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I'm looking at apartment ads in Singapore, but I don't understand what pax means. Here's an example:

View 8pm today @ Hdb Approved HDB 1+1 Blk 3 Jalan Kukoh (Chin Swee Rd):

  • 15 min walk Chinatown MRT
  • furn with ac
  • avail 15th May
  • $1.5k max 5 pax
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6 Answers 6

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Essentially, pax means people/persons/occupants, as succinctly expressed by Callithumpian's answer (apparently it was used as early as the 40s; it became a standard term in the UK Passenger Transport industry in the 70s).

I worked in the bus industry for many years. Pax isn't exactly shorthand for Passengers. It's short for Passengers and Passes. In which context, Passengers is short for Paying Passengers.

The reason being that from a bus company's point of view it's crucial to distinguish between Passengers (who pay the fare when boarding), and Passes (using a Season Ticket, or some other pre-paid authorisation to travel).

In the UK, Local Authorities routinely pay for passes used by pensioners, for example. They may also pay a bus company a flat sum simply to run a Service that the company would otherwise have considered uneconomic. In such a context, the bus company needs to analyse Pax totals to ensure their buses aren't being overloaded, and Pass totals because the Local Authority wants to know their money was well spent. And they need (Paid) Passenger totals because those are the real 'customers' who might use a different bus company if they don't like the service or the price.

It may help to point out that one of the reasons for using Pax is simply to make report layouts easier. I was coding up those reports in the 70's, when things were a bit more constrained than today. Managers couldn't just run off a report when they wanted it; they got standard reports run overnight by computer operators.

These were often very long printouts, so page space was at a premium and columns were as narrow as could still fit the data in. Instead of a single column showing just 'traveller' totals, managers obviously wanted the breakdown. So we gave them Psg Pas Pax, being Paying Passengers, Pass Users, and Total Travellers.

Finally I've never actually seen pax used outside the transport industry, but it's worth pointing out that a dog, for example, probably wouldn't count as a pax, even if a fare was payable. That's because a dog doesn't occupy a seat. By the same token, a baby in a portable cot probably wouldn't count as a pax in an apartment, because it wouldn't occupy 'bed space'.


EDIT: As several people have commented, the usage has been extended (particularly in the Far East, and most particularly in the hospitality industry. So whereas originally pax was always travellers (live human bodies that need to be transported) it's often now more generally applied to any "customers, people, bodies" occupying space (usually, seats or beds), who must be entertained, accommodated, fed, etc.

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1  
In Thailand the usage of Pax has been extended beyond transport a lot. It is used whenever customers are concerned. Be it 4 pax for a spa, 3 pax dinner or in my own company we use 10 pax (attendees) for a wedding. It is used by both Thai speakers and English speakers. –  Alendri Nov 26 '12 at 4:25
    
@Alendri: I don't doubt that's the case for some - but given OP hails from Singapore, which is just around the corner from Thailand, clearly it's not "standard English" even there. –  FumbleFingers Nov 26 '12 at 4:49
    
As in Thailand (per Alendri's), so in Singapore. The word pax is used by Singapore restaurants when they take reservations to indicate the number of persons dining. –  user62348 Jan 15 at 2:33
    
It's certainly used in English within the rest of the travel & tourism industry, and I supspect precisely because it isn't known as meaning "passenger", though that is its origin as you explain. It means "people we are catering too" whether in context that means a passenger, guest, occupant, diner, etc. and useful precisely to cover all those different cases. –  Jon Hanna Jan 15 at 12:39
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What, you mean it has nothing to do with pax hominibus after all? :) –  tchrist Jun 12 at 14:06

It means occupants, although I first heard it as shorthand for 'passengers' in the travel industry.

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To add to Raena's explanation, it turns out that pax is a slang word for "passengers"... which would, in theory, explain why it's not in a lot of dictionaries.

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As reported from the New Oxford American Dictionary, it means "a person" or "persons" (the plural of pax is still pax).
It is mainly used in commercial contexts, and its origin is 1970s, apparently as modification of pass-, from passenger.

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It looks like PAX for passengers goes back at least to the 1940s in the airline industry. I found this clip from Air Facts: The Magazine for Pilots, 1946 (check):

http://books.google.com/books?ei=LGULTpmtEcXd0QGOtI1r&ct=result&id=mEQPAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22pax%22+%2Bcargo+-con+%2Bair+facts&q=pax#search_anchor

Here's the full text of the reference:

We have cargo and mail aboard. Mostly these days we run cargo east and passengers west. Cargo is known as "cargo", but passengers are called "pax" by the traffic department, who puts them on and takes them off the airplane and "bodies" by the crews who fly them.

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You answer wasn't around when I did mine, or I wouldn't have bothered. I'm not going to delete mine now, after having spent time writing all that background, but you'll have to get my upvote! :) –  FumbleFingers Jun 30 '11 at 19:51
    
@Fumble: Thanks. Regardless, your answer provides helpful background. If you could give a nod to my answer within yours, I'll return the upvote ;) –  Callithumpian Jun 30 '11 at 20:46
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Done. In general I approve of brevity here on EL&U, but Raena's answer was just a bit too brief for me at the time. I really do feel that sometimes a bit of background doesn't go amiss. –  FumbleFingers Jun 30 '11 at 21:08

In property and housing the term PAX means 'Per Annum Exclusive'. Usually exclusive of VAT, Utility Bills and Business Rates. You're Welcome - KK

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Google seem to suggest it's somewhat common use in the UK. In Singapore in context of apartment rentals it's definitely short for "passengers". –  Kit Sunde Apr 10 at 18:24
    
Seems pretty clear from the context that in this instance it's being used to mean "people". –  Rupe Jun 9 at 9:40

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