Definition of merchant in English:



  • 1A person or company involved in wholesale trade, especially one dealing with foreign countries or supplying goods to a particular trade.

    ‘a builders' merchant’
    ‘a tea merchant’
    • ‘It was then the business of FT Burley & Son, wholesale fruit merchants and ‘banana specialists’, and boasted a ripening room.’
    • ‘Producers and merchants trading in pine honey risk confiscation of their goods if they put it on the market with this trade mark.’
    • ‘This will not rely on passing trade and are mainly sold wholesale to other merchants.’
    • ‘In the printing industry, for example, very large printers obtain their inks direct from manufacturers, while smaller printers tend to rely on wholesale merchants.’
    • ‘They acquire their goods on consignment from wholesale merchants in the larger towns, then carry them on the train into the countryside.’
    • ‘Many of the nation's shoppers also behave online a lot like they would at the local mall: buying the same kinds of products from the same merchants.’
    • ‘On the Chinese side, the Canton authorities limited trade with the foreign merchants to a group of Chinese merchant houses, the Hongs, nominally thirteen in number.’
    • ‘More than 80 merchants sell fresh produce, meat, fish, flowers, breads, crafts, books and clothing.’
    • ‘Though a number of companies and merchants traded with different places, the Netherlands gradually predominated, particularly for the export of cloth.’
    • ‘Before emigrating he worked in his father's business of wholesale yeast merchants in Stricklandgate.’
    • ‘Consumers are turning away from traditional department stores and shopping more at mass merchants, discounters and warehouse marts.’
    • ‘One road sells cane-ware, another has scrap merchants trading in steel and iron, wholesale merchants who deal in old cloth.’
    • ‘Some of the well-known family businesses include timber merchants and builders' providers the McMahon Group.’
    • ‘Use the same judgment and common sense with internet, phone or mail-order merchants that you use in shops.’
    • ‘The Chinese occupied the position of intermediaries between foreign western merchants and the domestic market.’
    • ‘For merchants selling children's products, though, a dab of color and creativity can certainly boost traffic.’
    • ‘The United States seeks contracts with regional industries and merchants for supplies, services, facilities, and labor to support bases.’
    • ‘As American pioneers headed westward, scoundrels occasionally would present forged letters of credit to wholesale merchants in larger towns.’
    • ‘The port was transported to the port merchants' warehouses in Oporto where it sat for years, sometimes decades, until the brandy and wine had integrated fully.’
    • ‘The specialists simply have to intensify their focus to stay alive, offering products and services that mass merchants cannot.’
    1. 1.1North American A retail trader.
      ‘the credit cards are accepted by 10 million merchants worldwide’
      • ‘The majority of Indo-Fijians who left following the coup were shop owners and other retail merchants and bankers.’
      • ‘Millions of misguided merchants paying their hardearned out to deluded ‘designers’ so that they too can join the cyberspace community.’
      • ‘It is obvious that much depends upon the psychology of the merchants and other traders, and particularly on their expectations as to the course of markets.’
      • ‘For days upon days, merchants and traders had brought various bolts and pieces of cloth for Erial and Madame to consider.’
      • ‘They brushed past merchants and traders and came to the bridge, where a surly-looking guard with a grey-tipped beard stood.’
      • ‘Inside the walls were the rest, the ones who fell into the middle, the lower merchants, traders, dealers, hawkers, along with business of all kinds crammed into the walls.’
      • ‘He was succeeded by his uncle Malarangiah, who encouraged traders and merchants from different parts of India to settle in Bangalore.’
      • ‘One of the town's biggest retail merchants wants Wal-Mart to move in.’
      • ‘If so, then why have men traders, merchants and entrepreneurs been assumed to reside within the public?’
      • ‘New markets could also be found among those profiting most from industrialisation, not just manufacturers, but traders, merchants and bankers.’
      • ‘Most of these marketing efforts were directed toward retail merchants.’
      • ‘Chinese merchants and traders arrived and settled in the ninth century A.D.’
      • ‘In the early days of the late 1990s, pioneer online merchants fruitlessly spent millions of dollars on TV and radio ads aimed at the mass market.’
