Edit - My question doesn't refer to bank loans or credit card accounts. Nor does it refer to getting things out of other people's generosity. It is specifically about money and the putative duplicate doesn't address that. If there is no specific word for someone who never pays back his debts, then the answer here should be "there is no specific word for that".

I'm looking for a slang word or idiom for a person who borrows small amounts from friends or relatives (say US$ 50-200) and never pays them back. Usually this kind of person has low-income or is jobless. He is irresponsible, he knows he won't be able to pay his debts but doesn't care. (Perhaps because he knows nobody will be taking him to court because of US$20 or 50.)

"I wouldn't lend him one cent. Everybody knows he's a ........."

  • @ermanen I've gone through the link you mentioned and there isn't an answer there. My question here is about Money and has nothing to do with generosity. So much so that this kind of person becomes a notorious non-payer and will eventually find it difficult to borrow more.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 19:51
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    @ermanen Yes, answers are the same but none of them seems to address the specificity of the question, they fit there but not here. I'm sure there is a slang word for this, but it hasn't come up so far. I admit, however, that you may be right and I may be wrong. But I try hard not to formulate a useless question. :)
    – Centaurus
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 20:16
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    How about welch or welcher? Though it is usually used in betting/gambling.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 20:43
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    I have a friend like that, so we call him Crime- as in Crime doesn't pay :)
    – user92764
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 0:55
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    @Centaurus: Who said anything about "deserve"? Oral is not the same as moral. Pejoration can be anything, whether brutal and offensive or nuanced and ironic, that calls unpleasant attention to someone; 'unpleasant', that is, in the opinion of the victim. I don't apply the term to non-humans; cars, flies, and politicians have no shame and can't be offended by pejoration). Commented May 29, 2015 at 22:01

13 Answers 13


You can consider welch or welcher. These terms are used for people who fail to repay a small debt. The debt is usually a betting or gambling debt but these terms can be applied to other contexts as well. They are considered derogatory.

welch (n)

A person who defaults on an obligation, especially a small one.

She's a welch. That isn't hers, I lent her that watering can three years ago.

welch (v)

  1. To fail to repay a small debt.
  2. To fail to fulfill an obligation.


Related questions:

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    Perfect. This is the only answer which exactly matches the semantics of the question, I think. The rest more generally describe someone who is cheap, without any specific implication of failure to repay small debts. Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 22:25
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    Despite my numeric lead, I'm inclined to agree that welching is a slightly better word than mooching. Mooching might be money, but more likely means begging half your lunch sandwich or a beer from your fridge. Welching is far more moolah-oriented, albeit it can be large sum. Welching is a far more serious crime than mooching. Both terms, of course are a bit quaint, more likely to be heard on the Honeymooners than Big Brother. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 8:55
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    bear in mind the first of the related questions, using this term might get you in trouble, probably more so in the UK
    – jk.
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 9:25
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    Good one! I couldn't think of this at all, but knew it was right as soon as I laid eyes on it! Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 12:52
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    Hmm. For me at least welch/welcher is limited specifically to gambling. The idea of not lending somebody money because he's a welcher doesn't make sense to me. I agree that "moocher" can involve things other than money, but usually it doesn't. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 12:44

Moocher--a bit old-fashioned and not much in use nowadays.

Deadbeat is a bit more general.

Or sponge.

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    Mooch/moocher is good, as in "Joe's a no good moocher", or "Joe makes me sick, he's always mooching off his grandparents".
    – Doktor J
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 22:27
  • There's also just Mooch. There's also Minnie the moocher.
    – user39425
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 4:20
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    I use mooch regularly, so I wouldn't consider it old-fashioned. However, the question specifically mentions that "borrowing without repaying" is a key factor. I believe mooch, moocher, and the other terms in this answer are more applicable to people in a group who rely unnecessarily heavily on the other people in the group, themselves contributing far less than they're able. For example, if my brother lives with me in hard times, I don't expect him to back-pay rent when he gets back on his feet, but if he never does anything within his means to help around the house then he's mooching.
    – talrnu
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 13:04
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    "Deadbeat" is much more on-target than "moocher." Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 17:25

Deadbeat specifically means someone who doesn't pay back money borrowed, or debts owed, ever. A deadbeat borrows, and betrays trust of family and friends.

