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


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

Pittman's bill proposes removing a relatively small portion of the statutory earmarks and placing that money in the General Fund. Carol Robinson, AL.com, "Body believed to be 68-year-old missing man found in vehicle on Birmingham car repair shop lot," 24 Jan. 2018 DeBonis broke the news that Trump threatened a veto of this year's omnibus in an attempt to force House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to eliminate an earmark for the tunnel project. Martine Powers, Washington Post, "Trump is quietly shifting how major infrastructure projects are funded," 7 Apr. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Hundreds of records are earmarked to be released on Record Store Day, often with limited pressings to create a demand for these releases. Erin Sauder, Elgin Courier-News, "Down to Business: Living the dream by sharing records," 25 May 2018 The first floor will be earmarked for stores and restaurant and the other three used for 21 condominium units. Erin Hegarty, Naperville Sun, "Plans for a new 4-story development — with old Nichols Library as its centerpiece — moving forward," 26 May 2018 In all, Racine asked the DNR to use 7 million gallons in additional water from Lake Michigan, meaning 83% of the water would be earmarked for Foxconn, according to Racine's diversion application. Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Opponents file legal challenge to Racine's bid to use water from Lake Michigan for Foxconn," 25 May 2018 The majority of the new tax revenue will be earmarked for new low-income housing units in an attempt to stem the city’s housing and homelessness crises. Jason Del Rey, Recode, "The new “head tax” is aimed at addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.," 15 May 2018 Proceeds from advertising sales, about $200,000 a year, would be earmarked for Camden nonprofits. Melanie Burney, Philly.com, "Delay sought on hearing for controversial Camden billboard," 30 Apr. 2018 Revenue from from excise taxes can also be earmarked for places in the budget — like health. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Mexico and Hungary tried junk food taxes — and they seem to be working," 6 Apr. 2018 In addition, $10 million will be earmarked for the BSO’s Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras and OrchKids education program. Tim Smith, baltimoresun.com, "BSO's $65 million 'Second Century' fundraising campaign is 2/3 there," 22 Jan. 2018 Funds allocated for laboratory research are not usually drawn from the same sources as funds earmarked for other conservation goals. Ben Guarino, Washington Post, "‘Beautiful’ embryos created from near-extinct rhinoceros sperm," 4 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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Statistics for earmark

Last Updated

26 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for earmark

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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a strong desire or propensity

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