Definition of Investment

Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition on CD-ROM (v., 2009.

We had a discussion yesterday about the meaning of the word investment. I don’t wish to rehash it, but I’d like to share my dictionary’s entry because it is interesting in its own right.

I have edited the entry for readability and to remove historical citations that support each definition, except in the case of the denistry reference (2.b), which cites the earliest recorded usage.

The OED arranges the several principle definitions in chronological order, running from 1597 to 1973:


  1. The act of putting clothes or vestments on; clothing; robes, vestments.

2.a. An outer covering of any kind; an envelope; a coating.

2.b. Refractory material which can be used to embed or surround an object and then is allowed to harden, so that soldering can be carried out (in Dentistry) or a mould made from it; as investment material; investment casting, a technique for making small, accurate castings from alloys having high melting points, the mould being made by investing a pattern of wax or similar material that can be removed from the investment by melting it.

1892 C. Hunter Man. Dental Laboratory viii. 115 If the new tooth must be soldered, an hour-and-a-half, from the time the case is ready to be put in the investment, is not too much for its safe accomplishment.

  1. The action of investing or fact of being invested with an office, right, or attribute; endowment.

4. The surrounding or hemming in of a town or fort by a hostile force so as to cut off all communication with the outside; beleaguerment; blockade.

5. The investing of money or capital.

5.a. In early use in the East India trade, for the employment of money in the purchase of Indian goods.

5.b. The conversion of money or circulating capital into some species of property from which an income or profit is expected to be derived in the ordinary course of trade or business.

Distinguished from speculation, in which the object is the chance of reaping a rapid advantage by a sudden rise in the market price of something which is bought merely in order to be held till it can be thus advantageously sold again.

5.c. An amount of money invested in some species of property; a form of property viewed as a vehicle in which money may be invested.

5.d. Investment currency, the currency resulting from the sale of foreign securities or used for their purchase when such transactions are controlled and channelled through a market separate from the market in foreign exchange; investment trust, a trust whose business is the investment of money.

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