Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of endowment


  1. The transfer of money or property (usually as a gift) to a public organization for a specific purpose, such as medical research or scholarships.

Definition of endowment


  • (UK) IPA: /ɪnˈdaʊmənt/, SAMPA: /In"daUm@nt/ or IPA: /ɛnˈdaʊmənt/, SAMPA: /En"daUm@nt/
  • (US) enPR: ĕn-douʹmənt, IPA: /ɛnˈdaʊmənt/, SAMPA: /En"daUm@nt/


endowment (plural endowments)

  1. Something with which a person or thing is endowed.

    Every man is endowed with free will, that is our greatest endowment.

  2. The invested funds of a not-for-profit institution.

    Rich alumni have given Harvard an endowment worth billions, the interest on which supports the college handsomely.

  3. (informal, euphemistic, humorous, used only with a possessive pronoun) The penis.

    She was very impressed by his endowment.


  • (something with which a person or thing is endowed): gift

Derived terms

Related terms

Further reading

Financial endowment

A financial endowment is a transfer of money or property donated to an institution, usually with the stipulation that it be invested, and the principal remain intact in perpetuity or for a defined time period. This allows for the donation to have an impact over a longer period of time than if it were spent all at once.

The total value of an institution's investments is referred to as the institution's endowment.

College and university endowments

In the United States, the total endowment can be over one billion dollars at many financially stable private universities, such as Harvard which has an endowment of over 36 billion dollars. However, each university typically has numerous endowments, each of which are frequently restricted to funding very specific areas of the university. The most common examples are endowed professorships (also known as named chairs), and endowed scholarships or fellowships. For instance, Harvard University has 10,800 separate endowments.

At universities, typically 4-6% of the endowment's assets are spent every year, with any excess earnings reinvested to augment the endowment and to compensate for inflation and recessions in future years. "Endowment funds have also been created to support public secondary and elementary school districts in several states. Kansas incorporated its first public school district endowment association in Paola, Kansas, a small town of 5000 population, in 1983. Today it has approximately two million dollars in endowed principal which generates approximately $110,000 annually to distribute in scholarships to high school graduates and fund special projects in the district which can not be afforded by the tax base. To promote the development of endowment associations across Kansas, USD 368 Endowment Association which received a statewide award recognizing has developed a "starter kit" to assist other Kansas school districts in the organization and establishment of new endowment associations."

Almost all Universities in the United Kingdom are public rather than commercial institutions. There is therefore less of an endowment funding culture, with financial figures generally much lower.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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