According to this dictionary, the word 'asset' already includes a value in its meaning :

A useful or valuable thing or person:

quick reflexes were his chief assets

the school is an asset to the community

Why is it so common to see, 'valuable asset', 'good asset', ect.? Do I look in a wrong dictionary or many people get the meaning of the word wrong?

  • Where is it stated that it is necessarily valuable ? There's no such definition. Please re-read the definitions. – Kris Nov 5 '14 at 14:30
  • @Kris An asset must have some measure of some property considered to be of value. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 14:36
  • @EdwinAshworth Please review the first definition above. – Kris Nov 5 '14 at 14:39
  • @Kris Usefulness is of value. The poor definition implies a distinction, where there is actually quite a degree of overlap. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 14:47
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    @EdwinAshworth: There are so many contexts where things could have a value which was non-zero, but insufficiently great to merit particular notice, that in the absence of context the phrase "valuable asset" cannot be presumed redundant. – supercat Nov 5 '14 at 18:19
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Value sometimes implies 'high value' as in the town places a value on the school. In other contexts it is a mere number: a house-clearer will place a value on a shelf of paperback books (because that's his job), but it is likely to be merely nominal. Similarly with asset; the assets of a company include staplers and pencils, but if you are called an asset to the firm it is implied that you are a valuable asset. Valuable itself no longer shares this ambiguity: the meaning 'possible to put a price on' (as opposed to invaluable) is hardly used, and the almost invariable meaning these days is 'having a high value'.

  • +1, but don't knock staplers. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 14:11
  • Actually, even your paperback example of 'value' involves the concept of 'something [perhaps just about] worth possessing'. A classic example of a non-advantageous usage is 'What is the value of x satisfying the equation ...?' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 14:58

It is not wrong.

While it is true that an asset by definition must have value, some assets have more value than others. An asset worth a million dollars is more valuable than an asset worth a hundred dollars.

In the light of that, the hundred dollar thing is just an asset, while the million dollar thing is a valuable (as in high value) asset.

There are also contexts where an asset is simply something the subject has in possession, not necessarily to their benefit. Consider an idiom toxic asset as an example. That said, unless you are working within such a context, simply calling something an asset already has positive connotations and implications of benefit and value. While it's not wrong to say valuable asset, consider if asset would be a more concise way to make your point.

It depends on the context. Say you possess a set of assets, one of which is fluency in Aramaic. In some professions this may be a valuable asset. In other professions, it may be less valuable.

  • So an asset does not necessary have to be valuable? Is it more like a skill or an ability? I mean: skill has traditionally positive context (if you know how to do something, it is good ) but in some cases it is not important or can have even a negative effect. A Buddhist monk skilled in meditation would probably not be a good broker (just an example, maybe he would :)) – MasterPJ Nov 5 '14 at 13:54
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    @MasterPJ..... Value is relative. – Gary's Student Nov 5 '14 at 14:00
  • If it's of no use/benefit at any time, it's not an asset. If you will need it 10 years down the line, it's an asset. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 15:19
  • @EdwinAshworth I agree with you. Circumstances can change the assessment. A Sumo wrestler may consider his great size and strength to be valuable assets. If he changes profession and becomes a jockey, not only do these previously valuable assets loose their value, they may not be assets at all. – Gary's Student Nov 5 '14 at 15:29
  • @Gary's Student Ah, we're into 'who decides on whether X is an asset or not' (philosophy) territory now. I'd say that having something you draw on now or later is having an asset; also, if you have a broken leg that prevents you from sailing on the Titanic, it could be termed an asset. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '14 at 15:54

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