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[klurk; British klahrk] /klɜrk; British klɑrk/
a person employed, as in an office, to keep records, file, type, or perform other general office tasks.
a salesclerk.
a person who keeps the records and performs the routine business of a court, legislature, board, etc.
a member of the clergy; ecclesiastic.
a lay person charged with various minor ecclesiastical duties.
  1. a person who is able to read, or to read and write.
  2. a scholar.
verb (used without object)
to act or serve as a clerk.
Origin of clerk
before 1000; Middle English, Old English clerc, variant of cleric < Late Latin clēricus cleric
Related forms
clerkish, adjective
clerklike, adjective
clerkship, noun
outclerk, noun
subclerk, noun
subclerkship, noun
underclerk, noun
underclerkship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for clerk
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Was the gentleman” (he chose that word as he looked at the boys) “layman or clerk?

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • He needs a clerk for his law matters, and the Dean said he would speak of me to him.

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • He had travelled, and had been a merchant's clerk in Paris and London.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • His letter was from his wife's brother, in whose bank Cornelius was a clerk.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • clerk or no, you have acted this day as becomes a true knight.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
British Dictionary definitions for clerk


/klɑːk; US, Canadian klɜːrk/
a worker, esp in an office, who keeps records, files, etc
clerk to the justices, (in England) a legally qualified person who sits in court with lay justices to advise them on points of law
an employee of a court, legislature, board, corporation, etc, who keeps records and accounts, etc: a town clerk
(Brit) Also called clerk of the House. a senior official of the House of Commons
Also called clerk in holy orders. a cleric
(US & Canadian) short for salesclerk
(US & Canadian) Also called desk clerk. a hotel receptionist
(archaic) a scholar
(intransitive) to serve as a clerk
Derived Forms
clerkdom, noun
clerkish, adjective
clerkship, noun
Word Origin
Old English clerc, from Church Latin clēricus, from Greek klērikos cleric, relating to the heritage (alluding to the Biblical Levites, whose inheritance was the Lord), from klēros heritage
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for clerk

"man ordained in the ministry," c.1200, from Old English cleric and Old French clerc "clergyman, priest; scholar, student," both from Church Latin clericus "a priest," noun use of adjective meaning "priestly, belonging to the clerus" (see cleric).

Modern bureaucratic usage is a reminder of the dark ages when clergy alone could read and write and were employed for that skill by secular authorities. In late Old English the word can mean "king's scribe; keeper of accounts;" by c.1200 clerk took on a secondary sense in Middle English (as the cognate word did in Old French) of "anyone who can read or write." This led to the sense "assistant in a business" (c.1500), originally a keeper of accounts, later, especially in American English, "a retail salesman" (1790). Related: Clerkship.


"act as a clerk," 1550s, from clerk (n.). Related: Clerked, clerking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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