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From Middle English arere, from Old French arere, ariere, from Vulgar Latin *ad retro (to the rear).



arrear (comparative more arrear, superlative most arrear)

  1. (obsolete) Towards the rear, backwards. [14th-16th c.]
    • 1591, Edmund Spenser, Virgil's Gnat, ll. 465-8:
      She, (Ladie) having well before approoved / The feends to be too cruell and severe, / Observ'd th' appointed way, as her behooved, / Ne ever did her ey-sight turne arere [...].
  2. (obsolete) Behind time; overdue. [15th-19th c.]
    • 1803, Edward Hyde East, Reports of cases Argued and determined in the Court of King's Bench, London 1814, vol. 3, p. 559:
      In case the annuity should be arrear for sixty days being lawfully demanded, then the trustee might enter upon the premises assigned [...].


arrear (plural arrears)

  1. Work to be done, obligation.
    • November 4, 1866, James David Forbes, letter to E. C. Batten
      I have a large arrear of letters to write.
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, Dracula, New York, N.Y.: Modern Library, OCLC 688657546:
      My own work, with its manifold arrears, took me all day to clear off.
    • 1960 February, R. C. Riley, “The London-Birmingham services - Past, Present and Future”, in Trains Illustrated, page 98:
      After World War II it took time to clear up the arrears of track maintenance on both lines and it was not until 1953 that the L.M.R. restored any two-hour schedules, the W.R. following suit a year later.
  2. Unpaid debt.
    fall into arrears
    • 1987, Grateful Dead (lyrics and music), “Touch of Grey”, in In the Dark:
      I know the debt is in arrears / The dog has not been fed in years / It's even worse than it appears, but / It's alright
  3. That which is in the rear or behind.




Possibly from a Vulgar Latin *arredō (arrange, provide), from Vandalic *rith (advice).


arrear (first-person singular present indicative arreio, past participle arreado)

  1. (transitive) to harness (to place a harness on something)
    Synonym: aparelhar


Derived terms[edit]



Possibly from a Vulgar Latin *arredō (arrange, provide), from Vandalic *rith (advice)[1]. Cognate with English array. Less likely from arre +‎ -ar.


  • IPA(key): /areˈaɾ/, [a.reˈaɾ]


arrear (first-person singular present arreo, first-person singular preterite arreé, past participle arreado)

  1. to urge
  2. to harness
  3. to drive (cattle), herd


Further reading[edit]