Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Liquidity


Quick Summary of Liquidity

The extent to which a business has access to cash or items which can readily be exchanged for cash.

What is the dictionary definition of Liquidity?

Dictionary Definition

  1. finance The degree of which something is in high supply and demand, making it easily convertible to cash
  2. uncountable The state or property of being liquid.
  3. economics, countable An asset’s property of being able to be sold without affecting its value; the degree to which it can be easily converted into cash.


  • A measure of the extent to which a person or organization has the cash to meet immediate and short-term obligations or assets that can be quickly converted to do this.
  • Accounting: The ability of current assets to meet current liabilities.
  • Investing: The ability to quickly convert an investment portfolio to cash with little or no loss in value.

Full Definition of Liquidity

The level of ease a company has in quickly generating cash by selling assets without losing value. These assets are often called “liquid assets.”

Market liquidity is a business, economics, or investment term that refers to an asset’s ability to be easily converted through an act of buying or selling without causing a significant movement in the price and with minimum loss of value. An act of exchange of a less liquid asset with a more liquid asset is called liquidation. Liquidity also refers both to the quality of a business which enables it to meet its payment obligations, in terms of possessing sufficient liquid assets; and to such assets themselves.

A liquid asset has some or more of the following features. It can be sold (1) rapidly, (2) with minimal loss of value, (3) anytime within market hours. The essential characteristic of a liquid market is that there are ready and willing buyers and sellers at all times. An elegant definition of liquidity is also the probability that the next trade is executed at a price equal to the last one. A market may be considered deeply liquid if there are ready and willing buyers and sellers in large quantities. This is related to a market depth, where sometimes orders cannot strongly influence prices.

The liquidity of a product can be measured as to how often it is bought and sold; this is known as volume. Often investments in liquid markets such as the stock exchange or futures markets are considered to be more liquid than investments such as real estate, based on their ability to be converted quickly. Some assets with liquid secondary markets may be more advantageous to own, are willing to pay a higher price for the asset than for comparable assets without a liquid secondary market. The liquidity discount is the reduced promised yield or expected return for such assets, like the difference between newly issued U.S. Treasury bonds compared to off-the-run treasuries with the same term remaining until maturity. Buyers know that other investors are not willing to buy off-the-run so the newly issued bonds have a lower yield and higher price.

Speculators and market makers are key contributors to the liquidity of a market or asset. Speculators and market makers are individuals or institutions that seek to profit from anticipated increases or decreases in a particular market price. By doing this, they provide the capital needed to facilitate liquidity. The risk of illiquidity need not apply only to individual investments: whole portfolios are subject to market risk. Financial institutions and asset managers that oversee portfolios are subject to what is called “structural” and “contingent” liquidity risk. Structural liquidity risk, sometimes called funding liquidity risk, is the risk associated with funding asset portfolios in the normal course of business. Contingent liquidity risk is the risk associated with finding additional funds or replacing maturing liabilities under potential, future stressed market conditions. When a central bank tries to influence the liquidity (supply) of money, this process is known as open market operations.


In the futures markets, there is no assurance that a liquid market may exist for offsetting a commodity contract at all times. Some futures contracts and specific delivery months tend to have increasingly more trading activity and have higher liquidity than others. The most useful indicators of liquidity for these contracts are the trading volume and open interest.

There is also “dark liquidity”, referring to transactions that occur off-exchange and are therefore not visible to investors until after the transaction is complete. It does not contribute to public price discovery.


In banking, liquidity is the ability to meet obligations when they come due without incurring unacceptable losses. Managing liquidity is a daily process requiring bankers to monitor and project cash flows to ensure adequate liquidity is maintained. Maintaining a balance between short-term assets and short-term liabilities is critical. Deposit accounts represent the primary funding (liabilities) in traditional commercial banks, and the loan portfolio represents the primary asset. The investment portfolio represents a smaller portion of assets and serves as the primary source of liquidity. Investment securities can be liquidated to satisfy deposit withdrawals and increased loan demand. Banks have several additional options for generating liquidity, such as selling loans, borrowing from other banks, borrowing from a Central bank, such as the US Federal Reserve bank, and raising additional capital. In a worst-case scenario, depositors may demand their funds when the bank is unable to generate adequate cash without incurring substantial financial losses. In severe cases, this may result in a bank run. Most banks are subject to legally-mandated reserve requirements intended to help banks avoid liquidity crises.


In business, the term refers to a company’s ability to meet its obligation when and in the event they fall due. If a firm is unable to meet its obligation in time, the company is in danger of insolvency. Therefore, heavyweight is put in finance planning by the controlling staff in order to register all potential shortages in funds. If there is a shortage, the Treasury will be informed in order to be prepared to raise capital for the next business period. If a shortage of funds is registered too late and the funds are insufficient, banks may reject lending a company capital, and in consequence, bankruptcy might be inescapable.

In business, merchants often have liquidation sales, in which inventories are sold at discount to raise cash or to get rid of inventory more quickly.

Examples of Liquidity in a sentence

A profitable company will balance long-term investment with short-term liquidity.

Because her company moves most of its profits into various bank accounts, rather than into new equipment or property, it has a high degree of liquidity.

Related Phrases

liquid market
thin market
quick ratio
block trade
choice market
dual listing
free market
Interbank Rate
statutory liquidity ratio
liquidity agreement
liquidity event
open market operations
liquidity crisis
non-depository financial institution
Pigou effect
primary reserves

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):
Liquidity. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
November 29, 2023
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Liquidity. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: November 29, 2023).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Liquidity. Retrieved November 29, 2023
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Liquidity 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: 22nd November, 2021 | 0 Views.