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The definition of the word "irredeemable" appears to be causing some concern in the financial world.
The definition which appears in these dictionaries seems to be somewhat unusual.
Does anyone know how the definition

"irredeemable ........... 2.1 (of securities) on which no date is given for repayment of the capital sum."



  • @occasonal, the starting point would seem to be this sense of redeem

    1. b. To relieve, get rid of (a burden or obligation) by making some form of payment; to discharge, pay off (a debt, mortgage, or similar obligation).

    And so one sense of redeemable is

    1. a. originally Scottish. Of property, stock, etc.: able to be repurchased or redeemed.

    Hence irredeemable

    1. a. Incapable of being redeemed or bought back.
      Of Government annuities: Not terminable by repayment of the sum originally paid by the annuitant.

    (Definitions from the online Oxford English Dictionary.)

  • Thankyou, David.

    You have produced what appears to be the accepted definition of "irredeemable", which is significantly different from the original. The latter has "no date for" instead of the absolute "cannot" and it is the origin of this difference that I am hoping to find.

  • Dictionaries don't show what words ought to mean — they show how the words are actually used. A specialist dictionary — such as a dictionary of Financial English — shows how the word is used by the appropriate specialists. Extra details such as your no date for reflect the use by financial specialists, not their understanding of language.

    The question to be addressed is

    Why do financial experts feel the need for the special term irredeemable?

    It seems to me that they find it useful to categorise a particular the of bond as either redeemable or irredeemable. A Collins definition of redeemable is

    adjective (of bonds, shares, etc)
    1. subject to cancellation by repayment at a specified date or under specified conditions
    2. payable in or convertible into cash

    I take it that it's the first definition that specialists use to characterise the redeemable-or-not financial instruments. Relying on mere logic (not always wise) the antithesis would be

    'not subject to cancellation by repayment at a specific date or not subject to cancellation under any conditions'

    So, some dictionaries reflect the first part of this but not the second. This suggests to me that financial specialists feel

    • not subject to cancellation by repayment at a specific date — Yes, that's a sort of security that we need a term for.
    • not subject to cancellation under any conditions — No, we don't need that term; we don't see the need to talk about securities covered by that description.

    That the best I can think of. You'd probably do better asking some financial specialists.

  • I do not think there is much doubt about what the word is generally believed to mean, both in finance and elsewhere. It is the definition which you produced.

    The strange thing is that the Oxford dictionary has a definition which is both peculiar and apparently incorrect. I suspect that there is a specific history to this unusual definition which could be interesting.

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