Definition of deficit in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdefəsət/


1The amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small.
Example sentences
  • The fund will absorb the deficit in the Rover pension scheme, which officially stands at £67.6m.
  • The pension scheme, which had a deficit amounting to some £80m, was part of this restructuring.
  • The company doubled its input last year to £225m, but the deficit in its fund rose by roughly the same amount.
shortfall, deficiency, shortage, debt, arrears;
negative amount, loss
1.1An excess of expenditure or liabilities over income or assets in a given period: an annual operating deficit the budget will remain in deficit
More example sentences
  • Smurfit was in deficit at its last year-end, so its position is likely to have got a lot worse.
  • Wartime was a period of massive fiscal deficits and huge current account surpluses.
  • For several countries, reducing their annual budget deficits to below 3% of gross domestic product will be the first big hurdle.
1.2(In sports) the amount or score by which a team or individual is losing: came back from a 3-0 deficit
More example sentences
  • Boys Club still had fight in them and Nicky Pearson scored to cut the deficit to one goal again but despite plenty of pressure they could not force extra time.
  • That didn't work as the team dug itself into a double-digit deficit in the division.
  • Now back within two, Croatia made the most of its next power play to cut the deficit to one on a score by Samir Barac.
1.3 technical A deficiency or failing, especially in a neurological or psychological function: deficits in speech comprehension
More example sentences
  • Moffitt suggested these difficulties were linked to neurological deficits in verbal regulation of behaviour and in executive functioning.
  • Both in utero exposures to maternal smoking and asthma are associated with chronic deficits in lung function.
  • It is possible that the deficits in lung function in persistent and transient wheezers may have already been present at a much younger age.


Late 18th century: via French from Latin deficit 'it is lacking', from the verb deficere (see defect1).

  • effect from Late Middle English:

    Effect ‘result, consequence’ from Latin effectus, from efficere ‘accomplish, work out’, formed from ex- ‘out, thoroughly’ and facere ‘do’. Its negative is defect (Late Middle English), while deficit (late 18th century) is from Latin deficit ‘it is lacking’, from the verb deficere. The Latin word was used formerly in inventories to record what was missing. Feckless (late 16th century) ‘lacking in efficiency or vitality’ is based on Scots and northern English dialect feck, a shortening of effeck, a variant of effect.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: def·i·cit

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