In the United Kingdom, a haberdasher is a person who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons and zippers[1]; in the United States, the term refers instead to a retailer who sells men's clothing, including suits, shirts, and neckties.

Paavo Nurmi, in 1939, at his Helsinki haberdashery
Occupation type
Activity sectors
CompetenciesSewing, tailoring
Related jobs

The sewing articles are called haberdashery in British English; the corresponding term is notions in American English.[2]

Origin and use

The word appears in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.[3] Haberdashers were initially peddlers, thus sellers of small items such as needles and buttons. The word is not thought to have connection with an Old Norse word akin to the Icelandic hafurtask, which means "peddlers' wares" or the sack in which the peddler carried them.[4] If that had been the case, a haberdasher (in its hypothetical Scandinavian meaning) would be very close to a mercier (French).

Since the word has no recorded use in Scandinavia, it is most likely derived from the Anglo-Norman hapertas, meaning "small ware".[5] A haberdasher would retail small wares, the goods of the peddler, while a mercer would specialize in "linens, silks, fustian, worsted piece-goods and bedding".[6]

Saint Louis IX, King of France 1226–70, is the patron saint of French haberdashers.[7][8] In Belgium and elsewhere in Continental Europe, Saint Nicholas remains their patron saint, while Saint Catherine was adopted by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in the City of London.[9]

See also


  1. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989: "A dealer in small articles appertaining to dress, as thread, tape, ribbons, etc.
  2. Collins Dictionary of the English Language (1979)
  3. "The British Library, The Canterbury Tales, Caxton's first edition". Molcat1.bl.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  4. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989: haberdash, n. "Connexion with mod.Icel. haprtask 'haversack' is not possible."
  5. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  6. Sutton, Anne F. (2005). The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578, p.118. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-5331-5
  7. "Catholic Culture, St. Louis IX". Catholicculture.org. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  8. "Patron Saints Index". 2heartsnetwork.org. 2011-02-16. Archived from the original on 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  9. "Company HIstory". Haberdashers. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
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