sur·​plus | \ˈsər-(ˌ)pləs \

Definition of surplus 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied

b : an excess of receipts over disbursements

2 : the excess of a corporation's net worth over the par or stated value of its stock



Definition of surplus (Entry 2 of 2)

: more than the amount that is needed : constituting a surplus surplus food/clothing/equipment When the sea captains returned, they would sell their surplus wares on the wharves.— Carol Vogel Long before the comparable worth battles of today, the economic value of women's work was evident to farm women who set prices for the surplus butter, candles, soap, honey, preserves, chickens, and eggs they raised or manufactured.— Mary Kay Blakely

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Examples of surplus in a Sentence


If there is any surplus, it will be divided equally. There is a surplus of workers and not enough jobs.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Yet as the government under President Harry S. Truman ran fiscal surpluses, the unemployment rate went down (from 3.9% in 1946 to 3.1% in 1952) and the labor-force participation rate went up (from 57.2% to 58.9%). Edmund Phelps, WSJ, "The Fantasy of Fiscal Stimulus," 29 Oct. 2018 An extra $45 million budget surplus for this school year will help pay for the raises. Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times, "Seattle School Board gives final approval for 10.5 percent raises in new teacher contract," 18 Sep. 2018 And the exclusion of services, which make up 80% of the economy and in which, unlike goods, Britain has a large trade surplus, seems better for the EU than for the United Kingdom. The Economist, "Britain’s new Brexit plan is savaged—by its own Brexit secretary," 9 July 2018 Texas tied for first in exports per capita, but failed to make the top five in GDP growth, startup activity, employment, nonfarm payrolls, government surplus, educational attainment of immigrants, jobs in high tech and patents. Mark Collette, Houston Chronicle, "Texas has mediocre 'innovation potential,' ranking of state economies finds," 5 June 2018 Those 30 immediate post-war years also were a time of federal budget surpluses, which, for accounting purposes, can be viewed as one category of saving. Tom Saler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tom Saler: Trade imbalance isn't as simple as one country’s gain being another’s loss," 18 May 2018 Arizona already has a surplus of outfielders: A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Steven Souza Jr., Yasmany Tomas, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Owings and Jeremy Hazelbaker. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Socrates Brito is ready to continue his baseball odyssey," 9 Mar. 2018 That year, there was a cocoa surplus, attributed to a prolonged rainy season. Marisa Schwartz Taylor, National Geographic, "Illegal Gold Mining Boom Threatens Cocoa Farmers (And Your Chocolate)," 6 Mar. 2018 Ross acknowledged that, in terms of dollar value, the U.S. actually has a trade surplus in steel with Canada. Erica Werner,, "Republicans and Commerce secretary square off in heated hearing over tariffs," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Buying Surpluses One possible option, according to Steve Censky, deputy secretary of the USDA, could be using the department’s authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation, a federal entity that funds farm subsidies, to buy surplus U.S. crops., "Zuckerberg Testifies Before Senate Panel," 10 Apr. 2018 MiStore is Michigan's surplus store in Lansing that collects these items and makes them available to the public. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "State of Michigan's semi-annual surplus sale set for Saturday," 9 July 2018 What was surplus income three years ago is now being used for current day-to-day school operations, Patil said, and rising costs have created deficits that led to about $2 million of reserve cash being spent during the last 18 months. Rick Kambic,, "Vernon Hills officials, residents debate Hawthorn 73 funding efforts," 2 July 2018 Even as Britain begins its exit, there are at least 12 power-cable projects valued at more than 10 billion euros ($12 billion) in the works to expand the island nation’s connection to the surplus generating capacity on the continent. Mathew Carr,, "Britain Will Probably See Higher Risks of Blackouts After Brexit," 29 Jan. 2018 After accounting for certain mandatory spending — including about a half-billion-dollar deposit into the state’s rainy day fund — Baker, a Republican who is up for reelection in November, is proposing $575 million in outlays with the surplus cash. Joshua Miller,, "Governor Baker proposes $72 million for school safety," 13 July 2018 Another is ending a program that allows the Agriculture Department to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol companies at a loss. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Chance for Sugar Welfare Reform," 15 May 2018 For example, the credit that Arizona Public Service gives customers for their surplus solar energy will be recalculated and likely reduced based on market prices in the future (also see related tax credit information below). Ryan Randazzo, azcentral, "Should you install solar on your home? 10 key considerations," 4 July 2018 The costs will be paid for from proceeds of a sale of surplus highway equipment, Lopp said, so the money won't come directly from taxpayers' pockets. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "An Indiana county is paying a steep price for burying toxic coal ash," 18 May 2018