      • ‘I think retail merchants have to make that decision for themselves.’
      • ‘Its merchant network includes 11.7 million merchants and spans 190 countries and territories.’
      • ‘All Pro projects that the products will bring in more than $8-million in retail sales to area merchants.’
      • ‘Taking a deep breath, Julian pressed on through the Zetapol market, where merchants and traders competed in hollering.’
      • ‘This is the perfect location for this show because William Hadwen was a merchant who retailed silver and other goods on Nantucket during the early nineteenth century.’
      • ‘Powerless though the Serlians may be politically, they are honest merchants and prolific traders.’
      • ‘In the blink of an eye, her ring collections jetted from the showrooms into the gleaming display cases of the world class retail merchants like Bloomingdales.’
      trader, dealer, trafficker, wholesaler, broker, agent, seller, buyer, buyer and seller, salesman, salesperson, saleswoman, vendor, retailer, shopkeeper, tradesman, distributor, representative, commercial traveller, marketer, marketeer, pedlar, hawker
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A person who deals in something unpleasant.
      ‘a merchant of death’
      • ‘Marching against death merchants at the DSEi arms fair earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)’
      • ‘Some of these merchants of death even have the audacity to take their patients' temperatures, measure blood pressure, and use a stethoscope.’
      • ‘It is not hard to explain the inability of the world establishment to deal more effectively with these merchants of death.’
      • ‘This movie vividly reminds us of how the merchants of death ply their trade.’
      • ‘But that was of no concern to the merchants of death.’
      • ‘They are not sell-out merchants that deal to their civilization, their culture, in the way that these people are doing in allowing foreigners to colonise us from without.’
      • ‘The man is a merchant of death and, despite his efforts to distance himself, he knows that what he is doing is wrong.’
      • ‘Not only did merchants of death profit from war, they instigated it at every opportunity.’
      • ‘Neither these merchants of death nor the government saw any reason to stop the fair in the wake of last week's horror in New York.’
      • ‘It took more than a year and half before it decided it could no longer deal with him, that he was still merchant of terror; that his word was meaningless.’
      • ‘You have to wonder about the horrific irony of the death merchant confronting the loss of his own son.’
      • ‘I cannot tell you how harsh I would be if I were a judge, sentencing these drug dealers, these death merchants.’
      • ‘The corrupt politicians and immoral merchants must be dealt with sternly according to the full extent of the law in order to prove that this society is a place where honest citizens can be rewarded.’
      • ‘They won't be troubled by memories of widows and orphans and scattered body parts, but they must fear that their roles as merchants of death might be rumbled.’
      • ‘That, of course, is precisely why the violence is being ratcheted up - because the stakes for the corrupt merchants of death are so enormous.’
      • ‘I recommend not using the bounce feature, as it's not as yet convincing enough to fool the spam merchants.’
      • ‘That's a mighty weak basis on which to call us frauds, liars, and smear merchants.’
      • ‘The merchants of death are adept at using marketing to undermine the good influence of parents.’
      • ‘To allow merchants of terror to change Spain would be a disservice to the memories of those who perished; Spanish culture and freedom must always be celebrated.’
      • ‘Having been through this whole process a bunch of times, I had no illusions that I was dealing with rip-off merchants.’
    3. 1.3 (in historical contexts) a person involved in trade or commerce.
      ‘prosperous merchants and clothiers had established a middle class’
      • ‘A very well off and prosperous merchant, to be sure, but my ancestors had to work for the respect my father has now.’
      • ‘It was founded high on a series of hills by prosperous Saxon merchants in the Middle Ages.’
      • ‘When Norwood, a prosperous bond merchant, built the house, Fourteenth Street was at the northernmost edge of development on Manhattan Island.’
      • ‘The study day includes lectures on the links between Sheba and Axum, Arab merchants of the Middle Ages and Navigation and Commerce from Aden.’
      • ‘In virtue of the abundant salt produced in Shanxi, the earliest Shanxi merchants arrived on the historical stage.’
      • ‘Piero della Francesca, who came from a family of fairly prosperous merchants, is recognised as one of the most important painters of the Renaissance.’