A moocher or a sponge or a freeloader or a scrounger have similar meanings to each other, but different than deadbeat. All are cheapskates, consistently taking advantage of the generosity or obliviousness of others in a non-business context. These terms do not necessarily, or even customarily, refer to taking money, but rather, sharing a ride but not reciprocating as promised, sharing a hotel room at a convention but not contributing to the expenses etc.

It isn't especially relevant to this question, but since a highly regarded community member with an up voted answer used an ngram (not "ngam"), I will do similarly to make my case for deadbeat.

google ngram word frequency chart

See Deadbeat versus moocher, sponge, scrounger and freeloader for the associated Google Ngram Viewer query.

  • I was going to upvote your answer, but then I saw it's a duplicate. Please see @Jens Andersen's.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 7:21
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    I usually hear "deadbeat" in the context of a father who refuses to pay child support. That may be sufficient to explain the uptick in the ngram- I would be interested to see the curve if you searched for the specific term "deadbeat dad". Incidentally in the years since 2000 the frequency of "deadbeat" has started to drop...
    – Floris
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 16:28
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    @Floris: That's a relatively recent, specific use (and with a lot of popularity). But the general term is exactly applicable here. Of course, this is English, in 20 years "deadbeat" may be so associated with "deadbeat dad" that the older general meaning fades away. Don't think we're close to that yet, though. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 17:28
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    While "welch" is also a good answer, this is the one that I'd put in the OP's blank most naturally, so I think this is the best one.
    – Casey
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 0:57
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    Thank you much, @Casey after all this time. It always great to be validated! Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 13:49

A scrounger is a term commonly used for this kind of person:

to scrounge: (from TFD)

  • To obtain (something) by begging or borrowing with no intention of reparation: scrounged a few dollars off my brother.

to scrounge: (from OED)

  • Seek to obtain (something, typically food or money) at the expense or through the generosity of others or by stealth. ( from OED).

Ngram: scrounger, freeloader, sponger and moocher.

  • 10
    To me, scrounger just means someone who looks for things that are available for free and doesn't imply that they obtain them dishonestly or with any (unfulfilled) promise to pay someone for them. For example, "I scrounged an old tv set my neighbor was going to throw away."
    – The Photon
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 5:02
  • 1
    This has nothing to do with the question and is just wrong. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 6:13
  • Scrounge fits the context as explained clearly in the definitions I posted!!
    – user66974
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 6:25
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    @Josh61 - It doesn't. Not even a little bit. Worse is that it is confusing to a non-native speaker. What's worse is that you Ngram words that do work and compare them to a word whose definition is well off from what was wanted. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:55

Sponger: Freeloader: Parasite: Leech: Bloodsucker; will all serve your purpose, but use at your own discretion as some are stronger than others. Sponger could be used quite lightly, but parasite would be harsh.


'You sir! Are a freeloading, bloodsucking parasite!'

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    A freeloader might just crash on your couch and eat everything in your fridge but never ask for money. A sponge or sponger is specifically a money borrower who doesn't repay though. Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 14:36
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    I would say the use of parasite has more of a social meaning, like the guy who's always on unemployment. Same with leech.
    – user39425
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 4:27
  • 1
    A freeloader might just crash on your couch and eat everything in your fridge and ask you for 10 bucks in the morning
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 13:25

In New Zealand and Australia we might use the term bludger.

  • 1
    Another similar Australian slang word is scab.
    – sjy
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 2:56

I hear "mooch" more than I hear "moocher." To me it means someone who's always looking to get other people to give them stuff.

