Definition of tontine
: a joint financial arrangement whereby the participants usually contribute equally to a prize that is awarded entirely to the participant who survives all the others
tontine was our Word of the Day on 05/26/2013. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Recent Examples of tontine from the Web
Works by Agatha Christie, Robert Louis Stevenson and P. G. Wodehouse all featured tontine members plotting to kill one another in hope of a big payoff.
Popular culture embellished the tontine’s nefarious reputation.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tontine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
Tontines were named after their creator, a Neapolitan banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1653, Tonti convinced investors to buy shares in a fund he had created. Each year, the investors earned dividends, and when one of them died, his or her share of the profits was redistributed among the survivors. When the last investor died, the capital reverted to the state. Louis XIV of France used tontines to save his ailing treasury and to fund municipal projects, and private tontines (where the last surviving investor-and subsequently his or her heirs-got the cash instead of the state) became popular throughout Europe and the U.S. Eventually, though, tontines were banned; there was just too much temptation for unscrupulous investors to bump off their fellow subscribers.
Origin and Etymology of tontine
French, from Lorenzo Tonti †1695 Italian banker
First Known Use: 1765See Words from the same year
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tontine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).