What is a debt?

A debt is an outstanding loan that is owed by an individual, a corporation, or a country. A debt may be secured by collateral, or it may be unsecured. A debt may be denominated in a currency other than the borrower’s home currency. The term “debt” is also used to refer to the accumulated debt of a country, which is the sum of all outstanding government loans. A country’s debt may be held by domestic or foreign investors.

Oxford Languages

something, typically money, that is owed or due.

“I paid off my debts”

the state of owing money.

“the firm is heavily in debt”

Merriam Webster Online

something owed : OBLIGATION

a state of being under obligation to pay or repay someone or something in return for something received; a state of owing

the common-law action for the recovery of money held to be due


Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, the creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, which differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. In financial accounting, debt is a type of financial transaction, as distinct from equity.