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 of develop 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 Limbaugh had for decades championed conservatism — often stridently at the expense of liberals and Democrats. Terry Spencer, Anchorage Daily News, "Florida county rejects governor’s order to lower flags in memory of Rush Limbaugh," 24 Feb. 2021 Kahneman wrote that when System 2 is overloaded, System 1 could make an impulse decision, often at the expense of self-control. New York Times, "This Book Is Not About Baseball. But Baseball Teams Swear by It.," 24 Feb. 2021 Limbaugh had for decades championed conservatism — often stridently at the expense of liberals and Democrats. Terry Spencer And Bobby Caina Calvan, Star Tribune, "Palm Beach County refuses to lower flags for Rush Limbaugh," 24 Feb. 2021 Many are made intentionally, often by thin people, and nearly always at the expense of fat people. Your Fat Friend, SELF, "The Surprising Liberation I Find Hiding Within Unintentional Fat Jokes," 24 Feb. 2021 Critics also say the way doses are distributed benefits the tech-savvy, and those able to drive anywhere anytime at the expense of older people and minority groups. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland plan to create sign-up portal and waitlist for state COVID-19 vaccine sites draws criticism," 24 Feb. 2021 Compared with other rich democracies, the U.S. pointlessly rewards capital at the expense of work. George Tyler, Fortune, "How Biden and the Democrats can win back working-class Americans," 22 Feb. 2021 Utica is sick and tired of acquiescing to the needs of the other queens at the expense of her performance. Paul Mccallion, Vulture, "RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Social Werk," 19 Feb. 2021 Limbaugh wealthier, often at the expense of his listeners. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Rush Limbaugh Made America Worse," 17 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The HITS Act would allow recording artists and their record label partners to immediately expense the cost of most indie projects, rather than having to spread out the tax benefit over time. Taylor Mims, Billboard, "Independent Music Leaders Urge Congress to Pass HITS Act and Help Struggling Recording Artists," 10 Feb. 2021 The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lets businesses expense certain capital investments, but that provision begins to phase out in 2023. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "What business needs from the 2020 election," 30 Sep. 2020 If auto allowances are stopped, employees could instead expense mileage at the IRS standard of $.575 per mile, Lin wrote. Genevieve Bookwalter, chicagotribune.com, "Evanston reinstates monthly car allowance for some city employees, drawing questions from some aldermen," 4 Aug. 2020 Visa’s spending on personnel rose 8% in the quarter because the company continued to expense hiring from late last year. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Visa’s CEO on COVID-19’s effects: “We’re doing very little hiring right now”," 3 Aug. 2020 Noem made a similar announcement on Monday in Sioux Falls, which will be able to expense up to $41.5 million to federal funds the state has received. USA TODAY, "Shah Bar, infected ‘Idol,’ famed mall to close: News from around our 50 states," 24 June 2020 The company he co-founded, Salesforce.com Inc., helped boost sales by encouraging employees to buy and expense the book published last October. Nico Grant, Bloomberg.com, "Salesforce Encouraged Employees to Expense Co-CEO Marc Benioff’s Book," 29 Apr. 2020 MPs have also been granted permission to expense up to £10,000 in additional costs related to working from home. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "Coronavirus is forcing Britain’s Parliament to finally embrace virtual work," 21 Apr. 2020 Gear from Lululemon One employee tried expensing more than $250 of clothing from the retailer, without even offering a business reason. Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY, "Private helicopter rides, strip clubs: 8 crazy things you put on your expense report," 12 Dec. 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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Expense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expense. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for expense



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.


transitive verb
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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