ear·​mark | \ ˈir-ˌmärk How to pronounce earmark (audio) \

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

Verb 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 story has all the earmarks of a conspiracy theory. Los Angeles Times, "Was the coronavirus made in a Wuhan lab? Here’s what the genetic evidence shows," 9 May 2020 But even accounting for those earmarks, at $600m per quarter in net spending, Farragou thinks Tesla can operate for 15 months without further investment. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "How will Tesla weather the coronavirus storm? Quite nicely, analysts predict," 24 Mar. 2020 That would mean the funding that legislators had hoped to put toward the various programs and earmarks would instead go into the state’s emergency savings account. BostonGlobe.com, "For weeks, legislative leaders have been unable to reach a compromise to close the books on last fiscal year, leaving a relatively routine spending bill and a $1.1 billion surplus that it is built on to languish.," 1 Dec. 2019 Police on Saturday arrested more than a dozen of the city’s most prominent proponents of democracy on what has all the earmarks of orders from Beijing. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "China’s Hong Kong Roundup," 19 Apr. 2020 The 10 winners of that phase each got $20,000—with no stipulations or earmarks, just cold cash. Sarah Scoles, Wired, "The Search for the Next Big Idea in Magnetic Field Mapping," 31 Mar. 2020 The sector is lobbying for earmarks in the current federal rescue package. Adrian Ellis, WSJ, "Not a Pretty Picture," 24 Mar. 2020 Tesla responded by arguing that its earmarks for lease maintenance was in line with accounting standards. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Tesla skimps on warranty costs to inflate its profits, critics allege," 4 Mar. 2020 This story has the earmarks of a year-end effort to shore up a journalism awards entry. Alan Murray, Fortune, "Parsing the WeWork Debacle," 16 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Effective immediately, state dollars earmarked for our district for our current fiscal year ending June 31 will be reduced by 14 percent, or $631,476. Linda Gandee, cleveland, "West side school systems respond to state education budget cuts," 17 May 2020 The institute had grants from the National Institutes of Health earmarked for other projects, and Krogan’s lab had received some funding in the past from the Swiss drug company Roche Pharma. Jason Fagone, San Francisco Chronicle, "Chasing a killer," 1 May 2020 Technology start-ups are debating whether to seek government loans earmarked for pandemic relief, my colleagues Erin Griffith and David McCabe report. Shira Ovide, New York Times, "No, the Best Doesn’t Win," 27 Apr. 2020 However, the chain has been under fire for accepting stimulus loans earmarked for struggling small businesses, not multimillion-dollar corporations. NBC News, "Facing furor, Ruth's Chris high-end steak chain returns $20M small-business loan," 23 Apr. 2020 Portland Public Schools sold $508 million in bonds this week, with the proceeds earmarked for construction projects that district voters approved in 2017. oregonlive, "Portland Public Schools sold $508 million in bonds this week. Here’s where the money is going," 18 Apr. 2020 Hubbert said her group has made about 300 masks so far, with the latest batch of 125 earmarked for League City’s emergency medical technicians. John Delapp, Houston Chronicle, "Quilting group’s face masks go to firefighters, hospitals," 13 Apr. 2020 Smith also suggests making unrestricted donations or changing recent donations earmarked for certain programming to unrestricted. Dallas News, "D-FW nonprofits spring into action to get resources to those who need them," 7 Apr. 2020 This official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said Israel would not divert supplies earmarked for other countries. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "Israeli spy agency’s latest mission: Hunting worldwide for scarce ventilators to battle coronavirus," 2 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for earmark

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for earmark

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Earmark.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/earmark. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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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


How to pronounce earmark (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for earmark

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with earmark

Spanish Central: Translation of earmark

Nglish: Translation of earmark for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about earmark

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