Lever vs. Leverage
A lever is a simple tool, a bar of iron or a sturdy length of wood that may be used to move or dislodge something heavy. Leverage is the mechanical advantage gained by a person using a lever. According to Archimedes, the power of a lever is formidable:
“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” –Archimedes
A simple verb that means “to use a lever” is lever:
Dig out a hollow which is larger than the base of the keystone and roll this rock into place. Use the crowbar to lever it into its final position.
Each wedge in the row is pounded until a thin crack forms between the wedges and the rock can be levered apart.
The noun from lever is leverage: the mechanical advantage gained by the use of a lever.
A figurative meaning of leverage is “an advantage for accomplishing a purpose.”
Price-conscious renters have no leverage [with landlords].
The West has far more economic leverage over Russia at this moment than it does military possibilities.
The only negotiating leverage that most players had was to hold out at contract time, refusing to play unless their conditions were met.
The OED’s first documentation of leverage as a verb is dated 1937: “Acey leveraged the arm upward.” By 1957, the form leveraged was in use to refer to buyouts and holding companies.
In terms of finance, leverage means “to speculate financially on borrowed capital expecting profits to be greater than the interest that must be paid on the borrowed money.”
A “leveraged buyout” is the buyout of a company by its management with the help of outside capital.”
The word leverage appears in so many contexts now, both as noun and verb, that sometimes a reader must think carefully in order to know if it’s a noun meaning advantage or borrowing, or a verb meaning to lever, to supplement, to provide, or something else. Here are some examples:
Hillshire Brands expects to focus on continuing to invest in its business, reducing leverage over time and pursuing opportunistic acquisitions.
Alex Okosi [is] a key figure in the creation and production of world class African TV content for Africa. With this, he has built a successful platform for brands to leverage on.
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Sometimes the prepositions that follow the verb leverage are redundant or just don’t make sense:
One should leverage off of the previous work in completing this project.”
President Margee Ensign…will lead faculty members…to deliberate on how to leverage on Nigeria’s huge human and natural endowments to win the national war against poverty and illiteracy.
Bond Investors Looking For Bigger Returns Are Increasingly Relying To Leverage
Writers might want to consider relinquishing leverage to the corporate wheeler-dealers for their exclusive use to refer to borrowing and buyouts. Plain old lever still has its uses as a verb. As for leverage as a noun, advantage can replace it in most figurative contexts.
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