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Episode 7: The Origin of the Word “Shop”

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their meanings. What’s great about etymology is that it helps uncover significance from words, beyond just the present day definition.

For example, the word “History”. The dictionary definition is “study of the past”; but the etymology of the word comes from the Greek word “Histor”, meaning “learn-ed, wise men”. And “historia” meaning “finding out, or narrative”. So the origin of the word is, ‘Finding out, or narrative, from learn-ed wise men.’

The difference between the dictionary definition, and the etymology is subtle, but significant. Because the etymology of the word inherents the importance of “learning from” and “guidance” from the wise. The present day dictionary definition just tells us to study the past, but the origin of the world implies that we need to LEARN from the study of the past.

So, what’s the etymology of the word “shop” and what’s the significance?

It comes from a mix of Old French, German and Old English. Eschoppe from Old French (meaning booth), Schopf from German (meaning porch), and Shippon from Old English (meaning cattle shed).
So the first usage of the word can be traced to mean a booth or porch where cattle was bought and sold. People would travel to the “shop” to speak with a cattle rancher and negotiate an agreement.

The significance of the word is the fact that it was a place where agreements were reached, face-to-face. Buyers could see the cattle they wished to buy, they could get recommendations on the right kind of cattle for their needs, and most importantly develop a relationship with their supplier.

The root word of Shop is becoming more and more relevant in today’s online word. Even though the face-to-face is less preferred, the objective remains. Which is to build a relationship and create a 2-way conversation between customers’ expectations and the merchants abilities.

How does this apply to your online shop? Easy – do everything you can to build a 2-way conversation with your customers, so next time they need cattle, they come to your booth and not someone else’s.


Also published on Medium.