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

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of surplus in a Sentence

Noun 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 Talks appear to be hung up on Chinese pressure for Washington to roll back some of its punitive tariffs imposed in the fight over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology ambitions. Washington Post, "Asian stocks sink after Trump threatens more China tariffs," 13 Nov. 2019 In addition to the ambitious primary-surplus target and the wage freeze, Jamaica was obliged to seek relief from private-sector creditors in the form of longer maturities and a lower interest rate. The Economist, "Jamaica’s tumultuous relationship with the IMF has a happy ending," 9 Nov. 2019 There, enslaved people sold surplus crops or crafts and bought items, including porcelain and tobacco pipes. Enslaved Africans' level of economic access varied by island and historical period and could be severely restricted. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "Caribbean excavation offers intimate look at the lives of enslaved Africans," 7 Nov. 2019 Governments of the two biggest global economies have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods in the fight over China's trade surplus and technology ambitions. CBS News, "China says tariffs will come down if trade deal reached with U.S.," 7 Nov. 2019 Governments of the two biggest global economies have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods in the fight over China's trade surplus and technology ambitions. NBC News, "China says Beijing, U.S. to lift tariff hikes as talks advance," 7 Nov. 2019 The Wales international was deemed to be surplus to requirements in the Spanish capital during the summer and was on the brink of moving to the Chinese Super League, only for a deal to fall apart in the eleventh hour., "Zinedine Zidane Admits He Wants Gareth Bale to Stay at Real Madrid," 5 Nov. 2019 That adds up to a vast surplus unless there is a resurgence of global economic growth to stimulate demand, or a prolonged conflict in the Middle East or other disruption to supply. Clifford Krauss, New York Times, "Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming," 3 Nov. 2019 Our Passive House’s heating load, is so low that our Sanden hot water heater by itself produces not only all of our hot water, but enough surplus heat to keep our home warm. oregonlive, "Portland’s ultra energy-efficient passive houses are open to explore," 31 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Last month, council members aired some grievances about their role in the economic development team's surplus property process. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville councilman pushes for oversight of city economic development after 'mistakes'," 10 Sep. 2019 That’s still the case today, long after the bunkers were last used and 12 years after the U.S. Navy declared its 5,000 acres south of Highway 4 to be surplus property. John King,, "Concord weapons station has fraught history, but development concept has promise," 3 Sep. 2019 The Sporting CP academy graduate could possibly be surplus to requirements., "8 Tottenham Hotspur Players Who Could Still Leave This Summer," 20 Aug. 2019 Congress has continued funding construction of the plant, which would be used to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, despite a series of reviews casting doubt on the financial logic involved. Scott Calvert, WSJ, "South Carolina Fights U.S. Plan to Abandon Nuclear Project Costing $1.2 Million a Day," 18 July 2018 The result, Elmer said, is the system has surplus power capacity without the Killingly plant. Stephen Singer,, "Environmentalists clash with Lamont as natural gas plant set for Killingly tests Connecticut’s promise to address climate change," 10 Sep. 2019 When the Cold War thawed in the 1980s, more surplus military lands were earmarked for refuges. Fox News, "Sites of major US weapons tests now see wildlife flourishing," 19 Aug. 2019 When the Cold War ended in the 1980s, more surplus military lands were earmarked for refuges. Washington Post, "Heavily polluted US weapons sites are now home to wildlife," 18 Aug. 2019 When the Cold War ended in the 1980s, more surplus military lands were earmarked for refuges. Dan Elliott, The Denver Post, "Heavily polluted U.S. weapons sites — including Rocky Flats and Rocky Mountain Arsenal — are now home to wildlife," 18 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surplus

Time Traveler for surplus

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for surplus

Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Surplus.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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


How to pronounce surplus (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more


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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on surplus

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


strength of mind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • pasta resembling wheels with spokes
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!