A “bail out” (now the one-word “bailout") is a financial rescue to a failing entity, such as a government loan to support a failing bank. The term began in 1932 with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, an independent agency of the United States government that made loans to banks, railroads and other business during the Great Depression. “But nowhere in the act which created this corporation will it be found that its resources were intended to BAIL OUT bankers simply because the bankers no longer were WILLING to carry loans they had previously advanced” was cited in print on March 19, 1932. “Bail-out”—the noun form—has been cited in print since at least 1939.
The financial “bail out” most probably relates to people who “bail out” of aircraft and escape to safety. People in a flooded boat can get a bucket and “bail out” the water and, in a related bit of financial slang, it might be said that “bailouts” help rescue companies that are “under water.” However, there are no early citations that indicate that the financial “bail out” evolved from this water use.
The term “bail-in”—financial restructurings not using public money—began to be used in the late 1990s.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Etymology: < to bail out at bail v.1
A (means of) release or rescue from difficulty or crisis; spec. an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business, etc.; money given as such assistance.
1939 Time 9 Oct. 58/2 (heading) $40,000,000 bail-out.
1940 Wall St. Jrnl. 13 Apr. 6/1 Mr. Bunker said he would prohibit loans to officers [of trusts] and other methods of effecting a ‘bail-out’.
Google News Archive
19 March 1932, Rochester (NY) Evening Journal and the Post Express, “Reconstruction Act Does Not Call for Dumping of Loans by Private Bankers” by Julius C. Berens (N.Y. American), pg. 1, col. 6:
But nowhere in the act which created this corporation will it be found that its resources were intended to BAIL OUT bankers simply because the bankers no longer were WILLING to carry loans they had previously advanced.
28 March 1932, New York (NY) Times, “Capital Holds I.C.C. Bowed to President” by Arthur Krock, pg. 2:
The commission statement spoke indignantly against a government policy of “bailing out banks.”
Google News Archive
26 May 1932, Rochester (NY) Evening Journal and Post Express, “The Paramount Need,” pg. 32, col. 6:
It (a loan by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—ed.) contributes directly toward economic rehabilitation, whereas earlier loans to railroads for the purpose of bailing out private bankers holding questionable assets were of a different calibre.
Google News Archive
19 May 1933, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Senate Takes Up Bank Plan,” pg. 3, col. 1:
One Republican member of the banking committee said the treasury plan would have the effect of “bailing out” all banks through the Reconstruction Finance corporation.
OCLC WorldCat record
To ‘Bail out’
Author: Atcheson L Hench
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: American Speech, v32 n2 (May, 1957): 159-160
Database: Language & Literature
Other Databases: JSTOR
On the Trail of “Bailing Out”
September 30, 2008
By Ben Zimmer
The phrasal verb bail out made the transition to the world of finance in short order, just in time for the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Records from 1932 hearings of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency include this: “They should purchase some additional stock, if I may use the term, to bail out the Government’s investment in the home loan banks.” And according to the Aug. 30, 1933 New York Times, an American Institute of Architects report on housing economics stated that “The purpose of rehabilitation must not be ... to bail out lending institutions whose mortgages are based on inflated land prices.” (Sound a little familiar?) The noun bailout (or bail-out) in the financial sense also dates to the New Deal era: an article in the Oct. 9, 1939 issue of Time told of the Commodity Credit Corporation’s plan to help out American tobacco farmers under the headline, “$40,000,000 Bail-Out.”
So how did we end up with bail out in the first place? One potential clue is that the typical British spelling of the expression is bale out. That spelling suggests a historical relation to the noun bale, defined by the Visual Thesaurus as “a large bundle bound for storage or transport.” To bale (something) out“ thus evokes the image of letting a bundle out through a trapdoor, which is how those early aviators escaped from their planes before opening their parachutes. On the other hand, spelling it the American way, bail out, brings to mind bailing water out of a boat — or it could suggest getting someone out of prison by paying bail. These two senses of bail both go back to the Latin word baiulare “to carry a load,” but via different French intermediaries: the “remove water” sense is from baille meaning “bucket,” while the “release from prison” sense is from the verb baillier meaning “to take charge of.”
American Dialect Society
American Dialect Society 2008 Word of the Year is “Bailout”
January 9th, 2009
In its 19th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “bailout” as the word of the year. In the specific sense used most frequently in 2008, bailout refers to the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • Tuesday, March 19, 2013 • Permalink