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[det] /dɛt/
something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another:
a debt of $50.
a liability or obligation to pay or render something:
My debt to her for advice is not to be discharged easily.
the condition of being under such an obligation:
His gambling losses put him deeply in debt.
Theology. an offense requiring reparation; a sin; a trespass.
Origin of debt
1175-1225; Middle English dette < Old French < Latin dēbita (neuter plural, taken in VL as feminine singular), noun use of dēbitus, past participle of dēbēre to owe, contraction of *dēhabēre, equivalent to dē- de- + habēre to have, possess
Related forms
debtless, adjective
superdebt, noun
1. obligation, duty, due. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for debt
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He took a couple of drinks to celebrate his approaching immunity from debt.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • The church was in debt—everything in Brookfield was, except the town pump.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • I'm not going to run into debt or have trouble with tradesmen about money just because of your pride.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
  • Is it true that he is so much in debt, and is so very—very profligate?

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • If you tell me that he is dead, I am in your debt and bound to you for life.

British Dictionary definitions for debt


something that is owed, such as money, goods, or services
bad debt, a debt that has little or no prospect of being paid
an obligation to pay or perform something; liability
the state of owing something, esp money, or of being under an obligation (esp in the phrases in debt, in (someone's) debt)
a temporary failure to maintain the necessary supply of something: sleep debt, oxygen debt
Derived Forms
debtless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French dette, from Latin dēbitum, from dēbēre to owe, from de- + habēre to have; English spelling influenced by the Latin etymon
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 debt

late 13c., dette, from Old French dete, from Latin debitum "thing owed," neuter past participle of debere "to owe," originally, "keep something away from someone," from de- "away" (see de-) + habere "to have" (see habit). Restored spelling after c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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debt in Medicine

debt (dět)
Something that is deficient or required to restore a normal state.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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debt in Culture

debt definition

Money, goods, or services owed by an individual, firm, or government to another individual, firm, or government.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with debt
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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