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 formsdebt·less, adjectivesu·per·debt, noun

Synonyms for debt Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for debt

Contemporary Examples of debt

Historical Examples of debt

  • He took a couple of drinks to celebrate his approaching immunity from debt.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The church was in debt—everything in Brookfield was, except the town pump.


    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?

  • 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 somethingsleep debt; oxygen debt
Derived Formsdebtless, adjective

Word Origin for debt

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

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

Medicine definitions for debt




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.

Culture definitions for debt


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with debt


see head over heels (in debt).

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