More than half of all American adults go shopping to improve their mood. “Let’s go shopping” is often a form of “retail therapy.” Studies have found that one-fifth of Americans go shopping after a tough day at work, 15% shop after receiving bad news, and 12% after having a fight with a significant other. Among men, the top mood changing purchase is food while among women it is clothes. Second among women is shoes while among men it is electronics. With these data in mind, let’s take a look at the etymology of some of the words associated with shopping.
Since shopping often requires money, let’s start our etymologies with “money.” Our English word “money” appears to begin with a Roman goddess: Juno. Juno is the daughter of Saturn, the sister and wife of Jupiter, and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. One of Juno’s titles was Monēta. This may come from the same root as the Latin verb “monēre” which means “to remind, admonish, warn.”
In Rome, money was minted in the temple of Juno. Thus the name Monēta came to mean “the mint” and by extension it meant “coined money.”
“Monēta” developed into the Old French word “moneie” with the meaning of “coined money.” Then, sometime in the thirteenth century, English borrowed the word which became our “money.”
Prior to the development of Old English, “monēta” was borrowed by the Germanic languages. It then entered Old English as “mynet” which then became “mint” in modern English.
The origins of “shop” are found in the prehistoric Germanic *skoppan which described a small additional structure such as a shed or a porch. However, English did not directly acquire “shop” from German: instead it came into English from the Old French “eschoppe” meaning “booth or stall” which Old French had acquired from the Middle Low German “schoppe.”
The English “shop” began as a noun and in the 16th century it started being used as a verb, but it didn’t refer to going to the mall. Rather, “to shop” was originally a slang term meaning “to imprison” as the slang term for “prison” at this time was “shop.” The use of “to shop” meaning “to visit stores to buy things” didn’t emerge until the middle of the 18th century.
The English word “buy” comes from the prehistoric Germanic *bugjan which became “bycgan” in Old English.
In Latin, the word “merx” meant “goods to be sold.” In Vulgar Latin this became *marcatus which then came into early Middle English as “market.”
The Latin “merx” is also the source for the English words “commerce,” “merchant,” and “mercury.”
Modern shopping often involves stuff that was made in factories. In Latin the verb “facere” meaning “to make” resulted in the noun “factor” meaning “maker, doer.” In the 15th century, English borrowed “factor” and used it in the sense of an agent. Thus when the Hudson’s Bay Company was incorporated in 1670, the agent in charge of the trading post was known as a “factor” and the trading post was known as a “factory.” At this time, “factory” meant “factorship, agency.”
In the early 17th century, English also began to use the word “factory” in the sense of “a place where things are made.”
Note: the * indicates that the Indo-European or prehistoric word has been reconstructed by historical linguists.