What is stock?

A sum of money? Torture devices? Learn the theories behind the first stock market.

  videos Hot for words


Marina Orlova of Hot for Words: Are you one of those people who checks the stock market from the moment you wake up until the moment the market closes? Do you ever feel chained to it, like you're in some kind of torture device as you go through an emotional rollercoaster? If you do, you're not alone. There are a few theories about the origin of the word "stock," one of which goes back to the torture devices used in the Middle Ages! Let me explain …

During the 1300s, Londoners sold fish and meat in the very first Stock Market. The market may have earned this name because it occupied the former site of torture devices called stocks. These big wooden contraptions held you by your arms, so you had to stay in one place while the public made fun of you. So it seems they named the meat and fish market after these stocks. And years later, when the financial market was formed, it also took on this name. So many believe that stocks are named after torture devices!

There are some other possible explanations as well. In the early 1400s, "stock" meant "supply for future use," or a "sum of money." It wasn't until 1601 that the word started to mean "the original capital invested into a business by its founders," or "an ownership share in a corporation." And in 1809, the word "stock" was married to the word "market" and came to be understood as a place where securities are bought and sold.

Can you think of some other meanings of the word stock? For one, it can be used to describe a soup broth made from boiling meat or vegetables. And you may not know that it was also used in theater to mean a company that regularly acts and puts on performances together in a particular venue. Lastly, it can also mean commonplace, or recurring, like a "stock answer."

For your homework, tell me what you choose to believe - does "stock" come from old torture devices and public humiliation, or is it all about finances?



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