The Etymological Origins of Early Occupational Titles

Linguist Rob Watts of RobWords takes a utilitarian look at the origins of words that describe certain occupations involved in early retail trade. These words include monger (Old English), grocer (Roman), tailor, haberdasher (someone who sells habertas – later garments), milliner (hat maker), weaver (weft, web), baker, and brewster.

Fear, fish or cheese. What is it  to monger? What’s so gross about   a grocer? And what’s the tale behind tailors? In this video we’ll explore the wonderful  origins of these job words and more. I’ll have a bash at haberdasher, unweave the  etymology of weavers and mull where milliners   get their name from – that one is  definitely going to surprise you. So let’s get straight to  work! 

He also notes that vegetables were first known as meat due to their edible flesh (mincemeat), however, this concept soon disappeared from the modern English lexicon.

Vegetables used to be considered meat? In fact…  so did ALL foods. In Old and Middle English,  the word “meat” simply meant food. It’s why we have the slightly old-fashioned saying “meat and drink” and why vegetarians can still eat  pies filled with mincemeat. What we now call   meat was referred to as “flesh meat”. Hence  a butcher was once a flesh monger. Meanwhile, vegetables were known as “green meat”.  

Watts had previously looked at other job names such as butcher, baker, carpenter, and cobbler.

Let’s look at the origins of the words for traditional trades: the butcher, the baker, the cobbler maker and beyond!

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