in·​ven·​to·​ry | \ ˈin-vən-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce inventory (audio) \
plural inventories

Definition of inventory

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an itemized list of current assets: such as
(1) : a list of goods on hand
(2) : a catalog of the property of an individual or estate
b : a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, or abilities used to evaluate personal characteristics or skills
c : a survey of natural resources
2 : the quantity of goods or materials on hand : stock
3 : the act or process of taking an inventory


inventoried; inventorying

Definition of inventory (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make an inventory of : catalog

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Other Words from inventory


inventorial \ ˌin-​vən-​ˈtȯr-​ē-​əl How to pronounce inventorial (audio) \ adjective
inventorially \ ˌin-​vən-​ˈtȯr-​ē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce inventorially (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for inventory

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of inventory in a Sentence

Noun We made an inventory of the library's collection. The dealer keeps a large inventory of used cars and trucks. Inventories at both stores were low. How can a small business afford to keep so much inventory? We'll be doing inventory on the collection soon. Verb We'll be inventorying the collection soon. would you inventory the supplies in the back room?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The deputies took inventory of the money and did a full accounting of the bag's contents. Nick Givas, Fox News, "Virginia family finds nearly $1M in bags on road during drive," 19 May 2020 But the point of taking inventory was to make sure both of you could close any gaps between perception and reality. The Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax Live: Hot sauce," 15 May 2020 One of his first tasks was to take inventory of the supplies that were purchased with a mix of hospital preparedness grants and other local and federal funds. Jenn Abelson, Washington Post, "Boom-and-bust federal funding after 9/11 undercut hospitals’ preparedness for pandemics," 2 May 2020 Stars performed from the safety of their basements, bathrooms, dens and foyers as fans hungrily took inventories of the books, knickknacks and showbiz memorabilia on display. Los Angeles Times, "Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday bash reminds us why his music remains so radical," 27 Apr. 2020 The robot helper can also document experiments, search for items and take inventory. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "This robot is helping astronauts on the space station with tasks, stress and isolation," 21 Apr. 2020 This may be a good time to peek inside your pantry and take an inventory. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Pharmalittle: Early data suggests Gilead Covid-19 drug works; did FDA drop standards too far in hunt for chloroquine?," 17 Apr. 2020 Cate McCusker Boehm, the museum’s director of marketing and communications, said the staff’s first step to create the new digital programming was taking inventory of the museum’s collection. Shauna Stuart |, al, "Birmingham Museum of Art: 5 new ways to experience it from home," 9 Apr. 2020 The state is currently taking inventory of its supply stockpiles. Matthew Vantryon, Indianapolis Star, "Coronavirus in Indiana: What we learned Wednesday from the governor's news conference," 1 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Puritans, for instance, used diaries to inventory their sins and, ideally, to hasten a moral awakening. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Dear Diary, the World Is Burning," 10 Apr. 2020 The survey will inventory buildings, structures, sites and objects, generally at least 40 years old, staff said. David Ibata, ajc, "Roswell seeks grant to survey historic black neighborhood," 30 Jan. 2020 Packing up and inventorying all of the family’s belongings was left to the staff at Fort Sam Houston and their wives. Paula Allen,, "San Antonio Fort Sam’s Maj. Gen. Frederick Funston was perhaps the post’s most famous commander after Pershing," 4 Apr. 2020 Schnuck and Decathlon representatives say Tally takes over the task of inventorying store shelves so employees can spend more time helping customers. Kate King, WSJ, "The Robot in Aisle Five Isn’t Stalking You. No, Really.," 21 Feb. 2020 After 45 days, the storage company staff can inventory the contents while standing at the open door. oregonlive, "Top 10 creepiest pieces of junk and other weird stuff left in storage units," 14 Feb. 2020 The Forest Service must follow strict protocols for approving timber sales, which include inventorying the trees for harvest, and then covering contracting costs for maintaining roads. Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, "The Tongass National Forest is a Wilderness on the Chopping Block," 16 Jan. 2020 It was reported that the defendant would order parts and then not inventory them for a particular vehicle in the county’s fleet. Mary Divine, Twin Cities, "Washington County public works employee charged with stealing $6K in parts and tools," 20 Sep. 2019 While inventorying the subject’s property Officer Quimby located a fraudulent social security card. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 9 Sep. 2019

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1602, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inventory


Middle English inventarie, inventorie, from Anglo-French inventaire, inventorie, from Latin inventarium, from inventum thing found, topic, neuter of inventus

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Time Traveler for inventory

Time Traveler

The first known use of inventory was in the 15th century

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Statistics for inventory

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inventory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for inventory



Financial Definition of inventory

What It Is

Inventory is the collection of unsold products waiting to be sold. Inventory is listed as a current asset on a company's balance sheet.

