Definition of arrears in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈrɪəz/

plural noun

Money that is owed and should have been paid earlier: he was suing the lessee for the arrears of rent mortgage arrears
More example sentences
  • The accountants may not withdraw from the court until all debts and arrears are fully paid.
  • Reducing arrears means more money for services and housing improvements.
  • He's fallen into arrears, and the mortgage company is repossessing it on Monday.
money owing, outstanding payment(s), debt(s), liabilities, indebtedness, dues;
balance, deficit


in arrears

(also chiefly Law in arrear)
1Behind with paying money that is owed: two out of three tenants are in arrears
More example sentences
  • After the U.S. government fell millions of dollars behind in arrears in the late 1990s, the United States almost lost its voting rights in the General Assembly.
  • OIC assistant director of housing Mr John Richards explained that 165 out of Orkney's 900 council house tenants were in arrears.
  • He said the report would lead to an improvement plan, which would bolster the mediation service offered in neighbour disputes, and get tougher on tenants in arrears.
behind, behindhand, late, overdue, in the red, in default, in debt
1.1(Of payments made or due for wages, rent, etc.) at the end of each period in which work is done or a tenancy is occupied: you will be paid monthly in arrears
More example sentences
  • The minister admitted landlords were worried about unreliable tenants holding the cash, but a safeguard meant any cases where rent was eight weeks in arrears would see payments revert back to the landlord.
  • It was in response to this that the workers set up their protest camp to publicise their demands for the payment of wages in arrears, free health care and compensation for ‘grave injury to health’.
  • If the remedy is exercised prior to the rent falling in arrears, the distress will be considered illegal, and the landlord will be liable in damages to the owner of the goods distrained upon…
2(Of a competitor in a sports race or match) having a lower score or weaker performance than other competitors: she finished ten metres in arrears
More example sentences
  • PE Tigers, with one more match to go, are six points in arrears and have scored 44 goals to 30 against.
  • Sato's car cut out as he approached the grid and he joined the race a lap in arrears.
  • As a result, York played short-handed for most of the first half, and were soon in arrears when Valley scored from close range after two minutes.



Pronunciation: /əˈrɪərɪdʒ/
Example sentences
  • When Chen brought the company to the arbitration court last year, he collected about 360,000 yuan of salary arrearages.
  • There are technical and legal issues with that case where it went from an overpayment to an arrearage.
  • Riddick, his wife and their three children have fallen from the middle class to homelessness because he is forced to pay $1, 400 a month in child support and arrearages.


Middle English (first used in the phrase in arrear): from arrear (adverb) 'behind, overdue', from Old French arere, from medieval Latin adretro, from ad- 'towards' + retro 'backwards'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ar|rears

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