Default Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Especially in finance, learning how to use words correctly is essential to finding success. If you want to excel in the written or spoken spheres or converse smoothly, vocabulary is essential. Today, this article will cover how to use the word “default.”

This is everything you need to know about the word default, ranging from its use in financial obligations to computer programs! Default is likely a word you’ll run into many times in life, and knowing how to use it correctly will help you succeed.

What Is the Definition of Default? 

Default (dɪˈfɔːlt) means the failure of a debtor to make payments on their loan. It can also tell when someone fails to act or selects a preselected or standard option, like in an application. A default can occur in nearly any context, but we most often use it in the context of money and credit.

A loan is considered in default when it is not repaid on time or according to an agreement. Lenders may take legal action against borrowers who do not pay their loans back in full and on schedule.

Another way to say it is that when someone cannot pay back their debt, they default. Lenders and creditors refer to this as being “in default.” We also use default as a verb to fail to meet one’s obligations, especially on loan.

Default is a noun that describes the result of not fulfilling these obligations. The opposite word for both meanings of the word is fulfilled.

This meaning of default can be found in the legal sense of the word: if you fail to pay your mortgage or credit card bill on time, your lender might take away your home or car unless you make arrangements with them to pay off the debt. If you don’t make those arrangements, your lender has the right to sell off some or all of your possessions until they get back what they lent you (and then some).

If you were to look in a thesaurus for word lists of synonyms for the word default, you’d likely find words including: 

  • Standard 
  • Nonpayment
  • Dereliction
  • Delinquency
  • Nonremittal
  • Derivative
  • Average
  • Usual
  • Expected
  • Normal

What Is the Etymology of the Word Default? 

The etymology of the word default can be traced back to the Old French word defaillir, which means “to fail.” It has been used in English since at least as early as the 1200s.

However, the etymology of the word “default ” is a bit more complicated than that. The word comes from the Old French “defaillir,” which means to fail or go astray.

In modern English, default has come to mean simply “failure to act,” but it’s also used in idioms like “failure to repay.” It stems from the Latin “failure,” or “faillir,” meaning to fall short or slip up, and from there, it spread into Middle English as “fallen.”

Other Uses of the Word Default

Another popular way to use the word default is as a preset setting that denotes the original preset. It is used to specify the state of something before a user, or a computer program has altered it. A default setting or preset is a stored value that represents the most common or typical condition for a given variable. It can be used in many different ways. 

For example, if you’re using Photoshop, you might have several presets specific to photo editing. These predefined settings include things like contrast, brightness, and color balance. When you start working on a new image, these presets can help ensure your photo is correctly adjusted before any further edits are made.

Because it’s common for people to want these kinds of adjustments applied before they start editing photos themselves, Adobe has created an action palette that allows users to use those default settings with just one click!

Example Sentences Using the Word Default

One of the best ways to learn how to use a word is by seeing that word used in example sentences.

Here are some great examples of default being used in contexts and situations you might contact yourself with:

  • Due to my inability to cover repayment, I defaulted on my student loans. 
  • Because of the massively increasing interest rates, the family ended up defaulting on their house. 
  • The random house on the end of the street became the default location to meet up with my friends. 
  • The program defaults have always worked for me, so I’ve never felt the need to create custom controls. 
  • The default option made it almost impossible for me to work in that program the first time I booted it up. 
  • Even though there are a lot of modifiers, I typically stick with the default settings. 
  • The default noun on the word of the day program was “potato.” 
  • The default setting on the computer program enabled me to observe the rocks with a massive level of specificity. 


How many of us have been guilty of misusing a particular word throughout the day? In this age of the Internet, we’re tempted to simply google any word that comes to mind, trusting that it will spit back an accurate definition. But while this is certainly one way to approach tackling your vocabulary-building goals, it’s hardly the most effective course of action. 

The Word Counter blog can remind us that reading quality content, and even better—paying close attention to what you read—is one of the most effective ways to increase your vocabulary and expand your understanding of the world around you. If you want to become the best possible communicator, feel free to check out our latest blog articles right here


Default Definition & Meaning |

Default definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

English Translation of “défaillir” | Collins French-English Dictionary