Poor single mothers in Egypt often borrow money from the bank to support their families. They also buy on credit things like a daughter's trousseau. Then they fail to pay off their debts and end up in jail. The Arabic word for women who go to jail as a result of failing to pay their debts is gharimat. How can we describe them in English with as few words as possible? I'm thinking defaulters.


I intend to use the word in a news headline:

Mr. X's philanthropy releases 500 gharimats from prison.

  • 1
    Not sure, but there's some reading in English here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison
    – user230
    Feb 2, 2018 at 23:29
  • Nouns in English ending in -er always have connotations that prevent the noun from being perfectly unbiased and objective. It is impossible to label something objectively, in an unbiased manner. So, rather than looking for "as few words as possible", why not look for "as many words as possible"?
    – TimR
    Feb 3, 2018 at 0:37
  • Maybe a deadbeat or a welsher? Both are a bit slangy, though. Defaulters is rather technical, but probably more correct.
    – stangdon
    Feb 3, 2018 at 1:21
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo, Because the English word will be included in a news headline: Mr. X's philanthropy releases 500 Gharimats from prison.. After reading Snailplane's topic, I think 'female debt prisoners' may work.
    – Sara
    Feb 3, 2018 at 2:24
  • 1
    @Sara: "female debt prisoners" is serviceable if clunky. But you could use a more expansive phrase, space allowing: "releases 500 women imprisoned for debt" or " ....releases 500 women from debtor's prison". Why label the women? Why not label the prison?
    – TimR
    Feb 3, 2018 at 11:37

1 Answer 1


Charles Dickens' father was sent to Marshalsea Debtor's Prison in 1824. Since then, the idea of sending bankrupt people to prison has fallen out of favour, and the term debtor is simply used for somebody who owes money, regardless of whether they have defaulted on repayment.

Given that the headline is talking about people being released from prison, it is probably safe to assume that we are talking about debtors that have defaulted on repayments.

Defaulter is mainly used about failing to make repayments on a debt, but can also be used for somebody who defaults on any legal agreement, so debtor is probably the clearer term to use.

Words in English don't have endings to indicate gender, as the -aat ending does in Arabic. If you want to make it clear that you are referring to women, you could say women debtors or female debtors.

  • Yes, I think debtors is a perfect choice. Thank you. Btw, I peeked at your profile and I'm glad we both live in the same country :)
    – Sara
    Feb 3, 2018 at 20:21

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