noun \ ˈrīt-ˌdau̇n \
Updated on: 19 Mar 2018

Definition of write-down

: a deliberate reduction in the book value of an asset (as to reflect the effect of obsolescence)

First Known Use of write-down


write down


Definition of write down

1 : to record in written form
2 a : to depreciate, disparage, or injure by writing
b : to reduce in status, rank, or value; especially : to reduce the book value of
: to write so as to appeal to a lower level of taste, comprehension, or intelligence

Examples of write down in a Sentence

  1. a company forced to write down its assets

  2. write down what you remember about that day

Recent Examples of write down from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'write down.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of write down


Financial Definition of WRITE-DOWN


What It Is

A write-down is the accounting term used to describe a reduction in the book value of an asset due to economic or fundamental changes in the asset.  A write-down is the opposite of a write-up.

How It Works

A write-down can be processed whenever a firm readjusts their balance sheet numbers which typically happens when a company files their quarterly earnings.

Insurance companies often need to write down assets since they must maintain a certain stated level of capital compared to their portfolio of potential liabilities. For illiquid investments such as real estate, book value is calculated by analyzing current market conditions, taking into consideration rental rates, the values of similar buildings, as well as current interest rates.  When preparing quarterly financial updates, insurance firms reevaluate the value of their real estate holdings.  If market conditions change, the firm writes down the book value of the holding to adjust the value to current market conditions.

Thus a real estate write-down in our example can be caused by either a negative change in the overall macro environment, or a micro economic occurrence such as building deterioration.

Why It Matters

Changes in book values caused by write-downs were at the heart of financial company failures caused by the sub-prime crisis. When write-downs occurred, many financial firms needed to raise capital from other sources to maintain their minimum capital obligations.

Companies that could not raise money by selling stock, new debt, or assets, were forced into bankruptcy or forced mergers when their assets could no longer cover their liabilities.

Law Dictionary

write down

transitive verb

legal Definition of write down

wrote down; written down; writing down
: to reduce the book value of (an asset)
  • write down accounts receivable


play \ˈrīt-ˌdau̇n\ noun

Learn More about write-down

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


one that breaks open safes to steal

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice-with-tweedle-dee-and-tweedle-dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!