ex·​pense | \ ik-ˈspen(t)s How to pronounce expense (audio) \

Definition of expense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : financial burden or outlay : cost built the monument at their own expense
b : an item of business outlay chargeable against revenue for a specific period
c : something expended to secure a benefit or bring about a result
2 : a cause or occasion of expenditure an estate is a great expense
3 : a loss, detriment, or embarrassment that results from some action or gain : sacrifice everyone had a good laugh at my expense usually used in the phrase at the expense ofdevelop a boy's physique at the expense of his intelligence— Bertrand Russell
4 archaic : the act or an instance of expending : expenditure


expensed; expensing

Definition of expense (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to charge to an expense account
b : to write off as an expense
2 : to charge with expenses

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Examples of expense in a Sentence

Noun I don't think a first-class ticket is worth the added expense. The annual fee is simply an expense of doing business. A new car is a major expense.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to majority Hindus by focusing on national issues such as the citizenship law, which triggered widespread protests, at the expense of problems facing the capital's millions of residents. Fox News, "India regional elections in New Dehli give PM Modi's party a stunning defeat," 11 Feb. 2020 That describes a whole lot of people in the U.S., where 2 out of 5 adults don’t have $400 to cover an emergency expense, according to the Federal Reserve. cleveland, "When leasing a car is a more frugal option than buying," 8 Feb. 2020 Amazon's financial filings included an expense of $1.1 billion for federal U.S. taxes last year. Stephen Gandel, CBS News, "Amazon paid a tax rate of just 1.2% last year, versus 14% for average Americans," 6 Feb. 2020 For a lot of the smaller campaigns, doubling their donor counts was essentially an expense, as buying email lists and running acquisition ads on Facebook replaced other campaign priorities such as digital ads and staffing in early voting states. New York Times, "D.N.C. Rules Change for Nevada Debate Could Open Door for Bloomberg," 31 Jan. 2020 Hi Michelle, any advice on how to work on removing guilt from spending savings on an unexpected expense? The Washington Post, "Color of Money Live: What you're doing with extra money and unconventional home-buying," 23 Jan. 2020 The Federal Reserve found last year that 27 percent of adults would have to borrow or sell something to handle an unexpected $400 expense. Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, "A big tax refund is nothing to celebrate. Here’s why.," 22 Jan. 2020 With everything mentioned, replacing your roof is a major expense. Michael Souter, Houston Chronicle, "GHBA Remodelers Council: Should you replace or repair your roof?," 18 Jan. 2020 Similarly, while only 4% of top earners would struggle to pay an unexpected $1,000 expense, 34% of middle-income and 67% of lower-income people would. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "New study finds most Americans don’t really care about inequality," 9 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The House Minority Leader is not the only one to expense unusual travel costs. cleveland, "Helium, honey, hair products: Ohio pols’ odd campaign expenses," 6 Feb. 2020 The sports-marketing staff were among the employees who sometimes attended strip clubs with athletes and expensed the visits to the company, the people said. Khadeeja Safdar, WSJ, "Under Armour Ousts Two Executives After Review of Expenses," 10 Dec. 2018 Its flattering accounting – the company capitalizes almost all of its development costs, instead of expensing them in its profit statement – can’t paper over these flaws. Washington Post, "Aston Martin Thought It Had Won the Lottery," 20 Sep. 2019 The lawsuit cites many of the allegations that have emerged in other legal cases in recent months, including that LaPierre expensed hundreds of thousands of dollars in wardrobe purchases at a high-end clothier. Washington Post, "NRA turmoil creates rift among some big donors," 10 Nov. 2019 Without buybacks, shareholders would effectively be paying for stock compensation twice – once when they are expensed and a second time from the dilution of additional shares. Washington Post, "The Conventional Wisdom About Stock Buybacks Is Wrong," 20 Sep. 2019 Houts said Jones paid Lewis and her son, or expensed fancy meals from Arcadis to the BWWB, in the days and weeks leading up to several profitable contracts for the company. Ivana Hrynkiw | Ihrynkiw@al.com, al, "Birmingham water board member guilty on ethics charges," 30 Oct. 2019 Still, among legacy outlets, only the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times (whose readers might expense their subscriptions) had dared erect a paywall by the time the Times did. Karl Vick, Time, "How A.G. Sulzberger Is Leading the New York Times Into the Future," 10 Oct. 2019 In the meantime, the agency is also reviewing expenses LMU incurred putting on a utility rodeo over each of the last two years, expenses Richardson and others have questioned and said might have run a loss of at least $300,000. James Pilcher, Cincinnati.com, "Bill for Lawrenceburg's $1 million utility pole 'in limbo'," 20 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'expense.' 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 expense


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


circa 1909, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for expense


Middle English, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin expensa, from Latin, feminine of expensus, past participle of expendere

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Time Traveler for expense

Time Traveler

The first known use of expense was in the 14th century

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Statistics for expense

Last Updated

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Expense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expense. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for expense


How to pronounce expense (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of expense

: the amount of money that is needed to pay for or buy something
: an amount of money that must be spent especially regularly to pay for something
: something on which money is spent


ex·​pense | \ ik-ˈspens How to pronounce expense (audio) \

Kids Definition of expense

1 : something spent or required to be spent : cost
2 : a cause for spending A car can be a great expense.



Legal Definition of expense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: financial burden or outlay specifically : an item of business outlay chargeable against revenue for a specific period
business expense
: an expense made in furtherance of one's business especially as part of the cost of operating a business in the taxable year in which the expense is incurred — compare capital expense and personal expense in this entry

Note: Business expenses are generally tax deductible in the year the expense is incurred.

capital expense
: an expense made in a business that will provide a long-term benefit : capital expenditure

Note: Capital expenses are not tax deductible as business expenses but may be used for depreciation or amortization.

moving expense
: an expense incurred in changing one's residence that is tax deductible if incurred for business reasons (as when one's job requires relocation)
ordinary and necessary expense
: an expense that is normal or customary and helpful and appropriate for the operation of a particular business or trade and that is made during the taxable year

called also ordinary and necessary business expense

Note: Ordinary and necessary expenses are tax deductible.

personal expense
: an expense incurred in the course of one's personal affairs as distinguished from the course of one's employment or the operation of a business — compare business expense in this entry

Note: Personal expenses are usually not tax deductible.

expensed; expensing

Legal Definition of expense (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to charge with expenses
2 : to write off as an expense

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