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1. Something owed, such as money, goods, or services: used the proceeds to pay off her debts; a debt of gratitude.
2. An obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else: students burdened with debt.
3. The condition of owing: a young family always in debt.
4. Financial instruments, such as bonds, mortgages, and loans, that represent a claim to payment and rights of creditorship: invested in government debt; a company issuing debt.
5. A moral or legal obligation to make reparations or undergo punishment for committing an offense: a criminal repaying his debt to society.
[Middle English dette, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *dēbita, pl. of Latin dēbitum, debt, neuter past participle of dēbēre, to owe; see ghabh- in Indo-European roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.