col·​por·​teur | \ ˈkäl-ˌpȯr-tər How to pronounce colporteur (audio) , ˌkäl-pȯr-ˈtər \

Definition of colporteur

: a peddler of religious books

Did You Know?

In 19th-century America, the word colporteur (a French borrowing meaning "peddler") came to be used especially of door-to-door peddlers of religious books and tracts, and it has carried that specific sense into the 21st century. The word traces to the Latin prefix com- ("together") plus the verb "portare" ("to carry"), two elements that were brought together to create "comportare" ("to bring together"). Middle French speakers tucked that word into their linguistic pack as "comporter" ("to carry" or "to peddle"), giving rise to "comporteur." Over time, perhaps influenced by the phrase "porter à col" ("to carry on one's back or neck"), the term's spelling shifted to the form now used.

First Known Use of colporteur

1796, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for colporteur

French, alteration of Middle French comporteur, from comporter to bear, peddle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about colporteur

Time Traveler for colporteur

Time Traveler

The first known use of colporteur was in 1796

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about colporteur

Statistics for colporteur

Cite this Entry

“Colporteur.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on colporteur

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with colporteur

Comments on colporteur

What made you want to look up colporteur? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a plan in which a last survivor takes all

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!