Words-worth: Market

A 'market' is a place where you bring your carrots and attempt to flog them.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

But it's also an imaginary space in which all manner of commercial transactions take place. How did 'market' expand from its humble agricultural origins to its present status as the arena of capitalism? The word is Latin in origin, from a verb meaning 'to buy' or 'to trade'. It appeared in most European languages in the Dark Ages and arrived in English around the 12th century. It was first used for permanent structures about a century later, and 'market' place names followed. But the word also started being used as a metaphor for the whole idea of buying and selling as early as the 14th century. This was taken up by the 17th and 18th-century pioneers of liberal economics. Today, 'market' means the demand for your goods, the geographical or demographic area in which you trade and the whole supply-and-demand system. A versatile word, which has left us with the amusing anomaly whereby a market trader can be either a fabulously wealthy City operator or a bloke with a barrow-load of fruit and veg.

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