borrow

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • verb to transfer a unit from a higher category to count in a lower one, compensating for it later

Accounting

  • verb to take money from someone for a time, possibly paying interest for it, and repaying it at the end of the period
  • verb to buy at spot prices and sell forward at the same time

Computing

Construction

  • In earth moving, fill acquired from an excavation source outside the required cut area. See also borrow fill material.

Publishing

  • verb to take something away temporarily with the intention of returning it

Origin & History of “borrow”

Modern English borrow is a descendant of Old English borgian, which came from the Germanic base *borg-. this was a variant of *berg- (source of English barrow ‘mound’) and *burg- (source of English borough and bury). The underlying sense of the Germanic base was ‘protection, shelter’, and the development of meaning in the case of borrow seems to have been like this: originally, to borrow something from somebody was to receive it temporarily from them in return for some sort of security, which would be forfeited if the thing borrowed were not kept safe and eventually returned. Gradually, the notion of giving some sort of concrete security, such as money, weakened into a spoken pledge, which by modern times had become simply the unspoken assumption that anything that has been borrowed must by definition be returned.
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