late 13c., dette, from Old French dete, from Latin debitum "thing owed," neuter past participle of debere "to owe," originally, "keep something away from someone," from de- "away" (see de-) + habere "to have" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive"). Restored spelling after c. 1400. In Middle English, debt of the body (mid-14c.) was "that which spouses owe to each other, sexual intercourse."
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