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 Russia and China know this, and the Biden Administration’s obsession with unrealistic climate goals at the expense of energy security will do real harm to the U.S. economy and global interests. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 10 Oct. 2021 Meanwhile, Raimondo aims to reduce business concerns about the hoarding of limited supplies or anti-competitive preferences for some semiconductor buyers at the expense of others. John Harwood, CNN, 10 Oct. 2021 This is how Google uses its search dominance to grow its other businesses at the expense of competitors, which stifles innovation and competition. Charles M. Miller, National Review, 8 Oct. 2021 But some people sincerely believe such programs risk rewarding some at the expense of others—when, ironically, unequal treatment is a core rationale for such programs. Rodger Dean Duncan, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 Mills sought to implement cost-saving measures by cutting basic services at the jail at the expense of inmates. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, 8 Oct. 2021 But his greatness should not be overstated, and certainly not at the expense of the other players ahead of him. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 7 Oct. 2021 There still will be plenty of Jimmy on the ball, but not at the expense of Kyle intentionally being moved off the ball. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, 7 Oct. 2021 That’s a word that Jay, an outspoken gun-control advocate, personally can’t stand, and Isaacs’ handsome but haggard face conveys the exhaustion of someone too accustomed to taking care of others at the expense of himself. Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Three large domestic tax breaks allowed the company to expense just $24 million for U.S. federal taxes on its $2.8 billion in pretax U.S. profits, for an effective income tax rate of just 0.8% last year. Stephen Gandel, CBS News, 9 Apr. 2021 There are doses of this spirit in the budget, notably a provision allowing businesses to immediately expense 130% of the cost of capital investments. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 3 Mar. 2021 The trader can expense (amortize) up to $5,000 in the first year and the balance over 15 years. Robert Green, Forbes, 2 Mar. 2021 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, 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, 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, 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, 3 Aug. 2020

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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Dictionary Entries Near expense



expense account

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Statistics for expense

Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

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

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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