What does the idiom "in arrears" mean?

The phrase in arrears is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of in arrears.

Meaning of "in arrears"


The idiom “in arrears” is used to describe a person who is behind in their payments and owes money. In other words, it is the state of owing money that is overdue or past due. This idiom is commonly used in the financial context, but it can also have a more general usage in certain contexts, such as when discussing a person’s poor credit score or that they are not up to date on their bills.


The phrase “in arrears” has its roots in the Latin word “arriere” which means “backward” or “behind.” This is believed to be the origin of the phrase due to the fact that when one is in arrears, their payments are behind or overdue. Over time, the phrase has taken on the meaning of being in a state of owing money that is overdue.


This idiom is used when referring to a person who is behind in their payments and thus, owes money. This can be either a literal or figurative case, as “in arrears” is often used to describe a person who is behind in their payments but has not yet defaulted on their loan or other financial obligation. It is also often used to describe someone who is behind in their payment schedule on a loan or other financial obligation.

Example Sentences

  • He was in arrears on his car payments and was in danger of having his car repossessed.
  • The tenants were in arrears on their rent and so the landlord decided to evict them.
  • She was in arrears on her credit card payments and was worried about her credit score.

The meanings of the words in the "in arrears" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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