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Negotiable – definition and meaning

In business, if something is negotiable, we can sell or transfer it to another person or entity as a form of payment. In other words, it is transferable by endorsement and delivery. For example, a check (UK: cheque) that I make out to somebody is a negotiable instrument. It is negotiable because that person can endorse it for payment or transfer it to another person.

Other examples of negotiable instruments include banknotes, bills of exchange, demand draft and promissory notes.

We also use the word for the terms of an agreement or contract. It means that we might be able to adjust the terms. For example, if you advertise your car for sale in your local newspaper and say ‘$15,000 negotiable’, it means you would consider offers below that amount.

You could also write, ‘%15,000 ONO.’ ‘ONO’ stands for ‘or near offer.’

Negotiable - meaning and example
In business, ‘negotiable’ means that we can adjust the terms of a deal. In this case, we might be able to reduce the sale price of the car.

We can often (not always) replace the term with marketable, unregistered, or transferable in business situations.

In finance, the word typically refers to a legal instrument or document that we use in lieu of cash. We use it to make a promise of payment – in most cases of cash.

The carrier of the document receives payment either upon demand or at some future date.

Negotiable vs. non-negotiable

Non-negotiable has the opposite meaning. It means that the deal not open for discussion or modification. If it is a financial instrument, we cannot transfer or assign legal ownership to somebody else.

A price that we cannot negotiate is the final price. In other words, the seller would not consider anything bellow the asking price.

Negotiable instruments
A negotiable instrument is a document that guarantees the payment of a specified amount of money. The receiver gets the money either on demand, or at a set time.

Dictionary.com has the following definitions for the term when it is an adjective:

“1. Capable of being negotiated (e.g. when you can negotiate salary demand). 2. (of bills, securities, etc.) Transferable by delivery, with or without endorsement, according to the circumstances, the title passing to the transferee.”

Origin of negotiable

Etymologists say that the adjective ‘negotiable’ first appeared in the English language around 1749. The word – negotiate + able – comes from the French négociable (17c). The noun is ‘negotiability’ and the verb is ‘to negotiate’.

The verb ‘negotiate’ comes from the Latin negotiate (done in the course of business). The Latin verb is negotiari (to do business) and noun is negotium (business).

Famous quote using ‘negotiable’ – During The Berlin Crisis in 1961, US President John F. Kennedy said in a radio and TV address to the American people: “We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

During his inaugural address in 1961, President Kennedy said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

Video – Meaning of negotiable

This video explains the different meanings of the term.