I just feel like unrepayable isn't actually a word. Thesauri are not being helpful.

Consider a case in which someone saves your child's life. There is nothing you can ever do to pay them back for this favor.

What they have done for you is [word I'm looking for].

  • When you are unable to repay a debt to someone, you are said to be broke! Or, as Ray Charles used to sing, "I'm busted!" To be hoity toity about things, you could also say "I'm insolvent." Or, as Wimpy in the Popeye cartoon strip used to say, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." Of course, that locution simply delays the inevitable "I'm busted" come Tuesday! Jun 5, 2013 at 15:30
  • Bankrupt is a word that means exactly this. (adj.) Declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts. (noun) A person unable to satisfy any just claims made upon him or her. Jun 5, 2013 at 19:31
  • @RegDwighт, you're right. I have reworded both title and question to make the meaning clearer. Jun 5, 2013 at 21:32
  • @rhetorician : the meaning I am looking for is in the body of the text: unrepayable, rather than my poorly written title. :) Jun 5, 2013 at 21:33
  • 1
    unrequitable: something that can not be returned in kind
    – JustinC
    Jun 7, 2013 at 14:37

7 Answers 7


What they have done for you is unrequitable

from v. requite: to make repayment or return for service, benefits, etc.

It can be found in sonnets and poems in the context of love and also of favours


I think there is a more common expression which might express the deep gratitude one feels towards another person, a person who has saved your child's life. I would say to that man or woman

Thank you—I am forever indebted to you.

Typical collocations with indebted are:

  • deeply, greatly, much, profoundly
  • eternally, forever
  • This collocation seems to be have been well established already some 250 years ago: "Do so," said De Gondomar, "and I shall be forever indebted to you.." The Tatler; or, Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq - Vol. 1 - page 139 (1764) Nov 15, 2013 at 21:12

"There is nothing that I can pay you for your deed. What you have done is priceless."

I can't think of anything else, but maybe this will get some ideas started for you.


You can open up the list of possible words by using qualifiers, if you'd prefer.

"I am unable to repay you."

"I cannot reimburse you."

If you're trying to go for a more emotional effect, you might say you are "forever indebted" to the person. I would use this last phrasing, personally, especially in the sample case you've given of saving someone's child.


I would say "What they have done for you is invaluable".


Some favors or mitzvahofs cannot be repaid. The act of shoveling dirt into the grave of a loved one is a mitzvahof that cannot be repaid by the person being buried.

  • 1
    The OP is probably looking for an English word. Nov 29, 2014 at 15:52

Beholden : owing a debt that can never be repaid but emotional vs material

  • 1
    Hi Sara, this would benefit from a reference. Please take the tour and see the FAQ, and welcome to EL&U.
    – livresque
    Jun 3, 2021 at 23:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.