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[det] /dɛt/
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.
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 forms
debtless, adjective
superdebt, noun
1. obligation, duty, due. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for debts
  • Your mortgage payment becomes suddenly unmanageable, or a pile of debts gradually rises above your head.
  • She heard stories of children toiling in factories to pay off their parents' unending debts.
  • Members can only apply for future loans once the group catches up on some of its outstanding debts.
  • They may not be able to pay debts or pay for a wedding.
  • He apparently sued over debts as small as two shillings.
  • Some of his effects were auctioned off to pay his debts.
  • They must pledge everything they own to make good their syndicates' debts if losses outrun profits.
  • Their hours are long, their wages low, and many have debts from their schooling amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • What the pellet jobs are doing is paying off financial debts.
  • It's not normal or healthy to run up huge debts, public or private.
British Dictionary definitions for debts


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 something: sleep debt, oxygen debt
Derived Forms
debtless, adjective
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for debts



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
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debts in Medicine

debt (dět)
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.
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debts in Culture

debt definition

Money, goods, or services owed by an individual, firm, or government to another individual, firm, or government.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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debts in the Bible

The Mosaic law encouraged the practice of lending (Deut. 15:7; Ps. 37:26; Matt. 5:42); but it forbade the exaction of interest except from foreigners. Usury was strongly condemned (Prov. 28:8; Ezek. 18:8, 13, 17; 22:12; Ps. 15:5). On the Sabbatical year all pecuniary obligations were cancelled (Deut. 15:1-11). These regulations prevented the accumulation of debt.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with debts
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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