Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-mêr-taiz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To pay down a debt in installments. 2. To deduct an expenditure from taxes in installments over a period of time.

Notes: We may amortize a debt or a large expense on income taxes. The noun for this verb is either amortizement or amortization; the latter is much preferred. There is a passive adjective, amortizable, but the present participle is used for the active adjective, amortizing. If you are outside North America, remember to spell today's word amortise, as well as all its accomplices, with an S instead of a Z.

In Play: I suppose, in the States, today's word is used more frequently in relation to taxes, deducting say, 1/10 each year over a ten year period: "Rusty Carr is amortizing the new tractor he bought over a ten year period for tax purposes." However, paying off any kind of obligation over time also qualifies: "I'm afraid my affection for you is amortizing itself every time you break a date with me."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from a conjugational stem of (where else?) Old French amortir "to deaden", amortiss-. Old French caught this word from Medieval Latin admortire "to deaden, extinquish". The Latin word is based on ad "(up) to" + mortuus "dead", the adjective of mors "death". English picked up from Latin several words with this stem: mortuary, mortify, morbid, and mortal, to mention just four. Russian smert' "death", as in SMERSH = smert' shpionam "death to spies", famous in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, also shares the same origin. (I'm afraid we cannot amortize our gratitude to Bill Lord for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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