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I was watching one of those videos where a person is showing off their computer setup and the guy was listing everything that was in, like a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard, and then this sentence came about: "These are the Bose(name of a company) headphones that I got expensed when I worked for Facebook."

What does it mean to get something expensed?

Does it have anything to do with these definitions from Merriam Webster? 1a: to charge to an expense account b: to write off as an expense

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    Yes, it has everything to do with those definitions.
    – randomhead
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:09
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    I think this is a fair question, the word itself isn't found in a dictionary and the OP has given both the context and the research they did.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:17

2 Answers 2

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The primary definitions of 'expense' are as a noun, but Cambridge also lists it as a verb:

to show the full amount of money paid for something as a cost in a company's accounts, rather than showing it as a lower and lower amount over a period of time.

When you work as an employee for a company and have to pay for something out of your own pocket, you may be able to claim that back from your employer as a work-related expense.

So, to expense something means to claim it as an expense. Therefore, the past participle of the verb 'expensed' would mean that something had already been claimed that way.

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  • I don't see how "expensed" is jargon. It is the verb "to expense," exactly as the dictionary defines it, used in the past tense (and in OP's example, in the passive voice as well): "I got these written off as an expense when I worked at Facebook."
    – randomhead
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:38
  • @randomhead you're quite right, it is also a verb! I did not know that. I have updated my answer, thank you.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:50
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You have already looked up the verb "to expense" and found the definition "to write off as an expense."

"Headphones that I got expensed" uses the past participle of the verb "to expense" in the passive voice. It can be translated as "Headphones that I got written off as a business expense."

There is a double meaning, or ambiguity, in the verb "got" and the past participle "expensed:"

  1. These headphones I got [received] were expensed [had been written off] when I acquired them.
  2. These headphones I got expensed [caused to be written off] after I acquired them.

The first meaning would describe a situation in which Facebook purchased headphones for all their employees and handed them out. The second meaning would be where the employee purchased the headphones with their own money and submitted a receipt to Facebook, and then got reimbursed.

Without more context we can't really say which of these happened, but it is not important to the video. The point is that the employee has the headphones, and it did not cost them money to get them.


Compare both options to the active voice: "I expensed these headphones." This means the person talking was the one who wrote them off. See this humorous New Yorker cartoon:

A cartoon of a waiter at a fancy restaurant talking to Lex Luthor and a henchman. In the background, from another table, Superman raises a glass of wine toward Lex Luthor.
"The gentleman says, 'You tell me you've got a dastardly plan, then I'll swear to defeat you, and then we can both expense this.' "

Here it is implied that Superman is an independent contractor (presumably being paid by the city for each disaster he prevents, or something) and keeps his own account books.

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