dead beat


[n. ded-beet; adj. ded-beet]
a person who deliberately avoids paying debts.
a loafer; sponger.
being a parent who neglects parental responsibilities, especially one who does not pay child support: deadbeat dads.
Horology. noting any of various escapements acting without recoil of the locking parts from the shock of contact. See diag. under escapement.
Electricity. (of the indicator of an electric meter and the like) coming to a stop with little or no oscillation.

1760–70; dead + beat Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
deadbeat (ˈdɛdˌbiːt)
1.  informal a lazy or socially undesirable person
2.  chiefly (US)
 a.  a person who makes a habit of avoiding or evading his or her responsibilities or debts
 b.  (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
 a.  (of a system) returning to an equilibrium position with little or no oscillation
 b.  (of an instrument or indicator) indicating a true reading without oscillation

dead beat
informal tired out; exhausted

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"worthless sponging idler," 1877, Amer.Eng. slang, from dead + beat; earlier used colloquially to mean "completely beaten" (1821).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

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® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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