traveling salesman

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a male representative of a business firm who travels in an assigned territory soliciting orders for a company's products or services.
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Origin of traveling salesman

An Americanism dating back to 1875–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does traveling salesman mean?

A traveling salesman is a man whose job is to sell products or services by traveling to different places, often within a certain region or assigned territory.

A traveling salesman can be called a traveling salesperson. The equivalent term for a woman is traveling saleswoman. The plural of salesman is salesmen.

A salesman is often said to “work in sales”—in which sales refers to the type of occupation or the division or department within a company. The term salesman can refer to a man who sells directly to customers or to other businesses or organizations. Sometimes, salespersons sell things in person, such as at a retail store or dealership. They also commonly sell things over the phone or by communicating with people online.

A traveling salesman, though, typically meets with potential customers in person—this is often the whole point of traveling. In the past, it was common for some salesmen to travel door-to-door to make sales to people at home. Some traveling salesmen are door-to-door salesmen, while others may simply visit customers along a specific route. For example, a traveling salesman who sells wholesale food products may visit all of the restaurants within an area.

The traveling salesman problem refers to a math problem that involves determining the shortest route through several points. It’s sometimes called the traveling salesperson problem. 

Example: To be a successful traveling salesman, you have to know the territory and the people in it.

Where does traveling salesman come from?

The first records of the term traveling salesman come from the 1870s (traveling salesperson didn’t enter widespread use until about 100 years later). Salesman formed with the ending -man, which is used in many other terms that specify occupation, such as businessman and fisherman. This ending can be replaced with -woman or the gender-neutral -person, as in saleswoman and salesperson.

Being a traveling salesman is a notoriously hard job. They often have to be on the road for long stretches of time. And, like most salespeople, many traveling salesmen are at least partly paid on commission—a percentage of sales that goes into their pay. This means their pay is determined by how many sales they make. Willy Loman, the main character in the 1949 Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman, is a traveling salesman.

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What are some other forms related to traveling salesman

  • traveling salesmen (plural)

What are some synonyms for traveling salesman?

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing traveling salesman?

How is traveling salesman used in real life?

Traveling salesman is most likely to be used to refer to someone’s occupation. A traveling salesman’s job title is more likely to be something like regional sales rep.





Try using traveling salesman!

True or False? 

The traveling salesman problem refers to the difficulty of finding nice bathrooms to use while on the road.

How to use traveling salesman in a sentence