American English

Definition of debt noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] a sum of money that someone owes I need to pay off all my debts before I leave the country. an outstanding debt of $300 He had run up credit card debts of thousands of dollars.
  2. 2[uncountable] the situation of owing money, especially when you cannot pay He died heavily in debt. The club is $4 million in debt. We were poor but we never got into debt. It's hard to stay out of debt when you are a student. a country's foreign debt burden see also bad debt
  3. 3[countable, usually singular] the fact that you should feel grateful to someone because they have helped you or been kind to you to owe a debt of gratitude to someone I would like to acknowledge my debt to my teachers.
  4. Idioms
    be in somebody's debt (formal)
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    to feel grateful to someone for their help, kindness, etc.
    somebody pays their debt to society
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    used to say that someone is being punished for a crime, usually by being put in prison He paid his debt to society for his previous convictions and is now a free man.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: debt

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