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[mur-kuh n-teel, -tahyl, -til] /ˈmɜr kənˌtil, -ˌtaɪl, -tɪl/
of or relating to merchants or trade; commercial.
engaged in trade or commerce:
a mercantile nation.
Economics. of or relating to the mercantile system.
Origin of mercantile
1635-45; < French < Italian: pertaining to merchants, equivalent to mercant(e) merchant (< Latin mercant-, stem of mercāns buyer, noun use of present participle of mercārī to buy) + -ile -ile
Related forms
nonmercantile, adjective
quasi-mercantile, adjective
unmercantile, adjective
Synonym Study
1. See commercial. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mercantile
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Moreover, the use of it is gradually extending in the mercantile marine.

  • When Mr. Weddell commenced his mercantile life it was no child's play.

  • He dreamed in terms of battleships and of a mercantile marine.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • And I must laugh to see my neighbours making a to-do about a mercantile bargain.

    Gilian The Dreamer Neil Munro
  • My friend Tom has worked on a farm, while I have been engaged in mercantile pursuits.

    The Young Miner Horatio Alger, Jr.
  • To his mercantile friend in Wood Street he never applied in vain.

  • The Black Sea is, of course, open to the mercantile vessels of all nations.

    From Pole to Pole

    Sven Anders Hedin
  • He pushed his mercantile business for years, amassing an immense fortune.

    Hidden Treasures

    Harry A. Lewis
  • Our mercantile marine is at the last gasp (warlike digression).

British Dictionary definitions for mercantile


of, relating to, or characteristic of trade or traders; commercial
of or relating to mercantilism
Word Origin
C17: from French, from Italian, from mercantemerchant
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 mercantile

1640s, from French mercantile (17c.), from Italian mercantile, from Medieval Latin mercantile, from Latin mercantem (nominative mercans) "a merchant," also "trading," present participle of mercari "to trade," from merx (see market (n.)). Mercantile system first appears in Adam Smith (1776).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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