sur·​plus | \ ˈsər-(ˌ)pləs How to pronounce surplus (audio) \

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

His standard approach is to take a country that runs a trade surplus with the United States, and then threaten to raise taxes on that country’s exports. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren’s vision for changing America’s trade policy, explained," 29 July 2019 According to the network’s own analysis, each of these land use types is nearly in balance or in surplus, except for the carbon footprint. Robert B. Richardson, The Conversation, "Resource depletion is a serious problem, but ‘footprint’ estimates don’t tell us much about it," 24 July 2019 The good news is that the Democratic Legislature is resisting this version of Goldman Sachsonomics on grounds that the state budget is already in surplus. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Goldman Sachsonomics," 17 June 2019 Because of the incredible rainfall in May and June, Washington is still in a surplus on the year. Angela Fritz, Washington Post, "Washington is in a ‘flash drought,’ with only fleeting chances of rain in the forecast," 12 July 2018 His budget calls for about $751 million in surplus. Mike Catalini,, "Murphy says he cannot sign legislators' $36.5B budget," 25 June 2018 Baltimore County Public Schools Chief Accountability Officer Russell Brown said in a May 7 email that the strategy should result in a surplus of 200 seats around 2024. Cody Boteler,, "Plan to fix overcrowded southwest elementaries includes redistricting, officials tell Johnnycake community," 10 May 2018 Fueled by a booming economy, the surcharge resulted in a $3.2 billion surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, by which time Richard M. Nixon was in the White House. Sam Roberts,, "Charles Zwick, who balanced budget under Johnson," 25 Apr. 2018 When the city of San Antonio closes its books on fiscal year 2018 this September, the coffers will have about $13.2 million in surplus, budget officials told the City Council on Wednesday. Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "Council learns San Antonio headed toward budget surplus," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

To address the housing crisis, government agencies need to build on surplus public property and streamline the permitting process for construction, according to experts at a state Assembly committee meeting held in San Diego last week. Gary Warth, San Diego Union-Tribune, "State committee hears affordable housing plans in San Diego," 21 July 2019 The page said surplus funds would be donated to local immigrant-rights organizations. Claire Rafford, azcentral, "Police identify 16 people arrested in Friday night ICE protests in central Phoenix," 13 July 2019 Records show the county sold Whalen more than 430 homes and vacant lots at three surplus property auctions from 2017 to 2018, making him the county's largest buyer. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, "Renters lived 'horrible.' Their landlord lived large. The government helped him do it.," 26 June 2019 Jason Kenney, deputy director of the California Department of General Services — Real Estate Services Division, said an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom resulted in the state’s first inventory of surplus property. Gary Warth, San Diego Union-Tribune, "State committee hears affordable housing plans in San Diego," 21 July 2019 While strolling among the market’s produce and plant vendors, be on the lookout for Pingree Detroit, selling luxury bags and shoes made by veterans using surplus leather from the automotive industry ( Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "A Fascinating Long Weekend in Detroit: The Essential Guide," 19 June 2019 Flush with surplus Army vehicles, the War Department intended to send a first-of-its-kind motorized expedition from the District of Columbia to San Francisco., "America’s military accomplished an amazing feat 100 years ago -- driving across country," 7 July 2019 Last year, surplus lines carriers sold 49,370 homeowner policies in California with $122 million in annual premiums, both up nearly 60% from 2016, according to the Surplus Line Association of California. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "Can California avoid a third year of fire catastrophe? Here’s what’s been fixed — and what hasn’t," 20 June 2019 Excluding jobs added via mergers, AT&T's head count declined by 23,328 even before last week's and last month's surplus announcements. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "AT&T cuts another 1,800 jobs as it finishes fiber-Internet buildout," 17 June 2019

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

10 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

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



English Language Learners Definition of surplus

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an amount (such as an amount of money) that is more than the amount that is needed



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

: more than the amount that is needed


sur·​plus | \ ˈsər-pləs How to pronounce surplus (audio) \

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

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sur·​plus | \ ˈsər-ˌpləs How to pronounce surplus (audio) \

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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