Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    That which one owes to another; a just demand. See Ann. Cas. (Conn.) 1914C, 1059.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    A sum of money due by certain and express agreement; as by band for a determinate sum, a bill or note, a special bargain or a rent reserved on a lease, where the amount Is fixed and specific, and does not depend upon any subsequent valuation to settle it. 3 Bl. Comm. 154; Camden v. Allen, 26 N. J. Law, 398; Appeal of City of Erie, 91 Pa. 398; Dickey v. Leonard, 77 Ga. 151; Hagar v. Reclamation Dist., Ill U. S. 701, 4 Sup. Ct 663, 28 L. Ed. 569; Appeal Tax Court v. Rice, 50 Md. 302. A debt is a sum of money due by contract. It is most frequently due by a certain and express agreement, which fixes the amount, independent of extrinsic circumstances. But it is not essential that the contract should be express, or that it should fix the precise amount to be paid. In S. v. Colt, 1 Peti C. C. 145, Fed. Cas. No. 14,839. Standing alone, the word "debt" is as applicable to a sum of money which has been promised at a future day, as to a sum of money now due and payable. To distinguish between the two, it may be said of the former that it is a debt owing, and of the latter that it is a debt due. Whether a claim or demand is a debt or not is in no respect determined by a reference to the time of payment. A sum of money which is certainly and in all events payable is a debt, without regard to the fact whether it be payable now or at a future time. A sum payable upon a contingency, however, is not a debt, or does not become a debt until the contingency has happened. People v. Arguello, 37 Cal. 624. The word "debt" is of large import, including not only debts of record, or judgments, and debts by specialty, but also obligations arising under simple contract, to a very wide extent; and in its popular sense includes ali that is due to a man under any form of obligation or promise. Gray v. Bennett, 3 Mete. (Mass.) 522, 526. "Debt" has been differently defined, owing to the different subject-matter of the statutes in which it has been used. Ordinarily, it imports a sum of money arising upon a contract, express or implied. In its more general sense, it is defined to be that which is due from one person to another, whether money, goods, or services; that which one person is bound to pay or perform to another. Under the legal-tender statutes, it seems to import any obligation by contract, express or implied, which may be discharged by money through the voluntary action of the party bound. Wherever he may be at liberty to perform his obligation by the payment of a specific sum of money, the party owing the obligation is subject to what, in these statutes, is termed "debt." Kimpton v. Bronson, 45 Barb. (N. Y.) 618. The word is sometimes used to denote an aggregate of separate debts, or the total sum of the existing claims against a person or company. Thus we speak of the "national debt," the "bonded debt" of a corporation, etc. Synonyms. The term "demand" is of much broader Import than "debt," and embraces rights of action bslonging to the debtor beyond those which could appropriately be called "debts." In this respect the term "demand" is one of very extensive import In re Denny, 2 Hill (N. Y.) 223. The words "debt" and "liability" are not synonymous. As applied to the pecuniary relations of parties, liability is a term of broader significance than debt. The legal accoptation of debt is a sum of money due by certain and express agreement Liability is responsibility; the state of one who is bound in law and justice to do semething which may be enforced by action. This liability may arise from contracts either express or implied, or in censequence of torts committed. McElfresh v. Kirkendall, 36 Iowa, 226. "Debt" is not exactly synonymous with "duty." A debt is a legal liability to pay a specific sum of money; a duty is a legal obligation to perform some act. Alien v. Dick-sen, Minor (Ala.) 120. In practice. The name of a common-law action, which lies to recover a certain specific sum of money, or a sum that can read-lly be reduced to a certainty. 3 Bl. Comm. 154; 3 Steph. Comm. 461; 1 Tidd. Pr. 3. It is said to lie in the debet and detinet, (when it is stated that the defendant owes and detains,) or in the detinet, (when it is stated merely that he detains.) Debt in the detinet for goods differs from detinue, because it is not essential in this action, as in detinue, that the specific property in the goods should have been vested in the plaintiff at the time the action is brought. Dyer, 24b.
    —Debt by simple contract. A debt or demand founded upon a verbal or implied contract, or upon any written agreement that is not under seal.
    —Debt by specialty. A debt due, or acknowledged to be due, by some deed or instrument under seal; as a deed of covenant or sale, a lease' reserving rent, or a bond or obligation. 2 Bl. Comm. 465; Kerr v. Ly-decker, 51 Ohio St. 240, 37 N. E. 267, 23 In R. A. 842; Marriott v. Thompson, Willes, 189.
    —Debt ex mntuo. A species of debt or obligation mentioned by Glanville and Bracton, and which arose em m,utuo, out of a certain kind of loan. Gian. lib. 10, c. 3; Bract, fol. 99. See Mutuum; Ex Mutuo.
    —Debt of record. A debt which appears to be due by the evidence of a court of reconi, as by a judgment or recognizance. 2 Bl. Comm. 465.
    —Legal debts. Those that are recoverable in a court of common law, as debt on a bili of exchange, a bond, or a simple contract. Rogers v. Daniell, 8 Allen (Mass.) 348; Guild v. Walter, 182 Mass. 225, 65 N. E. 68.
    —Mutual debts. Money due on bath sides between two persons.
    —Passive debt. A debt upon which, by agreement between the debtor and creditor, no interest is payable, as distinguished from active debt; i. e., a debt upon which interest is payable. In this sense, the terms "active" and "passive" are applied to certain debts due from the Spanish government to Great Britain. Wharton. In another sense of the words, a debt is "active" or "passive" according as the person of the creditor or debtor is regarded ; a passive debt being that which a man owes; an active debt that which is owing to him. In this meaning every debt is both active and passive,
    —active as regards the creditor, passive as regards the debtor.
    —Public debt. That which is due or owing by the government of a state or nation. The terms "public debt" and "public securities," used in legislation, are terms generally applied to national or state obligations and dues, and would rarely, if ever, be construed to include town debts or obligations; nor would the term "public revenue" ordinarily be applied to funds arising from town taxes. Morgan v. Cree, 46 Vt. 773, 14 Am. Rep. 640.
    —Pure debt. In Scotch law. A debt due now and unconditionally is so called. It is thus distinguished from a future debt,
    —payable at a fixed day in the future,
    —and a contingent debt, which will only become due upon the happening of a certain contingency.
    —Simple contract debt. One where the contract upon which the obligation arises is neither ascertained by matter of record nor yet by deed or special instrument, but by mere oral evidence the most simple of any, or by notes unsenied, which are capable of a more easy proof, and therefore only better than a verbal promise. 2 Bl. Comm. 466.