deadbeat

[noun ded-beet; adjective ded-beet]
adjective
  1. being a parent who neglects parental responsibilities, especially one who does not pay child support: deadbeat dads.
  2. Horology. noting any of various escapements acting without recoil of the locking parts from the shock of contact.
  3. 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018


British Dictionary definitions for dead beat

dead beat

adjective
  1. informal tired out; exhausted

deadbeat

noun
  1. informal a lazy or socially undesirable person
  2. 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
  3. a high grade escapement used in pendulum clocks
  4. (modifier) (of a clock escapement) having a beat without any recoil
  5. (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

Word Origin and History for dead beat

deadbeat

n.

"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

Idioms and Phrases with dead beat

dead beat

1

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]

2

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. [Slang; second 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.