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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ Inflation is often a trade-off for healthy economic growth.
▪ All that is certain is that trade-offs of this kind will be inevitable.
▪ Also the nature of the trade-offs may change over time, as may the choices of the policy-maker.
▪ However, taking account of dignity requires the acceptance of any necessary trade-offs between it and other valued objectives.
▪ It is very beneficial to work for yourself, but there are trade-offs.
▪ Of course, there are technical and economic trade-offs associated with scale.
▪ The trade-off, as Fraser remarks, is between freedom and coherence.
▪ You make trade-offs to stay sane.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Tradeoff \Trade"off\, Trade-off \Trade"-off\, n.

  1. the exchange of one thing (object, right, opportunity) for another of approximately equal value, so as to seal a bargain, or effect a compromise.

  2. the giving up of one desired objective in order to attain another, when both cannot be achieved at the same time; as, the factory workers viewed the trade-off of air quality for jobs as a necessary evil.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

also tradeoff, "sacrifice of one benefit for another," 1959, from verbal phrase to trade off; see trade (v.) + off (adv.).


alt. Any situation in which the quality or quantity of one thing must be decreased for another to be increased. n. Any situation in which the quality or quantity of one thing must be decreased for another to be increased.


n. an exchange that occurs as a compromise; "I faced a tradeoff between eating and buying my medicine" [syn: tradeoff]


A trade-off (or tradeoff) is a situation that involves losing one quality or aspect of something in return for gaining another quality or aspect. More colloquially, if one thing increases, some other thing must decrease. Tradeoffs can occur for many reasons, including simple physics (into a given amount of space, you can fit many small objects or fewer large objects). The idea of a tradeoff often implies a decision to be made with full comprehension of both the upside and downside of a particular choice, such as when a person decides whether to invest in stocks (more risky but with a greater potential return) versus bonds (generally safer, but lower potential returns).

The term is also used widely in an evolutionary context, in which case natural selection and sexual selection act as the ultimate "decision-makers". In biology, the concepts of tradeoffs and constraints are often closely related. In economics, a trade-off is commonly expressed as opportunity cost which is the preferred alternative when taking an economic decision.

Usage examples of "trade-off".

In assessing the relative threat posed by biological and chemical weapons, it appears there is a trade-off.

Heber-Katz hypothesized that eons ago, mammals made an evolutionary trade-off.

The trade-offs inherent in the trimester system smack of the bargaining and dealing that legislators engage in to pass a highway construction bill.

America reached full employment while simultaneously nullifying inflation, making obsolete the renowned Phillips Curve of the Keynesian school of economics, which graphically demonstrated that there was a necessary trade-off between unemployment and inflation, i.

His face was now entirely free of acne and blemishes, but there was a trade-off: it was much too pale, and there were dark circles under his eyes, as if he hadn't been sleeping.

His blood was up, as always during a conquest, but he was not pleased at all that Jarlaxle had decided to launch the attack at dawn, a seemingly foolish trade-off of putting his soldiers, used to a world of blackness, at a disadvantage, for the simple gain of constructing a crystalline tower vantage point.

There were trade-offs aplenty, but no free lunches, or even cheap ones.

It was a trade-off: a speedy exit versus hanging around for a cavalry escort.

The slippery substance made it even harder for them to move forward over the bodies piling up in the tunnel, but as far as they were concerned, that was a more than equitable trade-off.

But the caller spoke my language, Thari, which made me curious enough to propose a meeting and a trade-off of information that evening in the bar of the local country club.

Two of them argued about whether or not the greater hardness of tungsten penetrators was a good trade-off for the higher sectional density of depleted-uranium railgun ammo.

The swamp cooler on the roof of the post office had lowered the interior temperature but raised the humidity, so the trade-off was just about equal.