Happy birthday in arrears: What does happy birthday in arrears mean?

Is ‘happy birthday in arrears’ a correct English?

The phrase “Happy birthday in arrears” is not a common or widely recognized English expression. In standard English, the phrase “happy belated birthday” is more commonly used to convey the idea of wishing someone a happy birthday after the actual date has passed.


“Belated” means “coming or happening later than should have been the case,” and when used in the context of a birthday greeting, it signifies that the person is extending their birthday wishes after the actual birthday has occurred.

READ MORE: Broken English Meaning & Examples

So, it is more appropriate to say “Happy belated birthday” rather than “Happy birthday in arrears” to convey the intended meaning.

What does a happy birthday in arrears mean?

The phrase “happy birthday in arrears” is not a commonly used or recognized English expression. However, if someone were to use this phrase, it could possibly mean that they are offering belated birthday wishes or acknowledging that they are late in extending birthday greetings.

“In arrears” typically refers to something that is overdue or late, often in a financial or payment context. In the case of “happy birthday in arrears,” it might imply that the person is apologizing for the delay in wishing someone a happy birthday and is expressing their good wishes after the actual date has passed.


The word “Arrears” according to the Oxford Dictionary simply means money that is owed and should have been paid earlier.

An example of the word in a sentence is given below:

“He was suing the lessee for the arrears of rent”

Synonyms include: liabilities, indebtedness, dues, balance e.t.c

This means that if you are wishing someone happy birthday in arrears, you’re saying something totally different from what I’m sure you had in mind. So, if you come across people saying ‘Happy birthday in arrears” to someone they missed his/her birthday, know that this is incorrect.


Since the word “Arrears” means money that is owed and should have been paid earlier, examples are given below on how it could be used in a sentence.

1. Police officers have been receiving salaries for months in arrears

2. People were unhappy about the struggling economy, the cost of medicine and utilities, and wage arrears.

However, do not make the mistake of using “arrears” while trying to send birthday greetings to someone you had earlier missed his/her birthday.


As a result of the diversity of the English Language, different individuals, cultures, and even countries might disagree on the exact right words to say to someone you missed his/her birthday. In some cultures, it is ideal to say “Happy belated birthday” if you missed someone else’s birthday however, in another culture, this is totally incorrect.

For example, in Britain, saying “Belated Happy Birthday” is considered correct while some Americans would rather stick to “Happy Belated Birthday”.

According to some cultures, wishing someone a “happy belated birthday” is improper because it can imply that the birthday itself was delayed rather than just your wishes. You don’t mean this at all.

When you wish someone a “Belated Happy Birthday,” you are actually wishing them a late Happy Birthday. This is the appropriate phrase because the latter is what you actually intend.

Therefore, it greatly varies depending on each culture, even if “Belated Happy Birthday” is frequently used as the appropriate greeting. Therefore, no matter what greeting you select, always keep in mind that wishing someone a “happy birthday in arrears” is completely inappropriate.

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