How It Works

Inventory is commonly thought of as the finished goods a company accumulates before selling them to end users. But inventory can also describe the raw materials used to produce the finished goods, goods as they go through the production process (referred to as "work-in-progress" or WIP), or goods that are "in transit."

There are generally five reasons companies maintain inventories:

To meet an anticipated increase in demand;
To protect against unanticipated increases in demand;
To take advantage of price breaks for ordering raw materials in bulk;
To prevent the idling of a whole factory if one part of the process breaks down; and,
To keep a steady stream of material flowing to retailers rather than making a single shipment of goods to retailers.

Inventory can also be used as collateral to obtain financing in some cases.

The basic requirement for counting an item in inventory is economic control rather than physical possession. Therefore, when a company purchases inventory, the item is included in the purchaser's inventory even if the purchaser does not have physical possession of those items.

Inventory is usually classified in its own category as an asset on the balance sheet, following receivables. It is important to note that the balance sheet's inventory account should also reflect costs directly or indirectly incurred in making an item ready for sale, including the purchase price of the item as well as the freight, receiving, unpacking, inspecting, storage, maintenance, insurance, taxes, and other costs associated with it.

Why It Matters

Inventory is a key component of calculating cost of goods sold (COGS) and is a key driver of profit, total assets, and tax liability. Many financial ratios, such as inventory turnover, incorporate inventory values to measure certain aspects of the health of a business.

For these reasons, and because changes in commodity and other materials prices affect the value of a company's inventory, it is important to understand how a company accounts for its inventory. Common inventory accounting methods include first in, first out (FIFO), last in, first out (LIFO), and lower of cost or market (LCM). Some industries, such as the retail industry, tailor these methods to fit their specific circumstances. Public companies must disclose their inventory accounting methods in the notes accompanying their financial statements.

Given the significant costs and benefits associated with inventory, companies spend considerable amounts of time calculating what the optimal level of inventory should be at any given time, and changes in inventory levels can send mixed messages to investors. Increases in inventory may signal that a company is not selling effectively, is anticipating increased sales in the near future (such as during the holidays), or has an inefficient purchasing department.

Declining inventories may signal that the company is selling more than it expected, has a backlog, is experiencing a blockage in its supply chain, is expecting lower sales, or is becoming more efficient in its purchasing activity.

Because there are several ways to account for inventory and because some industries require more inventory than others, comparison of inventories is generally most meaningful among companies within the same industry using the same inventory accounting methods, and the definition of a "high" or "low" inventory level should be made within this context.

Source: Investing Answers


How to pronounce inventory (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inventory

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a complete list of the things that are in a place
chiefly US : a supply of goods that are stored in a place
chiefly US : the act or process of making a complete list of the things that are in a place : the act or process of making an inventory



English Language Learners Definition of inventory (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a complete list of (the things in a place) : to make an inventory of (something)


in·​ven·​to·​ry | \ ˈin-vən-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce inventory (audio) \
plural inventories

Kids Definition of inventory

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a supply of goods Inventory is low.
2 : a list of items (as goods on hand)
3 : the act or process of making a list of items


inventoried; inventorying

Kids Definition of inventory (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a complete list of Store workers inventoried the stock.

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in·​ven·​to·​ry | \ ˈin-vən-ˌtōr-ē, -ˌtȯr- How to pronounce inventory (audio) \
plural inventories

Medical Definition of inventory

1 : a questionnaire designed to provide an index of individual interests or personality traits
2 : a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, or abilities that is used in evaluating personal characteristics or skills


in·​ven·​to·​ry | \ ˈin-vən-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce inventory (audio) \
plural inventories

Legal Definition of inventory

1 : an itemized list of current assets: as
a : a written list or catalog of the property of an individual, organization, or estate or succession that is made by a fiduciary under oath and that usually describes and assigns a value to the items or classes of property
b : aggregate value assigned to an inventory
2 : goods or materials held on hand: as
a under the Bankruptcy Code : materials including personal property leased or furnished, held for sale or lease, or to be furnished under a contract for service, raw materials, work in process, or materials used or consumed in a business held for sale or lease
b under section 9-109 of the Uniform Commercial Code : goods that are leased by a person as lessor, that are held by a person for sale or lease or to be furnished under a contract of service or are furnished under a contract of service, or that are raw materials, works in process, or materials used or consumed in a business

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