ben·​e·​fi·​cia·​ry ˌbe-nə-ˈfi-shē-ˌer-ē How to pronounce beneficiary (audio)
-ˈfi-sh(ə-)rē How to pronounce beneficiary (audio)
plural beneficiaries
: a person or thing that receives help or an advantage from something : one that benefits from something
the main beneficiaries of these economic reforms
law : the person designated to receive the income of an estate that is subject to a trust (see trust entry 1 sense 3a)
: the person named (as in an insurance policy) to receive proceeds or benefits (see benefit entry 1 sense 2b)
named his brother as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy

Did you know?

Beneficiary is often used in connection with life insurance, but it shows up in many other contexts as well. A college may be the beneficiary of a private donation. Your uncle's will may make a church his sole beneficiary, in which case all his money and property will go to it when he dies. A "third-party beneficiary" of a contract is a person (often a child) who the people signing the contract (which is usually an insurance policy or an employee-benefit plan) want to benefit from it. In a more general way, a small business may be a beneficiary of changes to the tax code, or a restaurant may be the beneficiary when the one across the street closes down and its whole lunch crowd starts coming in.

Examples of beneficiary in a Sentence

The college was a beneficiary of the private grant.
Recent Examples on the Web Mexico has been among the beneficiaries of the growing shift away from reliance on Chinese factories. Paul Wiseman, Fortune, 8 Feb. 2024 In May 2022, The Post reported on the scope of the anti-fraud program’s fines, including unprecedented penalties against more than 100 beneficiaries without due process. Joe Davidson, Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2024 About 29% of beneficiaries in Alabama who’ve had eligibility reviews were disenrolled for procedural reasons, KFF found. Phil Galewitz, Los Angeles Times, 7 Feb. 2024 The lower the price is, the more that the Medicare program and many Medicare beneficiaries spend. ABC News, 1 Feb. 2024 Since private-school vouchers launched in Ohio nearly three decades ago, there has been a debate over who their true beneficiaries are. Alec MacGillis, ProPublica, 31 Jan. 2024 But Social Security beneficiaries may get hit with higher taxes, Jaeger warned. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 24 Jan. 2024 The beneficiaries would be low- and middle-income adults seeking to change careers or gain credentials for higher-paying jobs. Bloomberg Opinion, Twin Cities, 21 Jan. 2024 Orban knows exactly how valuable his support is to the West so can hold allied states over a barrel, even though Hungary is a net beneficiary within both the EU and NATO. Luke McGee, CNN, 28 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'beneficiary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see benefice

First Known Use

1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of beneficiary was in 1627

Dictionary Entries Near beneficiary

Cite this Entry

“Beneficiary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural beneficiaries
: a person who benefits or is expected to benefit from something
the beneficiary of life insurance

Legal Definition


ben·​e·​fi·​cia·​ry ˌbe-nə-ˈfi-shē-ˌer-ē, -ˈfi-shə-rē How to pronounce beneficiary (audio)
plural beneficiaries
: a person or entity (as a charity or estate) that receives a benefit from something (as a will or other instrument or legal agreement): as
: the person or entity named or otherwise entitled to receive the principal or income or both from a trust compare settlor, trustee
contingent beneficiary
: a beneficiary that may receive proceeds from a trust depending on the occurrence of a specified event (as the death of another beneficiary)
income beneficiary
: a beneficiary that according to the provisions of a trust is to receive income but not the principal of the trust

Note: A trust may provide for income to be paid to someone (as a spouse) for his or her lifetime and then for payment of the principal to another person. A trustee is sometimes allowed to distribute some of the principal of the trust to an income beneficiary when necessary for the support of the beneficiary if support of the beneficiary was the purpose of the trust.

: the person or entity named by the insured of a life insurance policy to receive the proceeds upon the insured's death
contingent beneficiary
: a beneficiary named to receive the insurance proceeds if the primary beneficiary has died

called also secondary beneficiary

primary beneficiary \ ˈprī-​ˌmer-​ē-​, -​mə-​rē-​ \
: a beneficiary named to receive the insurance proceeds before any other
secondary beneficiary \ ˈsek-​ən-​ˌder-​ē-​ \
: contingent beneficiary in this entry
: a person or entity entitled under a letter of credit to demand payment from the issuer of the letter
: a person or entity that benefits from a promise, agreement, or contract
especially : third-party beneficiary in this entry
the contractual beneficiaries…are mortgagees and investors Key Pac. Mortg. Inc. v. Industrial Indem. Co., 845 P.2d 1087 (1993)
creditor beneficiary
: a direct beneficiary whom the party paying for the other party's performance intends to benefit as payment for a debt or obligation compare donee beneficiary in this entry
direct beneficiary
: a third-party beneficiary to a contract whom the parties to the contract intended to benefit compare incidental beneficiary in this entry
donee beneficiary
: a direct beneficiary whom the party paying for the other party's performance intends to benefit as a gift or donation
incidental beneficiary
: a third-party beneficiary to a contract whom the parties to the contract did not intend to benefit compare direct beneficiary in this entry
third-party beneficiary
: a person or entity that is not a party to but has rights under a contract made by two other parties
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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