      • ‘Many of them were prosperous merchants and, possible, noblemen.’
      • ‘The Letter of Law emphasized the importance of facilitating commerce and assisting merchants to develop their trading activities.’
      • ‘In the terror which followed, the wealth of the prosperous merchants made them a particular target, and axe, rope, and fire consumed the natural leaders of Dutch society.’
      • ‘Thus, the potential of global exposure to global communication, the dream of every merchant in history, has arrived.’
      • ‘Growing overseas commerce with colonies stimulated merchants to provide ships, as well as goods for expanding settler societies.’
      • ‘Dutch merchants and Dutch commercial capital poured into Londen after 1690 and went to play an important role in the re-export trade between England and the Continent.’
      • ‘He says the doom merchants' prophecies should be put in context.’
      • ‘See the ancient history of merchants for a continuation of this advice, as applied to the art of selling wine.’
      • ‘He also initiated trade between the Franks and the Muslims and made commercial pacts with the merchants of Venice who traded with both Byzantium and Islam.’
      • ‘Association football, founded in 1863, was mostly spread by the merchants and clerks of British commerce and by the engineers who built the European and South American railways.’
      • ‘When King James continued his slide to absolutism… even the larger merchants and commercial landowners in England became alarmed.’
      • ‘Bristol poet, Thomas Rowley, a monk and friend of William Canynge, a historical Bristol merchant.’
      • ‘He came from a family of prosperous silk merchants and was chairman of the textile firm Courtaulds Ltd. from 1921 to 1946.’
      • ‘Thus, playing the Nubians allowed me to get access to commerce advances early, letting me build caravans and merchants to generate enough wealth for my endeavors.’
  • 2informal, derogatory usually with modifier A person who has a liking for a particular activity.

    ‘his driver was no speed merchant’
    • ‘I have only heard what Jimmy told me, which was told to him by Lawrence, the Champion embellisher wind-up merchant - he spread it round the neighbourhood we were lost in the Maldives.’
    • ‘I work in internet advertising (but not in sales, I have my pride) so sometimes the spam merchant techniques to grab people's attention will perk my interest.’
    • ‘He can expect to find Sampras, the ultimate serve and volley merchant, claiming a position netside with the same sort of voracity with which a German holidaymaker stakes his claim poolside.’
    • ‘Jose has been enjoying the build-up to this game and has comfortably added to his reputation as European football's best wind-up merchant.’
    • ‘The diary's favourite balls-up merchant is still Danny, though.’
    • ‘Come on out, you fuzzy-headed wind-up merchant.’
    • ‘It is the perfect watch for a well-honed style merchant on sinister covert missions.’
    • ‘Happy to slug it out from the baseline, he is happiest coming in to the net and combines the booming serve with the delicate touch of a true serve and volley merchant.’
    • ‘A rarity from the archives, this solo album was recorded for the Japanese market a quarter of a century ago, when he was almost as well known as the thinking person's funk merchant as a straightahead pianist.’
    • ‘The play will run from March 27 to April 3 and will tell the story of Vincent, a professional suicide merchant, and the strange situation in which he finds himself.’
    • ‘Mr Adams is no agitprop merchant; his music would be deeply boring if he was.’
    • ‘In a masterstroke of casting, He plays Vanya as a bored and disappointed man who entertains himself by playing the Glasgow wind-up merchant.’


  • 1attributive (in historical contexts) relating to merchants or commerce.

    ‘the growth of the merchant classes’
    • ‘At this stage in history, the merchant class, desperate for money to finance their adventures, struggled with the monopoly of the moneylenders and overcame it.’
    • ‘Calls for western-style reforms tend to be confined to the merchant classes and some members of the existing establishment.’
    • ‘In the end, it will be commerce and the merchant class that will provide, and they will have to go it alone, without the help of superpowers.’
    • ‘However, the lower orders turned against the merchant class and demanded political and social changes that were in fact, if not in name, democratic.’
    • ‘The expansion of the merchant classes was already a feature of life in the 15th century, and by the 16th it had become a phenomenon.’
    • ‘The revolution he envisioned would be accomplished through the cooperation of lower ranking samurai and men from the peasant and merchant classes.’
