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[uh-reerz] /əˈrɪərz/
plural noun
the state of being behind or late, especially in the fulfillment of a duty, promise, obligation, or the like:
Many homeowners have fallen into arrears.
Sometimes, arrear. something overdue in payment; a debt that remains unpaid:
Those countries that have paid their arrears may be granted additional loans.
in arrears, behind or late, especially in payment:
She was three months in arrears on her mortgage and credit card payments.
Also, Chiefly Law, in arrear.
Origin of arrears
1300-50; noun use of arrear (adv., now obsolete), Middle English arere behind < Middle FrenchLatin ad retrō. See ad-, retro-
Related forms
arrearage, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for arrears
  • The president of our co-op board is in arrears on his maintenance.
  • arrears have risen sharply, too, although they are nowhere near as high as in subprime.
  • Interest on arrears would not be considered for this calculation.
  • Methodically she laid out the rent arrears, the rate of repayment.
  • They were lifted by insolence above their car loans, their surly arrears, their misspent matrimonies.
  • Landlords complain about rent arrears, damage to property and anti-social behaviour.
  • Incorrect arrears can cause improper or insufficient enforcement actions and affect federal reporting.
  • The ruling on that was that there needed to be a court-ordered medical judgment in order to enter medical arrears.
British Dictionary definitions for arrears


(sometimes sing) Also called arrearage (əˈrɪərɪdʒ). something outstanding or owed
in arrears, in arrear, late in paying a debt or meeting an obligation
Word Origin
C18: from obsolete arrear (adv) behindhand, from Old French arere, from Medieval Latin adretrō, from Latin ad to + retrō backwards
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 arrears

mid-14c., "in times past," from Old French ariere "behind, backward," from Vulgar Latin *ad retro, from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + retro "behind" (see retro-). Meaning "balance due" dates from early 15c.; phrase in arrears first recorded 1610s, but in arrearages is from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with arrears


see: in arrears
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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