AskDefine | Define grocery

Dictionary Definition



1 a marketplace where groceries are sold; "the grocery store included a meat market" [syn: grocery store, food market, market]
2 (usually plural) consumer goods sold by a grocer [syn: foodstuff]

User Contributed Dictionary



From French grosserie, "wholesale".


  • (UK) /ˈgɹəʊsəɹi/
  • (US) /ˈgɹoʊsəɹi/


  1. Retail foodstuffs and other household supplies.
    • 1776: Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
      Where ten thousand pounds can be employed in the grocery trade, the wages of the grocer's labour make but a very trifling addition...
  2. A shop or store that sells groceries; a grocery store.
    • 1854: Henry David Thoreau, Walden
      I observed that the vitals of the village were the grocery, the bar-room, the post-office, and the bank...

Usage notes

When referring to goods, the singular form is primarily used attributively, as in a grocery bill, a grocery list, etc. The plural form, groceries, is much more frequently used to refer to actual goods, especially in the US.


shop or store that sells groceries
retail foodstuffs and other household supplies



Extensive Definition

A grocery store is a store established primarily for the retailing of food. A grocer, the owner of a grocery store, stocks different kinds of foods from assorted places and cultures, and sells them to customers. Large grocery stores that stock products other than food, such as clothing or household items, are called supermarkets. Small grocery stores that mainly sell fruits and vegetables are known as produce markets (U.S) or greengrocers (Britain), and small grocery stores that predominantly sell snack foods and sandwiches are known as convenience stores or delicatessens.

History in the United States

U.S. grocery stores are descended from trading posts , which sold not only food but clothing, household items, tools, furniture, and other miscellaneous merchandise. These trading posts evolved into larger retail businesses known as general stores. These facilities generally dealt only in "dry" goods such as flour, dry beans, baking soda, and canned foods. Perishable foods were instead obtained from specialty markets: Fresh meat was obtained from a butcher, milk from a local dairy, eggs and vegetables were either produced by families themselves, bartered for with neighbors, or purchased at a farmers' market or a local greengrocer.
Many rural areas still contain general stores that sell goods ranging from cigars to imported napkins. Traditionally, general stores have offered credit to their customers, a system of payment that works on trust rather than modern credit cards. This allowed farm families to buy staples until their harvest could be sold.
The first self-service grocery store was opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee by Clarence Saunders, an inventor and entrepreneur. Prior to this innovation, customers gave orders to clerks to fill. Saunder's invention allowed a much smaller number of clerks to service the customers, proving successful (according to a 1929 Time magazine) "partly because of its novelty, partly because neat packages and large advertising appropriations have made retail grocery selling almost an automatic procedure."


The business of grocery stores varies from nation to nation; however, the stores are all similar in their principle selling of edible goods. The nature of these goods varies with local availability and traditional diet.


Because many European cities (Rome, for example) are already so dense in population and buildings, large supermarkets, in the American sense, may not replace the neighborhood grocery store. However, 'Metro' stores have been appearing in town and city centres in many countries, leading to the decline of independent smaller stores, and large out-of-town supermarkets and hypermarkets, such as Tesco and Sainsbury's in the United Kingdom, have been steadily sapping the trade from smaller stores.

United States

Consumer spending

globalize section The US Labor Department has calcuated that food purchased at home and in restaurants are 13 percent of household purchases, behind 32 percent for housing and 18 percent for transportation. The average US family spent $280 per month or $3,305 per year at grocery stores in 2004. The newsletter Dollar Stretcher survey found $149 a month for a single person, $257 for a couple and $396 for a family of four.


grocery in Czech: Drogerie
grocery in German: Lebensmitteleinzelhandel
grocery in French: Épicerie
grocery in Hebrew: מכולת
grocery in Malay (macrolanguage): Kedai runcit
grocery in Japanese: グロサリー
grocery in Portuguese: Mercearia
grocery in Simple English: Grocery store
grocery in Swedish: Livsmedelsaffär
grocery in Contenese: 雜貨鋪
grocery in Min Nan: Kám-á-tiàm
grocery in Chinese: 雜貨店

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

appetizing store, bakery, bakeshop, bodega, butcher shop, creamery, dairy, deli, delicatessen, food shop, food store, fruit stand, grocery store, groceteria, health food store, meat market, pork store, superette, supermarket, vegetable store
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