was an itinerant dealer
A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a canvasser, cheapjack, monger, or solicitor , is a travelling vendor of goods. In England, the term was mostly used for travellers hawking goods in the countryside to small towns and villages; they might also be called tinkers or gypsies...
or hawker in early modern Britain
Early modern Britain is the history of the island of Great Britain, roughly corresponding to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Major historical events in Early Modern British history include the English Renaissance, the English Reformation and Scottish Reformation, the English Civil War, the...
Old English céapmann
was the regular term for "dealer, seller", cognate to the synonymous Dutch koopman.
Old English céap
meant "deal, barter, business". The modern adjective cheap
is a comparatively recent development from the phrase a good cheap
, literally "a good deal" (cf. modern-day Dutch goedkoop
The word also appears in names such as Cheapside
Cheapside is a street in the City of London that links Newgate Street with the junction of Queen Victoria Street and Mansion House Street. To the east is Mansion House, the Bank of England, and the major road junction above Bank tube station. To the west is St. Paul's Cathedral, St...
Eastcheap is a street in the City of London. Its name derives from cheap, market, with the prefix "East" distinguishing it from the other former City of London market of Westcheap . In medieval times Eastcheap was the City's main meat market, with butchers' stalls lining both sides of the street...
and Chepstow; all markets or dealing places.
By 1600, the word chapman
had come to be applied to an itinerant dealer in particular, but it remained in use for "customer, buyer" as well as "merchant" in the 17th and 18th centuries,
The habit of calling a young man a chap
arose from the use of the abbreviated word to mean a customer, one with whom to bargain.
The word was applied to hawkers of chapbook
A chapbook is a pocket-sized booklet. The term chap-book was formalized by bibliophiles of the 19th century, as a variety of ephemera , popular or folk literature. It includes many kinds of printed material such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales,...
s, broadside ballads, and similar items. Their stock in trade provides a graphic insight into the methods of political and religious campaigners of the Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...
period, for example.
Chapman is a surname and perhaps an occupational surname. There is not a single agreed origin of the surname Chapman. Theories include it being a name for a business man or trader which was called in Old High German either choufman or koufman, which became the Old English surname céapmann...
is also a common personal name of the class derived from trades.
Examples of use
One famous instance of the use of the term is found in the opening lines of the poem Tam o' Shanter
by Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...
- Whan chapman billies leave the street
- And drouthy neibours neibours meet...
- When young traders retire from the market
- And thirsty neighbours meet together...