I’ve had this personal hypothesis in the back of my mind for many years now about the etymology of the word “broker”.
I have gathered a few pieces of the puzzle (many of them in French and a few of them in English) but I have no firm evidence to back it.
Now that I've come across EL&U, with its high concentration of English Language enthusiasts of all horizons, I’d like to request some assistance, especially regarding the English side of the story.
Many English etymological dictionaries qualify the origin of “broker” as uncertain, and others are just content with mentioning immediate ancestors of the modern word. But there is possibly a more captivating story to this particular word.
In my opinion broker comes from brooch/broach. Here is why.
- In French the word for “broche” covers 2 English words: “brooch” (the jewel) and “broach” (roasting spit). In a larger sense, a “broche” is any spiky tool used for piercing.
- One of these broaches, shaped like a “T”, with a drill-bit like end, was used during wine auctions to pierce sample barrels so that potential buyers could taste the wine and make their best buying offer according to the quality of the beverage.
- Incidentally the French term for the pitcher that would be placed below the subsequently inserted tap is “broc” (nb, origin :uncertain in the wiktionary entry).
- Also well documented is the fact that the person in charge of piercing the hole is the “brocheur” (or “broceur”).
My conjecture is that this man was also in charge of the auction, hence the “broker”. He would serve as a “broker” between the seller and the buyers. Although it seems logical, I've found this explanation nowhere.
So my questions are:
Could you please provide some English words, idioms, citations or reference that could possibly back this conjecture?
Or do we have an altogether completely different etymology, I might have missed ?
That's the main question. However I have also a couple of secondary requests, that could actually help reaching a conclusion.
- I’ve also tried to find some genre paintings (in the taste of Netherlands Golden Age genre paintings) but with no success so far.
- Also of interest would be to know whether there were English wine brokers (medieval England had a lot of vineyards) or whether the “broker” meaning was imported from the French “brocheur”, in which case one would have to admit that this meaning was lost, since French eventually borrowed the English word.