traveling salesperson

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

First recorded in 1975–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does traveling salesperson mean?

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

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

Another term for salesperson is sales rep (or sales representative). The terms salesman and saleswoman are used (including in traveling salesman), but salesperson and sales rep are often used in their place. The plural of salesperson can be salespeople or salespersons.

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

Where does traveling salesperson come from?

The first records of the term traveling salesman come from the 1870s, but traveling salesperson didn’t enter widespread use until about 100 years later. Salesperson is formed with the gender-neutral ending -person, which is often used in terms that traditionally ended in -man, such as businessperson and chairperson.

Being a traveling salesperson is a notoriously hard job. They often have to be on the road for long stretches of time. And, like most salespeople, many traveling salespeople 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 salesperson.

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.

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What are some other forms related to traveling salesperson

  • traveling salespersons (plural)
  • traveling salespeople (plural)

What are some synonyms for traveling salesperson?

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

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

How is traveling salesperson used in real life?

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



Try using traveling salesperson!

True or False? 

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

How to use traveling salesperson in a sentence