lever
  • The flock must have been dead beat, by the time they got here.

    A Final Reckoning G. A. Henty
  • We had a dead beat, and I was very sick before we got half-way across.

    Tales of the Sea W.H.G. Kingston
  • The men at the telephones were dead beat, but cool and collected.

    Life in a Tank Richard Haigh
  • You ought to be dead beat after your double spell of the last two days.

    The Pillar of Light Louis Tracy
  • He is a dead beat, I thought so before and am sure of it now.

    Diary of an Enlisted Man Lawrence Van Alstyne
  • I was dead beat, and staggered about to right and left like a drunken man.

    Fire and Sword in the Sudan Rudolf C. Slatin
  • The Adjutant had come in unwounded, but dead beat, and could not say where the Colonel was.

    The Story of the Munsters Mrs Victor Rickard
  • Hosses must be 'tended to, and them of mine wus about dead beat.

British Dictionary definitions for dead beat

dead beat

(informal) tired out; exhausted


(informal) a lazy or socially undesirable person
(mainly US)
  1. a person who makes a habit of avoiding or evading his or her responsibilities or debts
  2. (as modifier): a deadbeat dad
a high grade escapement used in pendulum clocks
(modifier) (of a clock escapement) having a beat without any recoil
(modifier) (physics)
  1. (of a system) returning to an equilibrium position with little or no oscillation
  2. (of an instrument or indicator) indicating a true reading without oscillation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for dead beat



"worthless sponging idler," 1863, American English slang, perhaps originally Civil War slang, from dead (adj.) + beat. Earlier used colloquially as an adjectival expression to mean "completely beaten" (1821), and perhaps the base notion is of "worn out, good for nothing." It is noted in a British source from 1861 as a term for "a pensioner."

In England "dead beat" means worn out, used up. ... But here, "dead beat" is used, as a substantive, to mean a scoundrel, a shiftless, swindling vagabond. We hear it said that such a man is a beat or a dead beat. The phrase thus used is not even good slang. It is neither humorous nor descriptive. There is not in it even a perversion of the sense of the words of which it is composed. Its origin is quite beyond conjecture. ["Americanisms," in "The Galaxy," January 1878]
It also was used of a kind of regulating mechanism in pendulum clocks.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for dead beat

dead beat

adjective phrase

Completely exhausted: My poor ass is draggin' and I'm dead beat (1821+)



A person who habitually begs or gets money from others, does not pay his or her debts, etc; moocher, schnorrer: a chance to demand immediate payment if the clerk looks like a deadbeat


To sponge, loaf, etc: Living off interest is not exactly deadbeating

[1863+; fr dead, ''complete, completely'' and beat, ''sponger'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with dead beat

dead beat

Defeated; also exhausted. For example, That horse was dead beat before the race even began, or, as Charles Dickens put it in Martin Chuzzlewit (1843): “Pull off my boots for me ... I am quite knocked up. Dead beat.” [ ; first half of 1800s ]
Also,deadbeat. A lazy person or loafer; also, one who does not pay debts. For example, Her housemate knew she was a deadbeat, shirking her share of the chores, or He's a deadbeat; don't count on getting that money back. [ ; second half of 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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