image: Salle 103 – Latin (Collège de Vinci – Belfort – France)







a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories
a business serving a sophisticated or specialised clientele





In the second half of the 18th century, English borrowed the French noun boutique in its sense of commercial premises of modest dimensions. In Selections from unpublished records of government for the years 1748-1767 inclusive relating mainly to the social condition of Bengal, with a map of Calcutta in 1784, published in 1869 by James Long, the proceedings of 27th April 1767 contain:

Straw huts and Rats in Calcutta.

Mr. Russell, as Collector General, begs leave to represent to the Board that of late years the street by the river side to the northward of the Custom House has been greatly encroached upon by a number of golahs, little straw huts and boutiques that have been indiscriminately reared.


The French noun boutique is ultimately from Greek ἀποθήκη (apotheke), a storehouse, composed of the prefix apo-, away from, and the noun theke, a receptacle, a repository. (Greek also had the verb ἀποτιθέναι (apotithenai), to lay away.)

(The Greek word θήκη (theke) is present in βιβλιοθήκη (bibliotheke), a bookcase, a library – hence Latin bibliotheca and French bibliothèque. The word βιβλίον (biblion) means a book.)

Apparently derived from Greek via Old Provençal botiga, botica (the i representing the pronunciation of η in Late Greek), the French word is first attested in 1242 in the form bouticle and in the sense of a place where a tradesman or a craftsman displays his merchandise.

(The form bouticle illustrates the fact that, in Old and Middle French, the insertion of a reinforcing l was frequent between a stressed vowel and the final -e of borrowed words such as cronikle and demoniacle (modern French chronique and démoniaque). This l remained in the obsolete noun bouticlar, denoting a boat for live fish and a store of live fish.)


From the Greek apotheke, Latin had apotheca, meaning a storehouse. This in turn gave rise to the noun apothecarius, a storekeeper. Via Old French forms such as apotecaire (modern French apothicaire), this Latin noun is the origin of the English apothecary, which dates back to the mid-14th century and originally meant one who keeps a store or shop of non-perishable commodities, spices, drugs, comfits, preserves, etc. At an early period, the sense became restricted to one who prepares and sells medicines and drugsbut the Apothecaries’ Company of London was not separated from the Grocers’ till 1617. The English word is first attested in Mandeville’s travels : translated from the French of Jean d’Outremeuse (in a manuscript dating from about 1366); the author writes about the counterfeiting of balm in Egypt:

     – modern text: And they think that they have balm, and they have none. For the Saracens counterfeit it by subtlety of craft for to deceive the Christian men, as I have seen full many a time. And after them the merchants and the apothecaries counterfeit it a second time, and then it is less worth and a great deal worse.
     – original text: And þei wenen þat þei han bawme & þei haue non. For the Sarazines countrefeten it be sotyltee of craft for to disceyuen the cristene men as I haue seen fuƚƚ many a tyme. And after hem the marchauntes & the Apotecaries countrefeten it eftsones & þanne it is lasse worth & a gret del worse.

The noun apothecary was also applied to a medical treatment by drugs and to the apothecary’s shop. For example, A most excellent and perfecte homish apothecarye or homely physik booke, for all the grefes and diseases of the bodye, originally written in German by Hieronymus von Brunschwig and translated by John Hollybush in 1561, contains the following:

To the patient may be gyuen Diapenidion, Diagalanga or Pliris cum musco made in the Apothecarye.

(Forms of apothecary such as potecary and poticary were once usual and have survived as surnames, for example Pottecary. The omission of the initial sound of a word is called apheresis – cf. for example prentice/apprenticesquire/esquiresample/examplestate/estate.)


Ultimately from the Greek apotheke:

          – in the Romance languages:
– Spanish: botica, a chemist’s shop; bodega, a wine cellar, a cellar, a storeroom;
– Portuguese: botica, a chemist’s shop;
– Catalan: botiga, a shop;
– Italian: bottega, a shop, a workshop;
– Romanian: potică, a chemist’s shop.

          – in some Germanic languages:
– German, Dutch and Swedish respectively: Apotheke, apotheek and apotek, a chemist’s shop.

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