The Meaning of Arrears: What It Is and How To Use It

What does it mean if an account is in arrears? This article will cover the legal meaning of arrears and how to use the word arrears.

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Have you ever heard of an account being “in arrears” and wondered what that term meant? Is being in arrears a good thing or a bad thing? This article will tell you all about the meaning and usage of the word arrears, the origin of arrears, and information about other related terms.

What Does the Word Arrears Mean?

According to Investopedia, the word arrears is used in financial and legal circumstances to refer to overdue payments or payments that are have not been received past their due date. If an account is in arrears, numerous payments have been missed. 

While the word arrears often has a negative connotation, this is not always the case. Sometimes the term arrears is used when payment is supposed to be made after a service or task is completed. For example, if ordinary annuities are due at the end of a service period, these are called annuities in arrears. 

What Is the Origin of Arrears?

According to Dictionary, the term arrears has been used since the Middle English arere in the 1300s. This comes from the Middle French arrere and Old French arere. These come from the Vulgar Latin ad retrō and Medieval Latin adretrō. The pronunciation of arrears is əˈrɪəz.

How Can Arrears Be Used in a Sentence?

It is common to use the word arrears when discussing things like overdue rents, royalties, overdue loan repayment, annuity payments, and other expected payments.

First, take a look at the below example sentences for arrears to learn how to use this term. Then, try coming up with your own example sentences using the word arrears.

Example #1: Child Support in Arrears

He had an overdue debt on his child support and was considered to be in arrears. Nevertheless, the bank kept sending him invoices.

Example #2: A Company in Arrears

The company was in arrears and had overdue payments to many of its employees. So the workers went on strike to demand their paychecks, stating that if they could not afford to pay employees’ hours, they should not pay their CEO.

Example #3: Tax Payments in Arrears

She was in tax arrears and had not made a quarterly payment since June. i\It was now August, and she was in trouble with her state tax withholdings payment schedule.

Example #4: Payroll in Arrears

The company’s first missed payment occurred on a Friday when their employee salaries were not paid out. After that, the small business owners received a barrage of emails about the lack of pay and ended up in arrears when they could not make their payroll schedule or pay their payroll taxes.

What Are Translations of Arrears?

If you are discussing finance with someone who does not speak English and need to reference the concept of being in arrears, you can use the below translations of arrears from Nice Translator. Also, if you do international business or have loans or accounts in another country, it can be helpful to know translations of the word arrears.

  • Serbian: заостала потраживања
  • Hindi: बकाया
  • Hungarian: késedelem
  • Swahili: Malipo
  • Turkish: borçlar
  • Latvian: parādi
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 拖欠
  • Hebrew: יארחור
  • Polish: długi
  • Japanese: 延べます
  • Icelandic: vanskilum
  • Dutch: achterstalligheid
  • Finnish: viivästys
  • Indonesian: tunggakan
  • Filipino: arrears
  • French: arrérages
  • Amharic: እጆች
  • Malay: tunggakan
  • Ukrainian: заборгованість
  • Urdu: بقایا
  • Tamil: நிலுவை
  • Kannada: ಬಾಕಿ
  • Portuguese (Portugal): atrasar
  • Catalan: retards
  • Portuguese (Brazil): atrasar
  • Slovak: nedoplatky
  • Chinese (PRC): 拖欠
  • Bulgarian: просрочие
  • Spanish: atrasos
  • Romanian: arierate
  • Arabic: المتأخرات
  • Lithuanian: įsiskolinimas
  • German: Verzug
  • Marathi: बकाया
  • Greek: καθυστερούμενα
  • Danish: restance
  • Telugu: బకాయిలు
  • Italian: arretrati
  • Basque: atzerakinak
  • Croatian: dugovi
  • Swedish: efterskott
  • Estonian: võlgnevus
  • Vietnamese: truy thu
  • Czech: nedoplatky
  • Welsh: ôl-ddyledion
  • Russian: задолженность
  • Norwegian: restskatt
  • Korean: 미불
  • Gujarati: બાકી રકમ
  • Malayalam: കുടിശ്ശിക
  • Thai: การค้างชำระ
  • Slovenian: zamude
  • Bengali: বকেয়া

What Are Synonyms of Arrears?

Since the word arrears can have a neutral or negative connotation, it can be useful to know other words for arrears. This list of synonyms of arrears from Power Thesaurus can help you get started. See if you can determine which of the below words have a positive connotation and which words have a negative connotation.

  • account
  • amount outstanding
  • arrearage
  • arrearages
  • back payments
  • backlog
  • backlogs
  • backwardness
  • balance
  • balance due
  • below the line
  • bill
  • charges
  • check
  • claim
  • commitment
  • credit
  • debit
  • debits
  • debt
  • debts
  • default
  • deficiency
  • deficit
  • deficits
  • delinquencies
  • delinquency
  • due
  • dues
  • duty
  • imperfection
  • in the hole
  • inadequacy
  • indebtedness
  • insufficiency
  • lack
  • liabilities
  • liability
  • money owing
  • obligation
  • obligations
  • outstanding payment
  • overdue
  • payment
  • pledge
  • responsibility
  • score
  • shortage
  • shortcoming
  • shortfall
  • unpaid bill
  • unpaid debt

What Are Antonyms of Arrears?

If you are not in arrears, you likely have savings or a surplus of money and not an outstanding debt. For words that refer to the opposite of arrears, check out this list of antonyms of arrears from Power Thesaurus

  • assets
  • backlog
  • bread
  • budget
  • bullion
  • business
  • cabbage
  • cache
  • capital
  • cash
  • collection
  • cuts
  • decrease
  • deliverances
  • dough
  • economics
  • economies
  • economy
  • efficiencies
  • emergency funds
  • finance
  • finances
  • fund
  • funds
  • hoard
  • holdings
  • investment
  • kitty
  • life savings
  • loot
  • mad money
  • means
  • money
  • money in the bank
  • nest egg
  • piggy bank
  • pool
  • property
  • purse
  • rainy day fund
  • reduction
  • rescue
  • rescues
  • reserve
  • reserve fund
  • reserves
  • reservoir
  • resources
  • riches
  • rollbacks
  • save
  • saving
  • savings account
  • scotches
  • security
  • sinking fund
  • something for a rainy day
  • something to fall back on
  • stash
  • stock
  • stockpile
  • store
  • supply
  • thrifts
  • treasure
  • unexpended balance
  • wealth
  • wherewithal


The definition of arrears (əˈrɪrz) is past due, behind, or late. This is commonly used in legal and financial settings to refer to overdue loan payments or account payments. While the word arrears does not always have a negative connotation, it often does.


  1. Arrears Synonyms | Power Thesaurus
  2. Arrears Definition & Meaning | 
  3. Savings synonyms – 555 Words and Phrases for Savings | Power Thesaurus  
  4. Arrears Definition | Investopedia 
  5. Arrears | Nice Translator