Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Commodity

Quick Summary of Commodity

A reasonably interchangeable good or material bought and sold freely as an article of commerce. Commodities include agricultural products, fuels, and metals and are traded in bulk on a commodity exchange or spot market.

What is the dictionary definition of Commodity?

Dictionary Definition

A commodity is anything for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a given market.

  1. obsolete Convenience; usefulness, suitability.
  2. Anything movable (a good) that is bought and sold.
  3. Something useful or valuable.

Full Definition of Commodity

A commodity is a product which is used as a basic source of production for any given industry. A commodity can be defined as any physical substance applied in commerce that is exchangeable with other commodities of similar type. The list of physical substances includes grains and metals. A modern interpretation of commodities includes financial products like indexes and foreign currencies. Commodities are usually traded in commodity exchanges like London Metal Exchange, Multi Commodity Exchange and Euronext liffe. Investors purchase and sell through futures contracts.

Characteristic of commodities is that their prices are determined as a function of their market as a whole. Well-established physical commodities have actively traded spot and derivative markets. Generally, these are basic resources and agricultural products such as iron ore, crude oil, coal, ethanol, sugar, soybeans, aluminium, rice, wheat, gold and silver.

Commoditization occurs as a goods or services market loses differentiation across its supply base, often by the diffusion of the intellectual capital necessary to acquire or produce it efficiently. As such, goods that formerly carried premium margins for market participants have become commodities, such as generic pharmaceuticals and silicon chips.

Linguistically, the word commodity came into use in English in the 15th century, derived from the French word “commodité”, similar in meaning to “convenience” in terms of quality of services. The Latin root meaning is commoditas, referring variously to the appropriate measure of something; a fitting state, time or condition; a good quality; efficaciousness or propriety; and advantage, or benefit. The German equivalent is die Ware, i.e. wares or goods offered for sale. The French equivalent is “produit de base” like energy, goods, or industrial raw materials.

Price of any commodity is dependent upon supply and demand. It is believed that risk is the primary reason for the initiation of commodity trading. A farmer takes risk of producing a crop for market in future as he does not know the price of his crop in that time. Commodity markets help him to hedge against such uncertainties.

Generally speaking, any tangible good can be categorized as a commodity. A commodity is typically a bulk good such as gold, silver, natural gas, and oil. A commodity may also be a bulk food product like grain, oats, corn, beef, pork bellies, and coffee. Traditionally, a commodity was merely a good, subject to sale or barter. Today, however, a commodity can also represent an investment vehicle. One example is commodity futures. A commodity is traded at the commodities exchange. Commodities exchanges not only facilitates the commodity trade but also establishes and enforces rules and regulations pertaining to the commodity trading process. Depending on its use and trading purpose, a commodity may come in two types – cash commodity and spot commodity. A cash commodity is an actual commodity that is under a futures contract. A spot commodity, on the other hand, is one that is traded on a spot market, pending delivery.

Commodity Trade

In the original and simplified sense, commodities were things of value, of uniform quality, that were produced in large quantities by many different producers; the items from each different producer are considered equivalent. It is the contract and this underlying standard that define the commodity, not any quality inherent in the product.

Commodities exchanges include:

  • Chicago Board of Trade
  • Euronext.liffe
  • London Metal Exchange
  • New York Mercantile Exchange
  • Multi Commodity Exchange

Markets for trading commodities can be very efficient, particularly if the division into pools matches demand segments. These markets will quickly respond to changes in supply and demand to find an equilibrium price and quantity. In addition, investors can gain passive exposure to the commodity markets through a commodity price index.

Basis Grade

Basis grade is the minimum commodity standard that is acceptable to meet the obligations of a futures contract. It is also known by the names ‘contract grade’ and ‘par grade’. This standard is essential for maintaining uniformity across a specific product. An example of basis grade is the predetermined ratio of components of sulfur and hydrogen in crude oil.

Delivery Date

The delivery date is referred to as the date of maturity of a currency forward contract. Alternatively, a delivery date is defined as the final date by which underlying commodity for a futures contract must be delivered so that contract terms are fulfilled.

Commodity Swap

Commodity swap is a type of swap where the price of an underlying commodity affects exchanged cash flows. Commodity swaps are usually executed to hedge against commodity price fluctuations. In practice, the swap mechanism consists of a commodity user who would ensure a maximum price and then consent to pay this fixed price to a financial institution. Commodity user would take payments based on the specific commodity price in the market.

Examples of Commodity in a sentence

And Slade said: It really makes me sad that football club chairmen and boards seem to have lost that most precious commodity – patience. Sam’s sacking at Newcastle had, I suppose, been on the cards for a while, but it is really ridiculous to fire a manager after such a short time.

Synonyms For Commodity

product, goods, merchandise, commodities, cargo

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Commodity. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 25, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Commodity. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 25, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Commodity. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Commodity are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 18th April, 2020 | 15 Views.