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Is “leverage” a verb?

I’m new here, and am wondering what all you experts think about the use of the word “leverage” as a verb. It seems it’s being used more often recently. Personally I feel that “leverage” is a noun, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it”. However it seems that mainly financial and managerial types seem to like using is as a verb - “Hey, let’s leverage the unfortunate circumstances of these people that can’t pay their bonds, and get their homes for free”.

What does it mean? Although MW does give it as a verb as well, it’s interesting that investopedia.com gives it as “1 The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”, i.e. it lists the verb first. Other sources give different meanings, suggesting that the meaning of “leverage” as a verb is not very clear. I wonder what these people do when their roof leakages, or the engines of their cars failure?

Just for interest, over the years I’ve bookmarked the following in my web browser (under info / language / English):

(please excuse the language there where not appropriate :)

Oh yes, and a quote from Seth Godin’s blog (although I’m not sure who he is quoting):

“leveraging” , - comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like “leverage” is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say “leverage”, the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying.

(Seth is an American marketer, motivational speaker and author)

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From a grammatical standpoint one can use any noun as a verb if the meaning is clear in context; whether it is good style is another matter.

Thus one can "pen" a letter and so on. The exception to this is where a separate verb form exists already: I can inform you, but not information you.

Leverage as a verb is widely used in financial circles when referring to gearing or the debt/equity ratio. Outside of financial circles the meaning is metaphorical and perhaps just a fashionable buzz word

jayles the unwoven January 30, 2015, 9:08am

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Leverage as a verb has two meanings.

The first is specifically financial one meaning to use credit - so at the of the 2008 crisis, Obama talked of the American economy being over-leveraged: too dependent on credit. A leveraged buyout is when one company buys out another, but financed bank loans rather than form its own finances. These wre rather popular in the nineties, I think.

The second is rather more controversial, and is often seen as business bullshit, and means to generally improve something - 'He's taking extra courses in an attempt to leverage his career.'

Incidentally, Americans pronounce these verbs with a short e as in bed, while Brits pronounce the noun with a long e, asin sheet.

Warsaw Will (unlogged in) February 4, 2015, 5:01am

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Impressive responses here.

Incidentally, George Orwell, who is generally viewed as an excellent exponent of English written style, said the same as Jayles the Unwoven. Grammatically you can use a noun as a verb - he quoted "tabling a motion".

Leveraging is a useful verb as it does not mean the same as levering. To lever something (a manhole lid perhaps) you apply a lever to it. To leverage something you apply it to the other end of a lever in order to multiply its effect. So when I used a pick axe at the weekend to lift a manhole lid, I was levering the lid but leveraging my strength. In corporate finance, leveraging is not just borrowing, but using credit to increase the effect of some existing assets. Certainly (like a lot of Americanisms) really useful when used well.

Damien K April 13, 2015, 10:03am

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Forget elegance - and I have no actual example to quote - but I can imagine 'information' being used as a verb: supplying with information may not be the same as informing. So I would understand someone who asked 'Has that satellite been informationed yet'.
I suspect there are better counterexamples than this but cannot immediately think of one.

BevRowe July 2, 2015, 5:26am

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"-age" is a "suffix typically forming mass or abstract nouns from various parts of speech, occurring originally in loanwords from French (voyage; courage) and productive in English with the meanings “aggregate” (coinage; peerage; trackage), “process” (coverage; breakage), “the outcome of” as either “the fact of” or “the physical effect or remains of” (seepage; wreckage; spoilage), “place of living or business” (parsonage; brokerage), “social standing or relationship” (bondage; marriage; patronage), and “quantity, measure, or charge” (footage; shortage; tonnage; towage). "

Thus words like leverage using the suffix "-age" are prima facie expected to be nouns, and one would normally use the root as the verb as in "to broker", "to break". That said, "leverage" seems to have developed as special meaning of its own, distinct from "lever", so it becomes meaningful to use "leverage" as a verb.

In some ways this is similar to "influence" which one would expect to be a noun like other words ending in "-ence" or "-ance"; however we did not bring in the root verb "influe" into English so we use "influence" as a verb too.

jayles the unwoven July 2, 2015, 11:32am

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This quote from Kelvin sums up perfectly what the "corporate speak" advocates are doing: "Verbing weirds language". To which Hobbes replied "Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding". (ref http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2013/01/28)

DaveBoltman July 27, 2015, 11:30pm

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@DaveBoltman - "verbing weirds language":

so, off the top of my head, here are some examples of weirding:

to park a car
to book a room
to leg it
to rain, snow etc
to light a fire
to plough / plow a field
to be floored by a question
to be hedged in / 'Don't fence me in'
to log an entry
to date something (or somebody - different meanings)
to bar somebody from something
to post / mail a letter
to water the plants
to auction a painting
to table a motion
to chair a meeting
to referree a game
to ship the goods
to house a museum


As far as I can see (with a little checking at Online Etymology Dictionary), in all these cases the noun came first. And what about phrasal and prepositional verbs:

to eye up the girls
to leaf through a book
to elbow someone aside
to ring something up

And then there's your "sums up". "To sum" appears to be a 13th century example of verbing, with the noun just beating the verb into the language. And in your meaning, seems to come from the Latin noun summa.

Stephen Pinker reckons that one fifth of English verbs come from nouns, and says that "in fact, easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English" (The Language Instict - from about.grammar.com)

And if making nouns from verbs is OK (call, shout, paint), why should making verbs from nouns be so dreadful ? And what about all those verb / noun pairs which can cause stressing problems for foreign learners:

import, export, discount, permit, insult, protest, rebel, project, compound, conduct

No doubt in most cases the verb came first, but in some it seems to have been a pretty close run thing. The word stress itself, incidentally, seems to have appeared in each class about the same time, c.1300.

There's much about corporate speak I don't like, but usually when it's meaningless (going forward) , euphemistic (downsizing) , and especially when it's incomprehensible to those not in the know, and for which perfectlt good alternatives already exist (low hanging fruit, bring your A game, keep me in the loop). I notice that none of those involve verbing, which is usually only a problem when the word is new to us. Some people (me included) still have a problem with incentivise, and perhaps prioritise, while not batting an eyelid at nationalise or harmonise. What a difference a hundred years or so makes.

Warsaw Will July 28, 2015, 5:56am

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You need someone to proof read this "http://painintheenglish.com/case/5392/" page.

lynn sorenson March 16, 2017, 6:19am

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I prefer to use "provide leverage". But that´s just me.

cipriana July 6, 2017, 6:20pm

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Yes     No