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[mur-chuh nt] /ˈmɜr tʃənt/
a person who buys and sells commodities for profit; dealer; trader.
a storekeeper; retailer:
a local merchant who owns a store on Main Street.
Chiefly British. a wholesaler.
pertaining to or used for trade or commerce:
a merchant ship.
pertaining to the merchant marine.
Steelmaking. (of bars and ingots) of standard shape or size.
Origin of merchant
1250-1300; Middle English marchant < Old French marcheant < Vulgar Latin *mercātant- (stem of *mercātāns), present participle of *mercātāre, frequentative of Latin mercārī to trade, derivative of merx goods
Related forms
merchantlike, adjective
outmerchant, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for merchants
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The merchants accepted the invitation, and went home with Eirik.

  • On the face of it, they would have been a match for ten times this number of merchants.

    Adaptation Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • It was built by some English merchants, and is called Calcutta.

    Far Off Favell Lee Mortimer
  • The Tasmanian merchants met them on the shore of the royal province.

  • Hitherto the stock employed in banking was supplied by the merchants, or invested by East Indian capitalists.

British Dictionary definitions for merchants


a person engaged in the purchase and sale of commodities for profit, esp on international markets; trader
(mainly US & Canadian) a person engaged in retail trade
(esp in historical contexts) any trader
(derogatory) a person dealing or involved in something undesirable: a gossip merchant
  1. of the merchant navy: a merchant sailor
  2. of or concerned with trade: a merchant ship
(transitive) to conduct trade in; deal in
Derived Forms
merchant-like, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, probably from Vulgar Latin mercātāre (unattested), from Latin mercārī to trade, from merx goods, wares


Ismail (ˈɪzmeɪəl). 1936–2005, Indian film producer, noted for his collaboration with James Ivory on such films as Shakespeare Wallah (1965), The Europeans (1979), A Room with a View (1986), The Remains of the Day (1993), and The Golden Bowl (2000)
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 merchants



c.1200, from Anglo-French marchaunt "merchant, shopkeeper" (Old French marcheant, Modern French marchand), from Vulgar Latin *mercatantem (nominative *mercatans) "a buyer," present participle of *mercatare, frequentative of Latin mercari "to trade, traffic, deal in" (see market). Meaning "fellow, chap" is from 1540s; with a specific qualifier, and suggesting someone who deals in it (e.g. speed merchant "one who enjoys fast driving"), from 1914.


c.1400, from merchant (n.) and from Old French marcheant (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for merchants


combining word

A person who esp indulges or purveys in what is indicated: heat merchant/ speed merchant (1914+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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merchants in the Bible

The Hebrew word so rendered is from a root meaning "to travel about," "to migrate," and hence "a traveller." In the East, in ancient times, merchants travelled about with their merchandise from place to place (Gen. 37:25; Job 6:18), and carried on their trade mainly by bartering (Gen. 37:28; 39:1). After the Hebrews became settled in Palestine they began to engage in commercial pursuits, which gradually expanded (49:13; Deut. 33:18; Judg. 5:17), till in the time of Solomon they are found in the chief marts of the world (1 Kings 9:26; 10:11, 26, 28; 22:48; 2 Chr. 1:16; 9:10, 21). After Solomon's time their trade with foreign nations began to decline. After the Exile it again expanded into wider foreign relations, because now the Jews were scattered in many lands.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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