[ ded-beet ]
See synonyms for deadbeat on
  1. Informal. a person who deliberately avoids paying debts or neglects responsibilities.

  2. Informal. a loafer; sponger.

  1. Informal. not paying one's debts or neglecting one's responsibilities:a deadbeat parent who won't pay for college;deadbeat borrowers.

  2. Horology. noting any of various timepiece escapements that act without recoil of the locking parts from the shock of contact.

  1. 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use deadbeat in a sentence

  • It would have been a dead beat across the sands to Cuxhaven, while it was a fair wind straight out to the Eider River.

    The Riddle of the Sands | Erskine Childers
  • McKenna, dead-beat, gained the outlying logs and fell as he reached solid earth.

    The Boss of Wind River | David Goodger (

British Dictionary definitions for deadbeat (1 of 2)


/ (ˈdɛdˌbiːt) /

  1. informal a lazy or socially undesirable person

  2. mainly US

    • a person who makes a habit of avoiding or evading his or her responsibilities or debts

    • (as modifier): a deadbeat dad

  1. a high grade escapement used in pendulum clocks

  2. (modifier) (of a clock escapement) having a beat without any recoil

  3. (modifier) physics

    • (of a system) returning to an equilibrium position with little or no oscillation

    • (of an instrument or indicator) indicating a true reading without oscillation

British Dictionary definitions for dead beat (2 of 2)

dead beat

  1. informal tired out; exhausted

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with deadbeat


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.” [Slang; first half of 1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.