Printable Version
Pronunciation: bayl-æwt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An attempt to save a sinking boat. 2. A financial rescue. 3. An emergency parachute jump from a damaged airplane.

Notes: As Congress works feverishly on a plan (Emergency Economic Stabilization Bill) to bail the nation's largest financial institutions out of the state of bankruptcy they find themselves in, we might take a look at this word for its implications. Bailout is the noun from of the complex verb to bail out. It has a broad, general meaning that lends itself to confusion.

In Play: Although many in the US are angry at the current bailout plan, it is the US public's thirst for credit, combined with loose rules governing banking, that experts say led us to our current situation. The current plan is a general refinancing plan for banking institutions. The US government will buy mortgage-backed securities at a low price to sell later when they are worth more. Additionally, the government will obtain stock in the companies that receive loans, stock that also can be sold later for profit. The bailout, therefore, should make money for the government and cost the taxpayer nothing.

Word History: Bailout is, of course, the action noun based on the verb bail out. The verb bail comes from a nautical noun bail "bucket or pail". A bail in this sense comes from French baille "a bucket, a pail" from Late Latin baiula "water carrier", which probably came from Classical Latin baculus "stick". (The diminutive of baculus is bacillus, a germ that looks like a little stick.) It is possible that the semantic shift from "stick" to "pail" occurred in the days when water was carried in pails on the ends of a stick placed over the shoulder. However, this is mostly speculation.

Dr. Goodword,

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