Brainfood: Words-Worth - Liquidator

Who doesn't experience a guilty thrill at the word 'liquidator'? We all know that it usually means an accountant, but it still conjures up the image of a ruthless assassin.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

That unfortunate association - if you're an accountant - comes from the Russian verb likvidirovat. It was a favourite word of Lenin, even before the revolution gave him the chance to put it into practice. Previously, 'to liquidate' had been free of sinister overtones.

It came from a secondary meaning of the word 'liquid', which had entered English in the 14th century. A liquid is wet but tends also to be transparent.

And in the 17th century, 'liquid' came to describe a clear or transparent argument. The financial meaning followed. A liquid debt was one that was undisputed. Such a debt could then be dealt with, or 'liquidated', a usage first recorded in Dr Johnson's dictionary of 1755. The 'liquidator' arrived 100 years later to enjoy half a century of respectability - before Lenin came along.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

The questions to ask when everything is unknown

Systemic intelligence is an indispensable skill for business leaders.

How to stop your culture going back to normal after COVID

In this video, Capita's Melanie Christopher and Greene King non-exec board director Lynne Weedall discuss...

This isn't just a health crisis, it's an equality crisis

Inspiring Women in Business winners: In the “new normal”, we must make sure that female...

How to build an anti-racist business

You don't need a long history of championing equality to make a difference.

What are Simon Roberts’ big 3 challenges at Sainsbury’s?

The grocer's new CEO has taken the reins at a critical time.

Should CEOs get political?

The protests that have erupted over George Floyd’s murder have prompted a corporate chorus of...