For example I want increase the speed of a memory system in a computer but this will cost more money or decreasing the capacity will also gain more speed.

So I have to lose capacity and money in order to gain speed. More general example, when losing one quality in return gaining other quality in more technical perspective usage.

So I'm wondering if there is a word out there for this?

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    Sacrifice and compromise? Commented May 16, 2017 at 10:50
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    Compensate would be sufficient Commented May 18, 2017 at 6:46
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    Just to let you know: I agree with your and Lunakshc's selection! Trade-off is the perfect word and is often used in tech lingo to mean exactly what you had wanted to say. Commented May 18, 2017 at 7:18
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    There's an idiom "to lose a quid and find a fiver" that means lose something to gain more in return. Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:22
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    I think you can also use "Exchange" as a verb. Or use the expression "in exchange for". Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:39

6 Answers 6



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.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade-off

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    Or even just trade
    – Savage
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 14:50
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    Can also be used as a verb: trade off memory capacity for CPU speed. Or slightly more difficult to parse (slightly archaic style) trade memory capacity off CPU speed -- this is only still correct because it's the origin of the noun-phrase trade-off. More up-to-date, you'd use the adverb against with trade, e.g.: trade memory capacity against CPU speed.
    – Rich
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 22:36
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    @Rich thanks for the comments. what is the differences between trade-off and sacrifice from your point of view? From this context so I simply could use this : sacrifice memory capacity for CPU speed. or?
    – Adam
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 22:50
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    @Adam they are almost equivalent. While trade-off implies a balance between the two, sacrifice would tend to imply a larger loss or a one-way conversion or a hard limit. To use a the computer analogy again, you could make a trade-off between the CPU speed and memory, limited by your budget (you can always upgrade), but should you wish to use a smaller motherboard, you would sacrifice expansionability as the smaller board has (for example) less PCI-e slots. In this case, there is still a benefit, but while you could get CPU and RAM by throwing more money at it...
    – Baldrickk
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 9:13
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    ... you wouldn't be able to get more PCI-e slots on a smaller motherboard. Note that you still get a benefit from making this choice. The difference between the two is not great.
    – Baldrickk
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 9:17

So I have to sacrifice capacity in order to gain speed.

Sacrifice: give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations.

"Sacrifice," Verb, Definition 2, Google

So I have to compromise capacity in order to gain speed.

Compromise: expediently accept standards that are lower than is desirable.

"Compromise," Verb, Definition 2, Google

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    @Adam, that's for "sacrifice" the noun. We're looking at "sacrifice" the verb here (see my link above). And I do want to make a note that when not speaking in a religious context, most people will pretty much not think of the animal-killing/offering thing. Perhaps an image/meme search would be more appropriate: google.com.tw/…. Commented May 16, 2017 at 11:47
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    @Adam To back up TeacherKSHuang I do not often even think of animal sacrifice when I hear the word sacrifice, unless it is specifically in the religious context. I have heard it in an emergency or war scenario. He sacrificed himself so that the rest of the troop could get away,
    – WRX
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 11:51
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    of course i commend your answer and up voted it, when sacrifice something i do not have to gain other thing in return or ?
    – Adam
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 12:03
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    +1, Sacrifice is a good word. See Queen sacrifice. Commented May 16, 2017 at 12:10
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    @Adam - There are many definitions of sacrifice. Wikipedia is not a dictionary; you can't rely on Wikipedia to give you all possible definitions of a word.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 14:51

Not a singular word, but the phrase “opportunity cost” describes this situation well.

“The opportunity cost of higher speed is a loss of capacity.”

  • @J... - What you're describing is an investment. The opportunity cost in that situation would be what you could have done with the money instead of buying the tractor, e.g. buying a barn for your business or 7000 Big Macs. That would probably be the route I would take with the money :)
    – Ben Sutton
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 18:12

The verb “to gambit” comes from the world of chess and is sometimes employed in other field.

“He gambits this in order to get that.”

The root of the word is the Italian ‘gambetto.’

In the Oxford English dictionary I could only find gambit as a noun, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used as a verb in a phrase as well.

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    strictly speaking, a gambit gives you an advantage, which is not yet turned into a concrete benefit
    – njzk2
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 14:59
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    I think of "gambit" as a noun, not as a verb. "Gamble" is a verb, but its meaning is somewhat different.
    – Jasper
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 15:09
  • Definitely a noun, and rather rooted in military tactics so that is the imagery that this word will invoke. A gambit is usually some type of tactical strategy that makes an early sacrifice with the intent of it doing more damage to the enemy, either physically or psychologically, such that it will, in the end, turn to an advantage.
    – J...
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:24
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    Chess commentators often use gambit as a verb: "He gambited the pawn." (Disclaimer: just because someone in a "specialized field" uses a word in a certain way doesn't necessarily mean it's "proper English".)
    – Ghotir
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:50

I kind of like the word 'compensation' for this, though there is some nuance.

It's used in chess as well: He sacrificed his rook but his position is better so he has compensation.

It's used in other contexts as well of course: I was compensated. (implies an original loss of something, potentially time or materials)

In your example: We will have less capacity, but this is compensated by an increase in speed.


The traditional phrase is "a sprat to catch a mackerel". This dates from the mid 19th century—for example, see this Oxford Reference—and is still current: for example as the title of a book published in 2010.


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