ear·​mark | \ˈir-ˌmärk \

Definition of earmark 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a mark of identification on the ear of an animal

2 : a distinguishing mark all the earmarks of poverty

3 : a provision in Congressional legislation that allocates a specified amount of money for a specific project, program, or organization


earmarked; earmarking; earmarks

Definition of earmark (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to mark (livestock) with an earmark

b : to mark in a distinguishing manner

2 : to designate (something, such as funds) for a specific use or owner money earmarked for education

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Examples of earmark in a Sentence


The project uses funds that had been earmarked for education. the earnings from my second job have been earmarked for a down payment on a car

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The House Rules Committee will convene hearings this month on earmarks, House aides said. Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, "Trump cools to idea of taking on welfare programs, seeing little chance of success in Congress," 5 Jan. 2018 At the very least, the earmark could provide Rail Link supporters with more political leverage in their quest. Jon Chesto, BostonGlobe.com, "North South Rail Link scores a Beacon Hill win," 7 June 2018 But that's not happening in 2018 and 2019 has all the earmarks of a full-on rebuild season. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Astros hold on against Rangers but Shin-Soo Choo stretches on-base streak to 43 games," 3 July 2018 But Allen says those grants have dried up in the past five years as Johnson County redirected those earmarks to building a handful of moderate-income home-ownership properties. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "JoCo agency gave low-income residents a lifeline. Now it's shutting down," 1 July 2018 The on-again, off-again summit meeting scheduling had all the earmarks of a television cliffhanger from a president who made a name for himself hosting a reality show on NBC for 14 years, only this time there were deadly serious consequences. Peter Baker, New York Times, "Trump Announces Summit Meeting With Kim Jong-un Is Back on," 1 June 2018 The Legislature sent a bonding bill on Thursday to Baker that includes a long wish list of earmarks. BostonGlobe.com, "Life sciences bill sent to the governor," 8 June 2018 Nancy Oganovich, congressional reporter for Bloomberg Government, discusses the potential return of earmarks, which fund lawmakers’ local spending projects and were killed by then-House speaker John Boehner. Bloomberg.com, "Earmarks Make a Comeback in Trump’s Washington (Audio)," 10 Jan. 2018 Intensive anti-gang programs in the Virginia suburbs were cut 85 percent, a casualty of Congress’s elimination of earmarks. Dara Lind, Vox, "MS-13, explained," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Washington state each year receives just $950,000 explicitly earmarked for homeless students from the federal government — or about $23 for each student. Neal Morton, The Seattle Times, "Washington’s homeless students face steep academic struggles," 2 Oct. 2018 Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis told Greek radio channel 24/7 on Friday that authorities would tear down 61 structures, mainly fencing, at sites on beaches, streams and areas earmarked for reforestation in several regions of Attica. Costas Kantouris And Elena Becatoros, Fox News, "Greece to tear down illegal fences for better fire safety," 3 Aug. 2018 Cloak & Petal, for example, a Japanese seafood restaurant in Little Italy, created a special octopus dish, in a nod to Bourdain’s love of that cuisine, with all of the proceeds earmarked for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Michele Parente, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Cohn restaurants raise funds in honor of Anthony Bourdain," 22 June 2018 Active Trans added that officials should also consider earmarking revenue from the service to fund walking, biking, and transit infrastructure. John Greenfield, Chicago Reader, "Is it time to bring point-to-point car share to Chicago?," 23 Jan. 2018 The retailer sought chapter 11 protection in mid-October, and immediately earmarked the roughly 400 profitable stores for sale. Lillian Rizzo, WSJ, "Sears Nabs $60 Million Bid for Home Improvement Business," 5 Nov. 2018 Pricing for the production trucks has not yet been announced, but the first one will be offered at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas on September 27, with all of the proceeds earmarked for the Paralyzed Veterans of America organization. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "Petty's Garage Warrior Edition Ford F-150 being auctioned to help paralyzed veterans," 18 Sep. 2018 Imre Solt via Wikimedia In a first step toward preserving the development history of Dubai, the city has begun earmarking buildings for heritage status, including the first skyscraper in a metropolis now defined by them. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Dubai’s first skyscraper will be included in new preservation initiative," 14 Aug. 2018 Guendouzi, who is earmarked as a future prospect more than an immediate regular, will wear the number 29 shirt recently vacated when Granit Xhaka switched to his favoured 34. SI.com, "Arsenal Complete Signing of Teenage Lorient Midfielder Matteo Guendouzi on Long-Term Deal," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'earmark.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of earmark


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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The first known use of earmark was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for earmark



Financial Definition of earmark

What It Is

Earmarking refers to the act of setting aside funds for special purposes or specific projects. Companies and governments earmark funds frequently.

How It Works

For example, let's assume Company XYZ issues $100 million of bonds and that $20 million of it is earmarked for the construction of a new factory. This means that Company XYZ intends to set aside $20 million of the proceeds (perhaps even in a separate bank account) for the factory capital expenditures.

In a bankruptcy situation, the "earmarking doctrine" allows borrowers -- just before filing for bankruptcy -- to make payments to creditors with funds given to the borrower by another creditor. These funds are earmarked in that they are dedicated to paying off a particular creditor and thus aren't technically part of the borrower's property. The earmarking doctrine requires these types of transfers to have a written agreement from all three parties, and the borrower cannot have control over the funds.

Why It Matters

In the corporate world, earmarking is essentially a way of organizing and allocating money.

In government, however, earmarking also comes with a good deal of controversy because the earmark language is often embedded in unrelated legislation and approved or rejected for reasons other than the merits (or lack thereof) of the earmarks.

[InvestingAnswers Feature: The Most Absurd Pork Barrel Spending Projects of 2010]

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of earmark

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a mark or quality that shows what something is or what it could be



English Language Learners Definition of earmark (Entry 2 of 2)

: to say that something will be used or treated in a specified way

: to put (money) aside for a special purpose

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More from Merriam-Webster on earmark

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with earmark

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for earmark

Spanish Central: Translation of earmark

Nglish: Translation of earmark for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about earmark

Comments on earmark

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to make faulty or ineffective

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