or trade·off

[treyd-awf, -of]


the exchange of one thing for another of more or less equal value, especially to effect a compromise.

Origin of trade-off

First recorded in 1960–65; noun use of verb phrase trade off




the act or process of buying, selling, or exchanging commodities, at either wholesale or retail, within a country or between countries: domestic trade; foreign trade.
the act of buying, selling, or exchanging stocks, bonds, or currency: Stock brokerages typically charge a commission per trade.
a purchase or sale; business deal or transaction.
an exchange of items, usually without payment of money.
Sports. the transfer of a player or players among professional teams: a midseason trade.
any occupation pursued as a business or livelihood.
some line of skilled manual or mechanical work; craft: the trade of a carpenter; printer's trade.
people engaged in a particular line of business: a lecture of interest only to the trade.
market: an increase in the tourist trade.
a field of business activity: a magazine for the furniture trade.
the customers of a business establishment.
Informal. trade paper.

verb (used with object), trad·ed, trad·ing.

to buy and sell; barter; traffic in.
to exchange: to trade seats.
Sports. to transfer (a player under contract) from one team to another: The manager traded two defensive players at the end of the season.

verb (used without object), trad·ed, trad·ing.

to carry on trade.
to be bought, sold, or exchanged: Stocks traded lower after the release of the jobs report.
to traffic (usually followed by in): a tyrant who trades in human lives.
to make an exchange.
to make one's purchases; shop; buy.


of or relating to trade or commerce.
used by, serving, or intended for a particular trade: trade journal.
Also trades. of, composed of, or serving the members of a trade: a trade club.

Verb Phrases

trade down, to exchange a more valuable or desirable item for a less valuable or desirable one.
trade in, to give (a used article) as payment to be credited toward a purchase: We trade in our car every three years.
trade off, to exchange something for or with another.
trade on/upon, to turn to one's advantage, especially selfishly or unfairly; exploit: to trade on the weaknesses of others.
trade up, to exchange a less valuable or desirable item for a more valuable or desirable one.

Origin of trade

1300–50; 1540–50 for def 6; Middle English: course, path, track < Middle Low German, Middle Dutch (Old Saxon trada), cognate with Old High German trata; akin to tread
Related formstrad·a·ble, trade·a·ble, adjectivetrade·less, adjectivein·ter·trade, noun, verb, in·ter·trad·ed, in·ter·trad·ing.non·trade, nounnon·trad·ing, adjectivepro·trade, adjectivere·trade, verb, re·trad·ed, re·trad·ing, nounun·der·trade, verb, un·der·trad·ed, un·der·trad·ing.un·trad·a·ble, adjectiveun·trade·a·ble, adjectiveun·trad·ed, adjectiveun·trad·ing, adjective

Synonyms for trade

Synonym study

1. Trade , commerce , traffic refer to the exchanging of commodities for other commodities or money. Trade is the general word: a brisk trade between the nations. Commerce applies to trade on a large scale and over an extensive area: international commerce. Traffic may refer to a particular kind of trade; but it usually suggests the travel, transportation, and activity associated with or incident to trade: the opium traffic; heavy traffic on the railroads. 6. See occupation. 14. Trade , bargain , barter , sell refer to exchange or transfer of ownership for some kind of material consideration. Trade conveys the general idea, but often means to exchange articles of more or less even value: to trade with Argentina. Bargain suggests a somewhat extended period of coming to terms: to bargain about the price of a horse. Barter applies especially to exchanging goods, wares, labor, etc., with no transfer of money for the transaction: to barter wheat for machinery. Sell implies transferring ownership, usually for a sum of money: to sell a car. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tradeoff

Contemporary Examples of tradeoff

British Dictionary definitions for tradeoff



the act or an instance of buying and selling goods and services either on the domestic (wholesale and retail) markets or on the international (import, export, and entrepôt) marketsRelated adjective: mercantile
a personal occupation, esp a craft requiring skill
the people and practices of an industry, craft, or business
exchange of one thing for something else
the regular clientele of a firm or industry
amount of custom or commercial dealings; business
a specified market or businessthe tailoring trade
an occupation in commerce, as opposed to a profession
commercial customers, as opposed to the general publictrade only; trade advertising
homosexual slang a sexual partner or sexual partners collectively
archaic a custom or habit


(tr) to buy and sell (commercial merchandise)
to exchange (one thing) for another
(intr) to engage in trade
(intr) to deal or do business (with)we trade with them regularly


intended for or available only to people in industry or businesstrade prices
Derived Formstradable or tradeable, adjectivetradeless, adjective

Word Origin for trade

C14 (in the sense: track, hence, a regular business): related to Old Saxon trada, Old High German trata track; see tread



an exchange, esp as a compromise
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tradeoff

also trade-off, "sacrifice of one benefit for another," 1959, from verbal phrase to trade off; see trade + off.



late 14c., "path, track, course of action," introduced by the Hanse merchants, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German trade "track, course" (probably originally of a trading ship), cognate with Old English tredan (see tread). Sense of "one's habitual business" (1540s) developed from the notion of "way, course, manner of life" (mid-15c.); sense of "buying and selling" is first recorded 1550s. Trade wind (1640s) has nothing to do with commerce, but preserves the obsolete sense of "in a habitual or regular course." Trade union is attested from 1831.



1540s, "to tread a path," from trade (n.). Meaning "to occupy oneself (in something)" is recorded from c.1600. The U.S. sports team sense of "to exchange one player for another" is attested from 1899. Related: Traded; trading. To trade down is attested from 1942. Trade-in in reference to used cars is recorded from 1917. Trading post is recorded from 1796.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tradeoff in Culture


What must be given up, and what is gained, when an economic decision is made.


Business or commerce; economic activity.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with tradeoff


In addition to the idioms beginning with trade

  • trade down
  • trade in
  • trade off
  • trade on
  • trade up

also see:

  • tricks of the trade
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.