Definition of margin
- at the margin of the woods
- continental margin
- left no margin for error
- on the margin of good taste
- the margins of critical discourse
- —Barbara L. Packer
- living in society's margins
- the bill passed by a one-vote margin
Please write your name in the left margin of the page.
a book with wide margins
Mountains lie at the city's northern margins.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'margin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
the riverbed is margined by a flat beach of smooth rocks
Margin as a Financial Ratio
Let's assume Company XYZ records $1 million in net income for 2008 and $10 million in sales. By using the formula described above, we can calculate that Company XYZ has a $1,000,000/$10,000,000 = 10% net profit margin. We can determine from this number that XYZ keeps 10% of the revenue it generates or for every $1 XYZ generates in revenue, it keeps $0.10 in profit.
Borrowing Money on Margin
Let's assume you have $2,500 and Company XYZ trades at $5 a share. In a regular brokerage account, you would be able to purchase 500 shares. If XYZ were to appreciate by $10, you would make $5,000 and earn a respectable 200% gain.
But with a margin account, you could essentially borrow money from the brokerage firm and collateralize the loan with the Company XYZ shares. Margin requirements for equities are normally 2 to 1 for the average investor, meaning you purchase double what your cash balance is.
With the $2,500 from the previous example, an investor with a margin account would be able to purchase $5,000 of Company XYZ or 1,000 shares. That same $10 price move would mean you now make $10,000 and earn a 300% return.
But margin is a double-edged sword, and losses are also magnified. Additionally, if the investor's equity in the account drops past a certain point, say 25% of the total purchase amount (called the maintenance margin), the brokerage firm may make a margin call, meaning that within a few days you must deposit more cash or sell some of the shares to offset all or part of the difference between the actual stock price and the maintenance margin.
Margins measure efficiency. The higher the operating margin, the more profitable per dollar received a company's core business is.
Several things can affect operating margin (such as pricing strategy, prices for raw materials, or labor costs), but because these items directly relate to the day-to-day decisions managers make, operating margin is also a measure of managerial flexibility and competency.
It is also important to note that some industries have higher labor or materials costs than others. This is why comparing operating margins is generally most meaningful among companies within the same industry, and the definition of a "high" or "low" ratio should be made within this context
Borrowing Money on Margin
Margin accounts allow investors to make investments with their brokers' money. They act as leverage and can thus magnify and gains. But they can also magnify losses, and in some cases, a brokerage firm can sell an investor's securities without notification or even sue if the investor does not fulfill a margin call. For these reasons, margin accounts are generally for more sophisticated investors who understand and can handle the risks involved.
: the part of a page that is above, below, or to the side of the printed part
: the place where something (such as a piece of land) stops : the edge of something
: an extra amount of something (such as time or space) that can be used if it is needed
What made you want to look up margin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
a blind with adjustable horizontal slats
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