opportunity cost


: the added cost of using resources (as for production or speculative investment) that is the difference between the actual value resulting from such use and that of an alternative (such as another use of the same resources or an investment of equal risk but greater return)

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Deviating from pure functionality in design requires both cost and opportunity cost. IEEE Spectrum, 8 Mar. 2023 There’s also opportunity cost. Tamar Haspel, Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2022 There’s often an opportunity cost. Eric Boodman, STAT, 20 Oct. 2021 The problem is the opportunity cost. C.j. Doon, baltimoresun.com, 3 May 2021 One target is the opportunity cost. David Badre, Scientific American, 24 Jan. 2021 The opportunity cost could be enormous. Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun, 9 Sep. 2022 The opportunity cost is low. Andy Crump, The Week, 22 Apr. 2022 The opportunity cost of worrying about the wrong things. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 3 June 2011 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'opportunity cost.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1894, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of opportunity cost was in 1894

Dictionary Entries Near opportunity cost

Cite this Entry

“Opportunity cost.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opportunity%20cost. Accessed 6 Jun. 2023.

Legal Definition

opportunity cost

op·​por·​tu·​ni·​ty cost
: the cost of making an investment that is the difference between the return on one investment and the return on an alternative

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