from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Failure to perform a task or fulfill an obligation, especially failure to meet a financial obligation: in default on a loan.
  • n. Law Failure to make a required court appearance.
  • n. The failure of one or more competitors or teams to participate in a contest: won the championship by default.
  • n. Computer Science A particular setting or value for a variable that is assigned automatically by an operating system and remains in effect unless canceled or overridden by the operator: changed the default for the font in the word processing program.
  • n. A situation or condition that obtains in the absence of active intervention.
  • intransitive v. To fail to do what is required.
  • intransitive v. To fail to pay money when it is due.
  • intransitive v. Law To fail to appear in court when summoned.
  • intransitive v. Law To lose a case by not appearing.
  • intransitive v. To fail to take part in or complete a scheduled contest.
  • transitive v. To fail to perform or pay.
  • transitive v. Law To lose (a case) by failing to appear in court.
  • transitive v. To fail to take part in or complete (a contest, for example).
  • idiom in default of Through the failure, absence, or lack of.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The condition of failing to meet an obligation.
  • n. the original software programming settings as set by the factory
  • n. A loss incurred by failing to compete.
  • n. A selection made in the absence of an alternative.
  • n. A value used when none has been given; a tentative value or standard that is presumed.
  • n. The failure of a defendant to appear and answer a summons and complaint.
  • v. To fail to meet an obligation.
  • v. To lose a competition by failing to compete.
  • v. To assume a value when none was given; to presume a tentative value or standard.
  • v. To fail to appear and answer a summons and complaint.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A failing or failure; omission of that which ought to be done; neglect to do what duty or law requires.
  • n. Fault; offense; ill deed; wrong act; failure in virtue or wisdom.
  • n. A neglect of, or failure to take, some step necessary to secure the benefit of law, as a failure to appear in court at a day assigned, especially of the defendant in a suit when called to make answer; also of jurors, witnesses, etc.
  • intransitive v. To fail in duty; to offend.
  • intransitive v. To fail in fulfilling a contract, agreement, or duty.
  • intransitive v. To fail to appear in court; to let a case go by default.
  • transitive v. To fail to perform or pay; to be guilty of neglect of; to omit.
  • transitive v. To call a defendant or other party whose duty it is to be present in court, and make entry of his default, if he fails to appear; to enter a default against.
  • transitive v. To leave out of account; to omit.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To fail in fulfilling or satisfying an engagement, claim, or obligation; especially, to fail in meeting a legal or pecuniary obligation at the proper time, as appearance in court, the payment of a debt, or the accounting for funds intrusted to one's care: as, a defaulting defendant or debtor; he has defaulted on his bond, or in his trust.
  • To fail in duty; offend.
  • To omit; neglect.
  • To fail in the performance of.
  • In law, to declare (a defendant) in default and enter judgment against (him).
  • n. A failing or failure; an omission of that which ought to be done; neglect to do what duty, obligation, or law requires; specifically, in law, a failure to perform a required act in a lawsuit within the required time, as to plead or appear in court, or omission to meet a pecuniary obligation when due.
  • n. Lack; want; failure; defect.
  • n. A fault; an offense; a misdeed; a wrong act.
  • n. In hunting, a lost scent.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. loss resulting from failure of a debt to be paid
  • v. fail to pay up
  • n. an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified
  • n. loss due to not showing up
  • n. act of failing to meet a financial obligation


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English defaute, from Old French, from past participle of defaillir, to fail, grow weak : de-, intensive pref.; see de- + faillir; see fail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French defaute ("fault, defect, failure, culpability, lack"), ultimately from Latin de- ("away") + fallo ("deceive, cheat, escape notice of")


  • Switching between modes toggles between the original assignments saved with the setting and the default assignments (taken from #default. pst setting-which is loaded on instantiation of Sculpture, if it exists).

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  • * @param string $default URL to a default image to use if no avatar is available

  • The word default that's being thrown around is being used inappropriately. -- Top News

  • The article uses the term "default" to describe the possible outcome if the debt ceiling isn't raised.

    News -

  • Any adjective you put in front of the word default still means default, said Zane Brown, fixed-income strategist at Lord Abbett.

  • The term default simply means that an entity that has sold bonds, whether a corporation, a city, a school district or a state, doesn't carry through on its promises to pay investors interest as prescribed in the original agreement. - News

  • "European and German officials are verbalizing the word 'default' more frequently," said Lawrence Creatura , a Rochester, NY-based portfolio manager at Federated Investors.

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  • She's also given new meaning to the word "default."

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  • But Magnus seems to feel that by definition anything that lowers the risk of a default is the correct option, even though by his own admission the market price of default risk is very low right now:

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  • Now if you make late payments or exceed your credit limit, you should be shifted into what they call a default penalty interest rate on your credit card.

    CNN Transcript Sep 5, 2007


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  • I'd say the "standard" option could do what you wanted. As for pronunciation, Americans would all probably know the correct pronunciation, but in casual speech let the vowel be shortened.

    October 5, 2009

  • I’m looking for another word for the meaning “an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified�?, one that is less ambiguous.

    (Is default commonly used in that meaning or is my proximity to computer science clouding my judgment?)

    And then I have a question concerning the pronunciation: The dictionary only lists /dɪˈfɔlt/ but I frequently hear (American) native speakers say /ˈdifɔlt/. Have you made similar observations?


    October 1, 2009

  • The two sweetest words in the English language.

    January 7, 2007