1. the state of owing something (especially money)
; - Example: "he is badly in debt"
2. money or goods or services owed by one person to another
3. an obligation to pay or do something
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Debt \Debt\, n. [OE. dette, F. dette, LL. debita, fr. L. debitus
owed, p. p. of debere to owe, prop., to have on loan; de- +
habere to have. See Habit, and cf. Debit, Due.]
1. That which is due from one person to another, whether
money, goods, or services; that which one person is bound
to pay to another, or to perform for his benefit; thing
owed; obligation; liability.
Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt.
When you run in debt, you give to another power over
your liberty. --Franklin.
2. A duty neglected or violated; a fault; a sin; a trespass.
"Forgive us our debts." --Matt. vi. 12.
3. (Law) An action at law to recover a certain specified sum
of money alleged to be due. --Burrill.
Bond debt, Book debt, etc. See under Bond, Book, etc.
Debt of nature, death.
WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006):
n 1: the state of owing something (especially money); "he is
badly in debt"
2: money or goods or services owed by one person to another
3: an obligation to pay or do something
Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0:
45 Moby Thesaurus words for "debt":
accountability, accountable, answerable for, arrearage, arrears,
beholden, borrowing, debit, debtor, default, deficit, delinquency,
due, encumbered, encumbrance, financing, hire purchase, hitting,
hitting-up, hocking, in arrears, in debt, in hock, in the red,
indebted, indebtedness, installment buying, installment plan,
liability, liable, money-raising, mortgaging, nonpayment,
obligation, owing, pawning, pledging, responsibility, responsible,
sin, straitened, touching, under obligation, wickedness, wrong
Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary:
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.
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):
DEBT, contracts. A sum of money due by certain and express agreement. 3 Bl.
Com. 154. In a less technical sense, as in the "act to regulate arbitrations
and proceedings in courts of justice" of Pennsylvania, passed the 21st of
March, 1806, s. 5, it means an claim for money. In a still more enlarged
sense, it denotes any kind of a just demand; as, the debts of a bankrupt. 4
S. & R. 506.
2. Debts arise or are proved by matter of record, as judgment debts; by
bonds or specialties; and by simple contracts, where the quantity is fixed
and specific, and does not depend upon any future valuation to settle it. 3
Bl. Com. 154; 2 Hill. R. 220.
3. According to the civilians, debts are divided into active and
passive. By the former is meant what is due to us, by the latter, what we
owe. By liquid debt, they understand one, the payment of which may be
immediately enforced, and not one which is due at a future time, or is
subject to a condition; by hypothecary debt is meant, one which is a lien
over an estate and a doubtful debt, is one the payment of which is
uncertain. Clef des Lois Rom. h.t.
4. Debts are discharged in various ways, but principally by payment.
See Accord and Satisfaction; Bankruptcy; Confusion Compensation; Delegation;
Defeasance; Discharge of a contract; Extinction; Extinguishment; Former
recovery; Lapse of time; Novation; Payment; Release; Rescission; Set off.
5. In payment of debts, some are to be paid before others, in cases of
insolvent estates first, in consequence of the character of the creditor, as
debts due to the United States are generally to be first paid; and secondly,
in consequence of the nature of the debt, as funeral expenses and servants'
wages, which are generally paid in preference to other debts. See
Preference; Privilege; Priority.
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):
DEBT, remedies. The name of an action used for the recovery of a debt eo
nomine and in numero though damages are generally awarded for the detention
of the debt; these are, however, in most instances, merely nominal. 1 H. Bl.
550; Bull. N. P. 167 Cowp. 588.
2. The subject will be considered with reference, 1. To the kind of
claim or obligation on which this action may be maintained. 2. The form of
the declaration. 3. The plea. 4. The judgment.
3.-1. Debt is a more extensive remedy for the recovery of money than
assumpsit or covenant, for it lies to recover money due upon legal
liabilities, as, for money lent, paid, had and received, due on an account
stated; Com. Dig. Dett, A; for work and labor, or for the price of goods,
and a quantum valebant thereon; Com. Dig. Dett, B Holt, 206; or upon simple
contracts, express or implied, whether verbal or written, or upon contracts
under seal, or of record, or by a common informer, whenever the demand for a
sum is certain, or is capable of being reduced to certainty. Bull. N. P.
167. It also lies to recover money due on, any specialty or contract under
seal to pay money. Str. 1089; Com. Dig. Dett, A 4; 1 T. R. 40. This action
lies on a record, or upon a judgment of a court of record; Gilb. Debt, 891;
Salk. 109; 17 S. & R. 1; or upon a foreign judgment. 3 Shepl. 167; 3 Brev.
395. Debt is a frequent remedy on statutes, either at the suit of the party
grieved, or of a common informer. Com. Dig. Action on Statute, E; Bac. Ab.
Debt, A. See, generally, Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.; Com. Dig. h.t.; Dane's
Ab. h.t.. Vin. Ab. h.t.; Chit. Pl. 100 to 109; Selw. N. P. 553 to 682;
Leigh's N. P. Index, h.t. Debt also lies, in the detinet, for goods; which
action differs from detinue, because it is not essential in this action, as
in detinue, that the property in any specific goods should be vested in the
plaintiff, at the time the action is brought; Dy. 24 b; and debt in the
debet and detinet may be maintained on an instrument by which the defendant
is bound to pay a sum of money lent, which might have been discharged, on or
before the day of payment, in articles of merchandise. 4 Yerg. R. 171; see,
Com. Dig. Dett, A 5; Bac. Ab. Debt, F; 3 Wood. 103, 4; 1 Dall. R. 458.
4.-2. When the action is on a simple contract, the declaration must
show the consideration of the contract, precisely as in assumpsit; and it
should state either a legal liability or an express agreement, though not a
promise to pay the debt. 2 T. R. 28, 30. When the action is founded on a
specialty or record, no consideration need be shown, unless the performance
of the consideration constitutes a condition precedent, when performance of
such consideration must be averred. When the action is founded on a deed, it
must be declared upon, except in the case of debt for rent. 1 New R. 104.
5.-3. The plea to an action of debt is either general or special. 1.
The plea of general issue to debt on simple contracts, or on statutes, or
when the deed is only matter of inducement, is nil debet. See Nil debet. In
general, when the action is on a specialty, the plea denying the existence
of the contract is non est factum; 2 Ld. Raym. 1500; to debt on record, nul
tiel record. 16 John. 55. Other matters must, in general, be pleaded
6.-4. For the form of the judgment, see Judgment in debt. Vide
The Devil's Dictionary (1881-1906):
DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-
As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,
Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,
Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;
So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,
Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,
Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,
And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
Barlow S. Vode