Financial Instruments with Musical Properties (like ‘tenor’)

Once in a while, I invest in bonds, fixed deposits, and mutual funds.

Though I normally do not read the verbiage (I read just the salient features), I have noticed in the last few years, a new term creeping into the jargon – ‘tenor’. At first I dismissed it as one of the typos (attributable to the printer’s devil – a special devil that haunted every print shop, performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling words or removing entire lines of completed type).

For the benefit of those who have not noticed the use of the word ‘tenor’ in financial jargon, you can see examples by searching for “loan tenor” or “bond tenor” or “deposit tenor”.  The usage seems widespread – all across the world.

And the usage denotes some kind of duration, or term, or period, or tenure (could tenor be just a distortion of tenure with origins in poor spelling used in combination with spell-check/ auto-correction?)

Here is what some English dictionaries say about the word ‘tenor’:

Cambridge (online):

  • a male singer with a high voice, or (especially in combinations) a musical instrument that has the same range of notes as the tenor singing voice

Merriam-Webster (online):

  • the highest adult male singing voice;
  • a singer who has such a voice the general;
  • basic quality or meaning of something

Oxford (online):

  • a singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor, the highest of the ordinary adult male range;
  • an instrument, especially a saxophone, trombone, tuba, or viol, of the second or third lowest pitch in its family

None of them imply ‘tenor’ as a duration, time-period, or term.

Next time you invest in a bond/ mutual fund, with a ‘tenor’, remember that there is a possibility that at the end of the period you may get something like this (instead of your money):

If the clip does not load, click here.

By the way, I believe that in the olden days, many tenors were ‘castrati’ (plural for castrato). Read here for more information, and be careful before you invest for a great tenor!

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature.

Author: Rajesh Naik

I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me, I am also available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite.

3 thoughts on “Financial Instruments with Musical Properties (like ‘tenor’)”

    1. Hi Jyoti,

      Thanks for the link. I would not believe everything I read on the internet, especially on a site that is called ‘investopedia’ 🙂


  1. I had always associated tenor with tone and music.

    The adoption of this into financial lingo seems actually out of tenor. And the difference between what you expect from your investments and what you generally get in return (as I discovered from a 20 year investment yield that came in vide an instrument “maturing” after its tenure) can really put you out of tenor in your life’s tenure.


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