haberdasher

noun

hab·​er·​dash·​er ˈha-bər-ˌda-shər How to pronounce haberdasher (audio)
ˈha-bə-
1
British : a dealer in notions
2
: a dealer in men's clothing and accessories

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At various times throughout its history, the term haberdasher has referred to a dealer of hats or caps, a seller of notions (sewing supplies, such as needles and thimbles), and apparently (perhaps somewhat coyly) to a person who sells liquor. Nowadays, with hats not being as fashionable as they once were, the word mostly is applied generally as a clothing outfitter for men, with haberdashery referring to the establishment or the goods sold there. Haberdasher derives via Middle English from hapertas, an Anglo-French word for a kind of cloth, as does the obsolete noun haberdash, which once meant petty merchandise or small wares.

Examples of haberdasher in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The preppy Sebago Docksides—known for helping define university campus style throughout the 20th century and being donned by stars from Paul Newman to Pharrell Williams—have been reimagined for 2023 thanks to a new collaboration with contemporary haberdasher Drake’s. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 7 June 2023 The rapacity with which Edmund followed his prey is painful to read: To extort money from the merchant haberdasher Thomas Sunnyff and his wife, Agnes, for example, Edmund framed them for infanticide and threw them in jail. Catherine Ostler, WSJ, 24 Mar. 2023 Her father, William Lachs, was a haberdasher. New York Times, 4 Nov. 2020 Cinader claimed that the original J. Crew was a men’s haberdasher in Princeton, and at first this fib was the only original thing about J. Crew. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023 Tara Perry co-stars as a goodhearted local who helps the newcomer, and the supporting cast features David Arquette as an eccentric haberdasher/photographer and Tim Blake Nelson as a blind bartender who's key to the town's dark history. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 4 Feb. 2022 Truman had often been dismissed as a onetime Missouri haberdasher who lucked into politics. Glenn Rifkin, Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2022 Modern American haberdasher Sid Mashburn carries a mix of darted and undarted jackets. Eric Twardzik, Robb Report, 6 Apr. 2022 Frank doesn’t spend any time on Truman’s service in World War I or his stint as an enterprising haberdasher in Kansas City. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Mar. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'haberdasher.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English haberdasshere, of obscure origin

Note: The origin of the word haberdasher has long challenged scholars. Its earliest known occurrence, tracked by the Middle English Dictionary, is as a surname ("Thomas Haperdasser," "Will. Haperdassere") recorded in 1280 in the cartulary of an Oxfordshire abbey. In the fourteenth century evidence for the word and occupation becomes more substantial. The diversity of items carried by a medieval haberdasher—from laces and caps in different colors to gameboards, beads and stationery supplies—are detailed in an inventory made in 1378, included in the letter books of the Guildhall of London (see Henry Thomas Riley, Memorials of London and London Life in the XIIIth, XIVth and XVth Centuries, London, 1868, p. 422). Henry Riley had earlier edited a group of letter books containing records from the Guildhall (London's traditional city hall), and in them he found what he believed to be the key to the etymology of haberdasher. In a list of items on which a duty called scavage was charged (see scavenger) is "la charge de hapertas - xiid." ("the load of hapertas - 12 pence") (Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis: Liber Albus, Liber Custumarum et Liber Horn, vol. I containing Liber Albus, compiled A.D. 1419 [London, 1859], p. 225). As most other items on the list are fabrics, Riley came to the conclusion that hapertas was a fabric; in the glossary to the Anglo-French words in the Liber Albus (vol. 3, London, 1862, pp. 326-27) he defines it as "a cloth of a peculiar texture, probably coarse and thick" [how Riley arrived at this description is unclear]"…In the word 'hapertas' there can be little doubt that we have the origin of our present word 'haberdasher;' the more especially as the present word is represented by the word 'haberdassherie' in an almost exactly similar passage, of nearly contemporary date, in page 231." Most dictionaries compiled since Riley's work contain some version of this etymology, though it is difficult to sustain given current evidence. The word haberdasshe is attested in 1393, and its sense is likely "the things sold by haberdashers" ("De Henrico Galt pro diversis parvis mercandisiis vocatis haberdasshe." - "From Henry Galt for various small items of merchandise called haberdasshe"; N. S. B. Gras, The Early English Customs System, Cambridge MA, 1918, p. 535). From all appearances this word is a back-formation from haberdassher, which, whatever its origin, is attested much earlier. In this light it is hard to see hapertas as anything more than an exceptionally aberrant variant of haberdasshe. As Riley makes clear, it appears to denote the same thing as haberdassherie, which is a transparent derivative from haberdassher, and means "articles sold by haberdashers." Riley's hypothesis was in any case an instance of obscurum per obscurius, as hapertas is as lacking in etymology as haberdassher (as noted by Anatoly Liberman in "The Haberdasher Displays His Wares and Escapes," OUPBlog, August 6, 2008).

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of haberdasher was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Haberdasher.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haberdasher. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

haberdasher

noun
hab·​er·​dash·​er ˈhab-ə(r)-ˌdash-ər How to pronounce haberdasher (audio)
: a dealer in men's clothing and accessories

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