Definition of default in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈfôlt/


1Failure to fulfill an obligation, especially to repay a loan or appear in a court of law: it will have to restructure its debts to avoid default the deteriorating economy pushed defaults to almost $20 billion
More example sentences
  • That subsection does not distinguish between non-appearance and non-compliance defaults.
  • There are one or two ways of fine tuning the format, but the big issue is that defaults need to be avoided.
  • This could cause defaults on debt repayments and require economic assistance from the international community.
nonpayment, failure to pay, bad debt
2A preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer: the default is fifty lines [as modifier]: default settings
More example sentences
  • Now that looks much better than the default uninstaller program!
  • This behavior occurs even if you select the ‘Make this the default Internet connection’ option in the New Connection Wizard.
  • Setting up Ethernet and using a default gateway on my LAN gave me Internet access in less than 30 seconds.
2.1 [usually as modifier] Something that is usual or standard: all my life, envy has been my default emotion SSRIs have become the default for adults with depression
More example sentences
  • Others may ignore their accounts and settle for the default investment option, which will likely be conservative with a low investment return.
  • The military are the default bad guys in sci-fi.
  • The default position ought to be individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


[no object]
1Fail to fulfill an obligation, especially to repay a loan or to appear in a court of law: some had defaulted on student loans
More example sentences
  • The customer had defaulted on the loan and, although the judge made no specific finding to this effect, the appellant had lost about £30,000.
  • During the period of the delay the value of the property upon which the loan was secured fell and was therefore insufficient to cover the plaintiffs loss when X defaulted on the loan.
  • He did say, however, that in his view, Valleywood was profitable and that neither the companies nor Katana had ever defaulted on loans.
fail to pay, not pay, renege, back out;
go back on one's word
informal welsh, bilk
1.1 [with object] Declare (a party) in default and give judgment against that party: the possibility that cases would be defaulted and defendants released
More example sentences
  • He won the junior US Open champion, was a runner-up in the boys' event at Roland Garros and made the semi-finals of junior Wimbledon in 1999 only to be defaulted for not turning up.
  • First, they defaulted me, then they defaulted him.
  • The 17-year-old might even have gone further in the singles, but was defaulted for turning up late to his semi-final.
2 (default to) (Of a computer program or other mechanism) revert automatically to (a preselected option): when you start a fresh letter, the system will default to its own style
More example sentences
  • The new XP SP2 is said to have a beefed up version of this firewall, and it defaults to being automatically on (and they recommend that you leave it on).
  • The program defaults to the PAL format among other things.
  • Because they hid all drives with the profile system (to so called prevent people from messing with the computer) the computer illiterate students and teachers would save it wherever the program defaulted to.
revert, select automatically



by default

Because of a lack of opposition: they won the last election by default
More example sentences
  • The movement was partially empowered by default of serious opposition.
  • Perhaps they will be re-elected in the next elections by default, with no-one having voted!
  • The opposite, by default, must then be the definition of an anti-politician.
1.1Through lack of positive action rather than conscious choice: legislation dies by default if the governor fails to act on it
More example sentences
  • However, I am not wrong in stating that we lack this capability by default - not by conscious strategy.
  • Which leaves a rather surprised looking Laura sitting at the top of my heap, by default rather than on account of any particular merit.
  • He got the job by default when the first choice dropped out, and even then it was only through the intervention of someone important.
inaction, omission, lapse, neglect, negligence, disregard;
failure to appear, absence, nonappearance

in default

Guilty of failing to repay a loan or appear in a court of law: the company is already in default on its loans
More example sentences
  • Initially, I wasn't even sent the paperwork until my loans were in default.
  • The company needs its debtors to sign a waiver agreement that will allow it to start talks without being in default on its loans.
  • Nationwide, only 6.9 percent of loans were in default in 1998, down from 8.8 percent in 1997.

in default of

In the absence of: in default of agreement, the rent was to be determined by a surveyor
More example sentences
  • The defendant will pay the claimant's costs of the action, including the costs of the appeal, to be agreed, in default of which the case would be submitted for detailed assessment.
  • His reply, of course, is that nature has given us work to do, in default of which we are necessarily unhappy, and that work is to put into action the power of reason.
  • But in default of any further explanation this would come down to saying merely that he did know them, but not by any ordinary means.


Middle English: from Old French defaut, from defaillir 'to fail', based on Latin fallere 'disappoint, deceive'.

  • false from Old English:

    Along with default (Middle English), fail (Middle English), and fault (Middle English), false comes from Latin fallere ‘to deceive’. A false dawn is a light which in Eastern countries is briefly seen about an hour before sunrise. The expression, the translation of an Arabic phrase, is often used to describe a promising situation which has, or is likely to, come to nothing.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·fault

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