    • ‘Toward the left foreground are the small yellow houses of the common people; note the red roofs of the merchant class, clustered around the open bazaar.’
    • ‘They had the support of the merchant class, the whites and the rich.’
    • ‘Born in late medieval Italy, Francis repudiated his life among the wealthy merchant class to espouse to himself Lady Poverty and live as a wandering begging friar.’
    • ‘Was it some subtle dig at the disgraceful standards of literacy among the merchant classes of 16th-century Venice?’
    • ‘His sympathies to socialism were further rebellion against his family background from the merchant class of Manchester.’
    • ‘Tulips became a status symbol - and wealthy Dutch and European aristocrats and newly-wealthy merchant classes had to have them!’
    • ‘While quarto publications were within the reach of many of London's merchant class, the publication of the First Folio placed the authoritative works of Shakespeare in the hands of the few.’
    • ‘Farmers originally settled the area in the north of Manhattan, then came prominent white families and then the white merchant class.’
    • ‘Contrary to what Maria was expecting, it wasn't covered in gold and fine silk but was more like the common ones used by the merchant class.’
    • ‘More attention was paid to the removal of stone than to the finished product, and thus, a rising merchant class replaced the Middletown school of gravestone carvers.’
    • ‘The people who benefited most, economically, were the merchant class and slightly wealthier farmers.’
    • ‘Along with Westerners, the Chinese merchant class dominated the economy in the nineteenth century, especially with the exportation of rice.’
    • ‘They were timber-panelled inside and were the fairly modest residences of the trading and merchant classes.’
    • ‘During those years in north-central Italy a new merchant class was forming (to which Francis belonged).’
    1. 1.1 (of ships, sailors, or shipping activity) involved with commerce rather than military activity.
      ‘a merchant seaman’
      • ‘Built of English oak and Cornish elm, they are traditionally designed and locally built rowing boats originally used to deliver pilots to incoming merchant ships.’
      • ‘Their success in picking off merchant ships proved very useful.’
      • ‘Nearly 3,000 British sailors and merchant seamen lost their lives on the convoys.’
      • ‘Summer runs were deemed too risky, because foul winter weather provided far better cover for slow-moving merchant ships.’
      • ‘The rest of his young adulthood became a quest for financial security, and he shipped out as a merchant sailor.’
      • ‘During filming, the ship was called to a real-life drama when a Greek merchant ship caught fire, making the ship safe and fielding nine bravery awards into the bargain.’
      • ‘As well as being the senior ensign of the King's ships, the red ensign was also worn by merchant ships.’
      • ‘During those years, she had seen many wounded naval officers and merchant sailors.’
      • ‘Chen calculated an average of 50 seamen lose their lives and another 50 disappear without trace at sea each year aboard merchant ships and fishing boats.’
      • ‘Most of the pirates were on the merchant ship, and the good merchant sailors were greatly outnumbered.’
      • ‘As early as the fourteenth century Europeans had suspected that rats spread the plague from quarantined merchant ships to the port cities.’
      • ‘Not only did warships have to be built in Australia but also repaired, merchant ships were also converted for war use.’
      • ‘She gave protection to the merchant ships and sailors, and gave those ashore confidence that the vital supplies would always get through under her watchful eye.’
      • ‘The two larger ships that dominated the center of the formation were clearly galleons: armed merchant ships.’
      • ‘Aside from building railway carriages he also worked on merchant ships for the American cargo fleet.’
      • ‘In fact, foreign sailors and merchant seamen were the first to spread the myth of Kobe beef back in the early nineteenth century.’
      • ‘At twelve years of age, Verne ran off to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship, thinking he was going to have an adventure.’
      • ‘The fleet of merchant ships was as busy as Rome readying for war.’
      • ‘The English were informed of the Spanish movements and quickly assembled a fleet of mostly merchant ships.’
      • ‘When he sails, he normally sails as a merchant sailor, because he is paid and has no responsibility.’
      commercial, trade, trading, business, merchant, sales
      View synonyms


Middle English: from Old French marchant, based on Latin mercari ‘to trade’, from merx, merc- ‘merchandise’.