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Origin of retail

1375–1425; (noun) late Middle English <Anglo-French: a cutting, derivative of retailler to cut, equivalent to re-re- + tailler to cut (see tail2); (v.) Middle English retailen<Old French retailler


re·tail·er, nounnon·re·tail, adjectivenon·re·tail·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does retail mean?

Retail is the sale of goods to the person who will actually use the goods. It is often used to describe the consumer goods industry, as in Jade worked in retail over the summer break to earn money for school.

Retail is also used to describe something related to sales at retail, as in While the wholesale price is low, the retail price is much higher because the store’s rent is also very high.

To retail is to sell directly to the consumer or to be sold at retail.

Example: The retail store down the road has a sale on all sorts of good stuff today.

Where does retail come from?

The first records of the term retail come from around 1375. It ultimately comes from the Old French retailler, meaning “to cut.” Because retail is selling to an individual user, the seller is selling a cut of the goods they bought in bulk, that is, at wholesale.

Retail is most commonly used in reference to stores, often those that are large and sell many types of retail items. Retail can also describe a price, such as the price that something would sell at a retail store. Retail almost always refers to the sale of goods. When shopping online first became possible, many people used e-tail as a way to describe “electronic retail.” E-tail is not commonly used anymore.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to retail?

  • retailer (noun)
  • nonretail (adjective)
  • retailing (noun)

What are some synonyms for retail?

What are some words that share a root or word element with retail

What are some words that often get used in discussing retail?

How is retail used in real life?

Retail is commonly used in business to refer to selling directly to the consumer.



Try using retail!

Is retail used correctly in the following sentence?

A device with those components would retail for about $500.

How to use retail in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for retail

Derived forms of retail

retailer, noun

Word Origin for retail

C14: from Old French retaillier to cut off, from re- + taillier to cut; see tailor
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

Cultural definitions for retail


A term describing businesses that sell goods directly to individuals. (Compare wholesale.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.