Sequestration: a word apart from the Fiscal Cliff

Arguably the most frequently uttered word pairing on the news over the last few months has been “fiscal cliff”. Its single, more isolated companion, must be sequestration; which Judging by the comments circulating around in cyberspace is a very misunderstood word making a definite candidate for “Word from Today”.

This morning Simon Jack’s business report on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme featured it in two forms: 

“last Friday US Lawmakers fell into a trap of their own making when 85 Billion dollars worth indiscriminate spending cuts, known as sequestration, began to kick in. Both parties failed to agree how to stop them”.

The noun is followed by the use of the verb form by Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors’ Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson (@Ianshepherdson Twitter) when commenting on the ramifications of the Sequester :

“It does look very odd from the outside, but it’s coming, the bad news in coming. Because the sequestration has only just started, the beginning of March. It will take time to for that to filter through into spending, into job losses”

SJ: You say that the job losses are coming, are you sure about that?… are they going to happen in military towns?

IS: “Not the military themselves if you’re in uniform your safe; your excluded from the sequester but the Department of Defence employs 600,000 civilians, and those jobs are very much at risk”.

The interview flows on to consider the future impact on the economy and the stockmarket: “When central banks are printing as much money as The Fed is, that money usually, some of it anyway,  finds its way into the stockmarket. so I’m not surprised that we have got this sort of strange combination of  fiscal austerity coming, and the stockmarket appearing to ignore it. But It is not clear to me that this can continue indefinitely and I think a wobble in the Spring is a reasonable bet”.

Anyone interested in hearing the full interview or generally in finance and economics should visit the Radio 4 website  .

Google Definition Of Sequestor

Google;s Definition Of The Word “sequester”

So that offers a good sense of its usage but what does the word Sequestration mean? The Oxford Dictionary’s definition is “the action of sequestrating or taking legal possession of assets”. So there you have it.

Clear? Well perhaps not that much. Definitions are not helped by a very poor definition from Google accompanied by a land grab. It is hard to find many references to “Sequestration” being used as a term for “A general cut in government spending” prior to the seemingly intractable USA fiscal and budgetary problems. So before this becomes another word that is “modernised” or “colloquiallised” it must be time to consider its original meaning. A meaning that suits the usage well, but not this definition.

Sequester Definition

v. se·ques·tered, se·ques·ter·ing, se·ques·ters, (adj) sequestrable

First Known Use of SEQUESTER 1604

1.1. To remove or set apart; segregate.  See Synonyms.

1.2:  To cause to withdraw into seclusion

2:  (Law) Law to take (property) temporarily out of the possession of its owner, esp until the claims of creditors are satisfied or a court order is complied with

3.1 (Law) International law to requisition or appropriate (enemy property)

3.2. To seize especially by a writ of sequestration

4. To hold (as a metallic ion) in solution usually by inclusion in an appropriate coordination complex

©  4.2/5

© The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language 1.2, 1.1/1.2/4.2

© Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 2/3.1


Sequester Source

[Middle English sequestren, from Old French, from Latin sequestrare, to give up for safekeeping, from Latin sequester, depositary, trustee; see sekw-1 in Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

Middle English sequestren, from Anglo-French sequestrer, from Latin sequestrare to hand over to a trustee, from sequester third-party to whom disputed property is entrusted, agent, from secus beside, otherwise; akin to Latin sequi to follow

First Known Use: 14th century


Sequester used in a sentence

The jury was sequestered until a verdict was reached.

He was sequestered in his

Also usage made on Radio 4 in opening two paragraphs


Sequester: Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonyms: cut off, insulate, seclude, segregate, separate, isolate

Antonyms:  desegregate, integrate, reintegrate

 A potential source of Irony could be the definition that speaks of the “requisition of economy property”.  With the Democrats and Republcans fighting a war of a attrition in The Senate this definition and the core one “to set apart” seem highly appropriate.



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