I don't know that I've heard "scrounger" or "scrounge" since I was a teen -- which is a long time ago.

To me, "deadbeat" is the closest word, as in "deadbeat dad," a father who owes child support but isn't paying it.

As with most slang, though, it's subjective and probably regional.

  • 4
    Deadbeat is by far the most direct word for this. Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 22:26
  • I had only ever heard "scrounger" used in a Monty Python skit ("He says the bird are scrounging!"). I had to look it up. I assumed it was a British thing.
    – Preston
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 0:27
  • I almost never use deadbeat in this way. To me a deadbeat dad is one that welches on his fatherly duties; more than financial.
    – user39425
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 4:29
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    @fredsbend: That's a use of deadbeat, certainly, but someone who fails to repay loans is absolutely a deadbeat as well. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 17:26
  • I'm with "Deadbeat". It carries the correct connotation here. Someone who CAN pay but chooses not to. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 3:56

In the digital generation, leecher is also used. It can include other kinds of social parasitism, but the not-repaying-money scenario is a very good example for it.

As far as I'm aware, the origin is from P2P networks. But maybe there is an earlier use which was already established when the term became common in P2P.

  • 1
    Figuratively applied to human parasites since 1784: I don't think this has its origin in P2P networks.
    – Gob Ties
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 13:34
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    @Geobits what you linked is "leech", as in the animal. Not "leecher", which is a different word, the opposite of "seeder". I can imagine it being derived from the animal, but it's still not the same.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 13:41
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    I would say it's just a variant on leech. The figurative meaning is the same.
    – Gob Ties
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 13:51
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    I disagree with the variant interpretation. "Leech" and "leecher" are two different words, and in their original context, none can be substituted for the other. Each of them creates completely different associations in the one who hears them (at least if the person has heard "leecher" before in a network context). It is like the Italian-italic case discussed recently: one came from the other, but the meaning has deviated a lot.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 14:43

Another synonym I haven't seen mentioned yet is cadger. To cadge is to persuade someone to give you something, and a cadger is someone who cadges things.

Cadger should not be confused with codger, which is a mildly derogatory term for an old man.


'schnorrer'--A Yiddish/German term

to describe a freeloader who frequently asks for little things, like cigarettes or small sums of money without offering a return. The English usage of the word denotes a sly chiseler who will get money out of his acquaintances any way he can, often through an air of entitlement. A schnorrer is distinguished from an ordinary beggar by dint of his boundless 'chutzpah' [offensive nerve]. Like 'moocher', 'schnorrer' does not apply to direct begging or destitution, but rather to a habit of getting things (foods, tools) by politely or insistently borrowing them with no intention of return. [Wikipedia]

  • Perhaps you could show more clearly what parts of above are quoted, and provide a link. For quoted stuff put a > at beginning of line Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 13:57
  • @jwpat: The poster's wording was only slightly different from the original quotation from Wikipedia, so I restored the original and formatted it as a block quote. I hope that user3847 will feel free to add further distinctions and clarifications outside the block quote, if any such seem appropriate.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 23:31

In my circle if a friend borrowed money from another he would be called a reneger. Actually there is nothing in the world worse than a reneger.

A person who reneges.

To welsh on bets.

To consistently not honor contracts or commitments. I never make bets with Jack. He's a reneger and won't pay when he loses, but has no problem collecting when he wins.


Although this might not qualify as a slang, one humorous term that I have used to refer to a friend of mine is 'black-hole' in reference to the characteristic of this astronomical element which keeps sucking everything which comes near it and nothing ever comes out of it :)


Intended for people who ask for small loans with inconsiderable ability to pay back obligations.

loan shark: someone who never pays back.
loan junkie: someone who constantly asks for a loan.

  • 1
    LOAN SHARK is NOT someone who is hungry for loans. he/she is someone who lends money at high rates of interest, more like a moneymaker.
    – user93072
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 6:42
  • 659 hits on Google say "loan junkie" is a thing. +1
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 0:12

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