Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Jan 21 10:20:26 UTC 2012

On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at> wrote:
>        I see that the OED is missing the investments meaning of beta, where
> the beta of a stock or portfolio is a number describing the relation of its returns
> with those of the financial market as a whole.  This is a fundamental concept
> of contemporary investments theory and practice.  Beta may be contrasted
> with alpha (also missing from the OED), which is a risk-adjusted measure of
> the so-called active return on an investment.  I'm not sure if these terms were
> originated (or popularized) by the work of Harry Markowitz in the 1950s or
> that of Jack Treynor and others in formulating the capital asset pricing model in
> the early 1960s.  They have been in wide use, within the financial community,
> for decades.  Wikipedia has articles on alpha (finance) and beta (finance).

I touched on this sense of "alpha" and "beta" in my On Language column
on "quants":


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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