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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun He's come to be referenced as a historical figure rather than a fictional one (often at the expense of his actual author), with countless legends surrounding him. Roy Schwartz, CNN, 20 May 2022 Instead, the agency cowed to the interests of agricultural companies, mining companies and other water users at the expense of the natural environment. Michael Braga, The Arizona Republic, 19 May 2022 The Domestic Terrorism Prevention proposal is sheer politics — and politics of the worst kind: theater at the expense of national security. The Editors, National Review, 19 May 2022 Depp alleges that Heard fabricated her abuse allegations and used them to advance her own career at his expense. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 28 Apr. 2022 Would disgruntled audience members, offended by a punchline or by a joke at their expense, feel emboldened to get physical with a comedian the way Smith did with Rock? NBC News, 28 Mar. 2022 And in 2016, after Pinkett Smith boycotted the Academy Awards in support of #OscarsSoWhite, Rock delivered multiple quips at her expense on the very same stage. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, 28 Mar. 2022 Waterhouse called out the HBO Max Gossip Girl reboot for making a joke at her expense. Savannah Walsh, ELLE, 18 Feb. 2022 While most onlookers gasped, Black women took a collective deep sigh at the all too familiar racist and sexist rhetoric aimed at our expense. Jasmine Browley, Essence, 16 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Giving Back: The company recently launched its Pay It Forward policy, which allows employees to expense any random acts of kindness while traveling for business. Nick Davidson, Outside Online, 1 Oct. 2014 Employees of the company are encouraged to expense their annual National Parks Pass each year, as well as up to two nights per month camping and an additional two nights per month at any CampShare. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2022 One of her concerns is that staffers’ addresses and other personal information might linger on the Internet, so the newspaper has advised them to engage services that scrub that material from public view and expense the cost to the newspaper. Washington Post, 27 Jan. 2022 People often expense their SaaS purchases and may connect their SaaS applications to the company’s single sign-on provider, so making sure the SaaS tool talks to these systems is critical. Andre Christ, Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021 Those who live within two hours of the Boston headquarters can now fully expense the cost of traveling into the office once a month. Sarah Shemkus, BostonGlobe.com, 1 Dec. 2021 Another benefit coal owners get is the ability to immediately expense much of their mine development costs on their taxes instead of being forced to stretch such deductions over a longer period of time. Ellis Simani, ProPublica, 4 Nov. 2021 Following the pandemic, The Zebra’s employees also have been able to separately expense a curated list of subscriptions, including aromatherapy candles and House Plant Box, which sends people a new houseplant every month. Washington Post, 11 Oct. 2021 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. Brieanna J. Frank, The Arizona Republic, 27 June 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About expense

Time Traveler for expense

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near expense



expense account

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Statistics for expense

Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Expense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expense. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for expense


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

More from Merriam-Webster on expense

Nglish: Translation of expense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of expense for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about expense


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