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Q&A

Why did David Ricardo coin "rent", to signify income from a factor of production that exceeds the minimum amount necessary (to beget that factor of production)?

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  1. At the time that Ricardo (1772-1823) coined "rent", did "rent" already signify Modern English's lay meaning of 'rent' (tenant's regular payment to a landlord for the use of property or land)? How prevalent was this ordinary meaning?

  2. If so, why did Ricardo still coin "rent" and beget this ambiguity? To avoid ambiguity, why didn't he employ a different term to signify to mean Marginal Product — Opportunity Cost? Undeniably, this economics meaning of "rent" confuses laypeople.

Rent Seeking - Econlib

But why do economists use the term “rent”? Unfortunately, there is no good reason. David Ricardo introduced the term “rent” in economics. It means the payment to a factor of production in excess of what is required to keep that factor in its present use. So, for example, if I am paid $150,000 in my current job but I would stay in that job for any salary over $130,000, I am making $20,000 in rent.

rent

English has two words rent. [1.] The one meaning ‘payment’ [12] comes via Old French rente from Vulgar Latin *rendita, a noun use of the feminine past participle of *rendere ‘give back’ (source of English render).
[2.] Rent ‘tear, rift’ [16] comes from the verb rend [OE], which goes back to Old English rendan. Its ultimate antecedents are not known, although it may be related to Sanskrit rándhra- ‘split’.

John Ayto, Word Origins (2005 2e), p 421. I read Etymonline.

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