Each year a country may be in national deficit or surplus. National deficit either increases national debt or eventually leads to debt.
National debt of the United States

National surplus either increases or leads to ______ (what word/s goes here)?

The opposite of deficit is surplus. When I searched for "opposite of debt" or "opposite of national debt" I got the following results:

If you have debt you are the Debtor or Borrower. The opposite would be The Lender or Debt Originator.


The opposite of having debt is being unaccountable.
Quora answers

I have seen people suggest "credit". This makes sense to me when talking about finances of individuals or groups, but I'm not sure I've heard people talk about "national credit" in the way they talk about "national debt", and a search returns results that are quite different from what I have in mind.

In this context (ie., national spending), is there a word that suitably applies to "surplus" as "debt" applies to "deficit"?

Edit: Just in case, I'll explain further. If my country's government has zero debt and has a deficit of $2 billion, after two years the "national debt", "government debt", "public debt" or whatever you want to call it might be $4 billion. If we start with zero debt and my country's government is in surplus for two years, then we can expect roughly for it to be or have (what) after two years? I think the word "surplus" also fits in accordance with the general meaning of "surplus", but "surplus" has a specific meaning of:

2.a.an excess of government revenues over expenditures during a certain financial year
Collins Dictionary

  • What do you mean by "national deficit"? If you're talking about the trade deficit that isn't a debt, or even if debt is involved it's not government debt.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 8:22
  • @nnnnnn From Wikipedia: "The terms "national deficit" and "national surplus" usually refer to the federal government budget balance from year to year, not the cumulative amount of debt." Basically I understand it as how much spending is done compared to revenue. I know deficit leads to debt or increases debt, but I don't know the word for what surplus leads to. Wikipedia has an article on "government debt", aka "public debt", which is what it says deficit leads to. "The outstanding public debt is an expression of the accumulated previous budget deficits"
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 8:56
  • I'd say that the opposite of deficit is surplus and the opposite of debt is assets.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 9:15
  • I think the answer is probably "credit". But the reason you haven't heard it much used is because there are few countries that are in that happy position - certainly no Anglophonic ones.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 9:32
  • @WS2 Yes! That's what I was thinking when I wondered why I don't hear it much or maybe there isn't a single word for it, because everyone's in debt.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 10:44

3 Answers 3


The opposite of deficit is surplus, so it follows that you need the opposite of debt. The opposite of debt is equity (see def. 4), so you'd say, "Debt is to deficit as equity is to surplus." How do I know this? My bachelor's in business administration.

  • Op question is about National accounting, not private.
    – user 66974
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:38

fiscal balance (Business Dictionary)

Amount of money government has from tax revenue and the proceeds of assets sold, minus any government spending. When the balance is negative, the government has a fiscal deficit. When the balance is positive, the government has a fiscal surplus.

So, I think, the term fiscal balance is fit into the OP's context.

National surplus either increases or leads to fiscal balance.

  • 1
    Interesting answer. I think that description of fiscal balance means how much surplus or deficit there is (on a periodic basis such as yearly). I don't think it's using the terms "deficit" and "surplus" in an accumulative sense like debt, but in the normal sense. It says the "fiscal balance" can either be positive or negative so I'm not sure about "National surplus either increases or leads to fiscal balance."
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 10:39
  • Looking at it another way, if you say the finance minister/secretary balanced the budget, I suppose the budget would be in fiscal balance. I'm not sure whether this would mean necessarily that it's a positive balance.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 10:43
  • Sorry, I think I meant to say someone can balance the budget so as to be in positive fiscal balance but still be in debt.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 10:50

I think there's a problem of definition in the question. A nation that exports more than it imports builds up a credit balance, and may be called a creditor country, though the balance is not simple to evaluate; it depends on exchange rates and may be cancelled by a refusal to pay (often called a debt moratorium) by the debtor country.

However, this does not affect the National Debt, consisting of the government bonds that have been issued and will be redeemed in the future. At its simplest, this represents a debt owed by the state to some of its citizens. Almost all governments run such a debt, and have done since they acquired the mechanical ability to do so (quite possibly before that, in the form "the King would like to borrow some money to finance his next war; the soldiers on your doorstep will be happy to take delivery".)

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