What's the verb to say the behavior of someone who refuse to repay the money he owed? (Even if he knows it and is able to pay it back.)

As far as I know, there is a commonly used noun which called deadbeat to describe this kind of person, but is there a corresponding verb to describe this kind of behavior (idiomatic one) in English?

How would you say it in real life conversation?

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    Do you want formal terms or colloquial terms? For example, "He defaulted on a loan" or "He stiffed me and didn't pay me back"
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 11:39
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    Renege works in any register: it marks strong disapprobation of the failure to repay a debt or fulfil a promise. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 13:31
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    The full OED says to welsh [on a bet, for example] is "sometimes considered offensive in view of the conjectured connection with Welsh people*. But in fact OED don't seem to particularly endorse that etymology anyway (they say "Origin uncertain"). Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:30
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    @Fumblefingers FWIW - Growing up in my (PNW) corner of America, I only heard "welch," never "welsh." We only used it for bets, though, not for general debt. More on the etymology at ELU: english.stackexchange.com/questions/72806/…
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


In everyday conversation, you might say something like, "He's avoiding paying back the money he owes." Another more colloquial phrase is "to skip out on" or "to dodge" a debt, as in, "He's skipping out on the money he owes" or "He's dodging his debt."

While there isn't a specific idiomatic verb that corresponds directly to the noun "deadbeat," using phrases like "avoiding paying back," "skipping out on," or "dodging" should convey the intended meaning effectively in casual conversations.


What's the verb to say the behavior of someone who refuse to repay the money he owed? (Even if he knows and is able to pay it back.)

This is stealing.

Someone who is not paying back a loan is typically disputing the loan, because they believe they don't owe the money, if they are not maliciously withholding it.

If they merely have not paid back the loan and you don't know what the intent of the borrower is, delinquent is the term banks use.

Renege is a word that in general means "go back on your word or promise", it could sort of fit, but the first thing that comes to mind for me with this word is lying about your cards you have when you are playing the card game of spades.

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    I'd probably disagree with this. You might say that refusing to pay someone is tantamount to stealing, but it doesn't really describe the refusal to pay itself. Also, it might be stealing if you borrow money and don't pay it back, but is it stealing if you don't pay up on a stupid bet you made? In the latter case, I think the answer is a definitive no. You can't steal what the other person never had in the first place. I think "stiff," "renege" and "welsh/welch" as mentioned in comments are all more accurate.
    – cjl750
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:25
  • Ok, probably the term delinquent is better, but that implies that the loaner doesn't believe intentional deception or unwillingness to pay on the part of the borrower. If the borrower outright refuses to pay back a debt he/she knows about and agreed to pay back, and can do so, it's really not different from theft. There are many types or words that can describe theft, such as burglary, shoplifting, larceny, conversion, etc. This type of theft may fall into the category of fraud, if it's having to do with financial instruments like loans.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:34
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    This is like saying that sailing a boat is "controlling a vehicle". Sure it's correct but it doesn't communicate the situation very well.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:38
  • Say you've been wronged or damaged by a sailing boat, and e.g. a legal remedy is available involving who is controlling a vehicle ... suddenly I think many people would consider "controlling a vehicle" to include "sailing a boat", "riding a skateboard", "sliding on an icy sidewalk with slippers", "isn't the ground/water/air technically a vehicle if you really think about it", etc.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:43

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