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earmark (n.)

mid-15c., from ear (n.1) + mark (n.1). Originally a cut or mark in the ear of sheep and cattle, serving as a sign of ownership (also a punishment of certain criminals); first recorded 1570s in figurative sense "stamp of ownership."

earmark (v.)

1590s, "to identify by an earmark," from earmark (n.). Meaning "to set aside money for a special purpose" is attested by 1868. Related: Earmarked; earmarking.

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Definitions of earmark from WordNet
1
earmark (n.)
identification mark on the ear of a domestic animal;
earmark (n.)
a distinctive characteristic or attribute;
Synonyms: hallmark / trademark / stylemark
2
earmark (v.)
give or assign a resource to a particular person or cause;
I will earmark this money for your research
Synonyms: allow / appropriate / set aside / reserve
From wordnet.princeton.edu