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1589, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for surplus


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin superplus, from Latin super- + plus more — more at plus

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Statistics for surplus

Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for surplus

The first known use of surplus was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for surplus

earned surplus


Financial Definition of earned surplus

What It Is

Earned surplus is the sum of a company's profits, after dividend payments, since the company's inception. It can also be called retained earnings, retained capital, or accumulated earnings.

How It Works

Let's look at an example to illustrate.

Assume Company XYZ has been in business for five years, and it has reported the following annual net income:

Year 1: $10,000

Year 2: $5,000

Year 3: -$5,000

Year 4: $1,000

Year 5: -$3,000

Assuming Company XYZ paid no dividends during this time, XYZ's earned surplus is the sum of its net profits since inception: $10,000 + $5,000 - $5,000 + $1,000 - $3,000 = $8,000.

In subsequent years, XYZ's earned surplus will change by the amount of each year's net income, less dividends.

The statement of earned surplus summarizes changes in earned surplus for a fiscal period, and total earned surplus appears in the shareholders' equity portion of the balance sheet. This means that every dollar of earned surplus is essentially another dollar of shareholders' equity.

A company's board of directors may "appropriate" some or all of the company's earned surplus when it wants to restrict dividend distributions to shareholders. Appropriations are usually done at the board's discretion, although bondholders may contractually require the board to do so. Appropriations appear as a special account in the earned surplus section. When an appropriation is no longer needed, it is transferred back to earned surplus. Because earned surplus is not cash, a company may fund appropriations by setting aside cash or marketable securities for the projects indicated in the appropriation.

Why It Matters

It is important to understand that earned surplus does not represent extra cash or cash left over after the payment of dividends. Rather, earned surplus demonstrates what a company did with its profits; they are the amount of profit the company has reinvested in the business since its inception. These reinvestments are either asset purchases or liability reductions.

Earned surplus somewhat reflects a company's dividend policy, because it reflects a company's decision to either reinvest profits or pay them out to shareholders. Ultimately, most analyses of earned surplus focuses on evaluating which action generated or would generate the highest return for the shareholders.

Most of these analyses involve comparing earned surplus per share to profit per share over a specific period, or they compare the amount of capital retained to the change in share price during that time. Both of these methods attempt to measure the return management generated on the profits it plowed back into the business. Look-through earnings, a method developed by Warren Buffett that accounts for taxes, is another method in this vein.

Capital-intensive industries and growing industries tend to retain more of their earnings than other industries because they require more asset investment just to operate. Also, because earned surplus represents the sum of profits less dividends since inception, older companies may report significantly higher earned surplus than identical younger ones.

This is why comparison of earned surplus is difficult but generally most meaningful among companies of the same age and within the same industry, and the definition of "high" or "low" earned surplus should be made within this context.

Source: Investing Answers


sur·​plus | \ˈsər-pləs \

Kids Definition of surplus

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an amount left over : excess



Kids Definition of surplus (Entry 2 of 2)

: left over : extra surplus wheat


sur·​plus | \ˈsər-ˌpləs \

Legal Definition of surplus 

1a : an amount that remains when a use or need is satisfied

b : an excess of receipts over disbursements

c : the value of assets after subtracting liabilities

2 : an excess of the net worth of a corporation over the par value of its capital stock — compare undivided profits

capital surplus

: all surplus other than earned surplus

earned surplus

: the surplus that remains after deducting losses, distributions to stockholders, and transfers to capital stock accounts

paid-in surplus

: surplus resulting from the sale of stock at amounts above par

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Comments on surplus

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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