Conceptually, what are unrealized gains/losses?

I understand that if you buy security for $100 and sell it for $150 you have a realized gain of $50. I also understand how to calculate the unrealized gains and losses (change in MVA where MVA is the difference between cost and market for each year) and where they are categorized (I/S for trading and equity for available for sale). What I don’t understand is what it means. When I hear the word “unrealized” I think its gains and losses related to securities they haven’t sold yet, but I know that isn’t right. I know this might sound like a dumb question at this stage, but could someone explain it?

lets say u bought exxonmobil at 50 2 years ago and its now trading at 80 but you haven’t sold it you have an unrealized gain of 30 1luv

realized gain is something you’ve “locked in” by selling at a profit (or covering if short position) unrealized gain is a paper gain looking at current market values. It’s unrealized because at any moment it could move against you or go up more, and transaction costs of acquiring that gain haven’t been accounted for either.

and for that matter lets so u were me and bought c^&itigroup last year at 80 right now its 20, but i haven’t sold it i have an unrealized loss of 60 fuck!

^ Doh. I carried on unrealized loss on Starbucks all last year.

totally off subject, but why not sell it and get the tax benefit and buy it back in 31 days? or double up and sell the high cost piece in 31 days if you want to stay exposed?

Doesn’t unrealized mean ithat t doesn’t go to the income statement. It instead goes to comprehensive income, like Pension, available for sale, translation losses, unrealized cash flow hedge losses or gains.