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 catalog of the property of an individual or estate
(2) : a list of goods on hand
b : a survey of natural resources
c : a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, or abilities used to evaluate personal characteristics or skills
3 : the quantity of goods or materials on hand : stock
4 : 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 During an inventory of the suspect’s property, a small baggie containing a white crystal-like substance was located concealed in a small pouch of the suspect’s purse. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 16 Sep. 2019 His competitors in India and Vietnam import nuts from all over the world, so need inventories of only 4-6 weeks. The Economist, "Mozambique’s nut factories have made a cracking comeback," 12 Sep. 2019 Glauben, who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII, hopes the museum inspires people to take inventory of their own lives. Washington Post, "Dallas Holocaust museum takes visitors from WWII to today," 31 Aug. 2019 Inspectors in bullet-proof vests picked their way along creaking floorboards, taking inventory of conveyor belts, compressors, and bandsaw blades. Felipe Fittipaldi, National Geographic, "Inside the faltering fight against illegal Amazon logging," 28 Aug. 2019 According to statistics from REcolorado, reported by LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, existing home markets are getting some relief while enjoying year-to-date growing inventory of 6.5% higher than at this time last year. Steve Blank, The Denver Post, "Cocktail chattables: Although home prices are still increasing, they are doing so at a more moderate pace, making this a good time to buy," 14 Aug. 2019 The venue’s lobby and lounge area also includes Video Vortex, a video store offering free rentals and an inventory of some 40,000 titles drawn from a closed Austin store. Los Angeles Times, "Will the Alamo Drafthouse L.A. be the last stand for movie theaters?," 17 July 2019 Long before blows land, the audience is taking inventory of the props, assessing which could be used by one brother to brain or strangle the other. Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, "Sam Shepard Saw It All Coming," 11 July 2019 The 620-square foot boutique features an changing inventory of small items like artistic coasters to large French benches. Georgann Yara, azcentral, "Pieces & Story: Old Town Scottsdale shop specializes in vintage accessories and furniture," 11 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb While inventorying the subject’s property Officer Quimby located a fraudulent social security card. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 9 Sep. 2019 Officials with the Idaho Department of Lands told Gov. Brad Little and other Land Board members that a better method of inventorying the state’s timber holdings found significantly more timber available for cutting. USA TODAY, "Record grapefruit, light rail win, Snake Road: News from around our 50 states," 29 Aug. 2019 Bracero applied for medical retirement, but instead was reassigned to jobs that involved making copies and inventorying laptops in a windowless room. Tess Sheets,, "3 female Orlando officers injured on duty accuse OPD of gender bias | Exclusive," 27 Aug. 2019 Researchers who met in working groups agreed that, to get started, NCI first needs to inventory the existing databases and biospecimen repositories. Jocelyn Kaiser, Science | AAAS, "Researchers weigh in on Trump’s $500 million plan to share childhood cancer data," 5 Aug. 2019 The apartment company announced a plan Friday to begin inventorying and packing up residents' belongings in 184 units that were not impacted by the crane. Dallas News, "After fatal Dallas crane collapse, 6 displaced residents sue apartments, crane company," 16 July 2019 The Commerce Department could start by inventorying the nation’s untapped reserves. Timothy Puko, WSJ, "Prized ‘Rare Earth’ Minerals Feel Scorch of Tariffs," 29 Nov. 2018 Homeowners should inventory possessions and store the list outside the home. Nicole Friedman, WSJ, "What Does Your Homeowners Policy Cover in Disasters? Often, Not Enough," 2 Aug. 2018 One goal is to inventory the chemicals released by wildfires, including nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, and a vast array of volatile organic compounds. Warren Cornwall, Science | AAAS, "Scientists race to reveal how surging wildfire smoke is affecting climate and health," 31 May 2018

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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Statistics for inventory

Last Updated

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for inventory

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

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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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Comments on inventory

What made you want to look up inventory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to spread as a report or rumor

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