fac·​to·​tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm How to pronounce factotum (audio) \

Definition of factotum

1 : a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
2 : a general servant

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"Do everything!" That's a tall order, but it is exactly what a factotum is expected to do. It's also a literal translation of the New Latin term factotum, which in turn traces to the Latin words facere ("to do") and totum ("everything"). In the 16th century, factotum was used in English much like a surname, paired with first names to create personalities such as "Johannes Factotum" (literally "John Do-everything"). Back then, it wasn't necessarily desirable to be called a factotum; the term was a synonym of "meddler" or "busybody." Now the word is more often used for a handy, versatile individual responsible for many different tasks.

Examples of factotum in a Sentence

He was the office factotum.
Recent Examples on the Web To woo Rosina, Almaviva hires Figaro, the town’s factotum (a jack-of-all-trades) who is the doctor’s barber and wig stylist. San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Apr. 2021 In a nutshell, this figure of speech fits Detroit Tigers reliever Buck Farmer, the factotum of the bullpen. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 20 Feb. 2021 The longtime Clinton factotum Lanny Davis devoted a book to the argument. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, 13 Nov. 2020 Kennedy was named for Eddie Moore, a longtime family factotum (and sometime procurer for Joe). Edward Kosner, WSJ, 23 Oct. 2020 In camp, Bundini was a factotum who did everything for his charge. Gordon Marino, WSJ, 3 Sep. 2020 On Friday Beijing’s local factotum used the pandemic as an excuse to postpone elections for a year, and dissenters are being arrested or fired. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2020 The movie is centered on a declining Western-style actor named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, factotum, and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 27 July 2019 Nonconforming bowel movements were reported in a tremulous voice so that menus had to be changed and Nicholas, the cook and general factotum, sent to the chemist for milk of magnesia. Lynn Freed, Harper's magazine, 10 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'factotum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of factotum

1562, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for factotum

from the Latin phrase fac tōtum "do all!", from fac (singular imperative of facere "to make, do" + tōtum "the whole, entirety," from neuter of tōtus "all, the whole of") — more at fact, total entry 1

Note: Perhaps originally short for dominus/domine factotum, magister factotum, and parallel expressions that mean approximately "jack-of-all-trades," though evidence for the isolated collocation fac totum is nearly as early. Martin Luther uses fac totum in the non-personal sense "that which does everything" in his commentary on Galatians (1535): "Est igitur fides fac totum (ut ita loquar) in operibus" ("It is faith, as I so speak, that is the do-all in works").

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Time Traveler for factotum

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The first known use of factotum was in 1562

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Cite this Entry

“Factotum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/factotum. Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for factotum



English Language Learners Definition of factotum

: a person whose job involves doing many different types of work

More from Merriam-Webster on factotum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for factotum

Britannica English: Translation of factotum for Arabic Speakers


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