I am writing a story where the main character travels by a 'horse drawn carriage'. He has a short conversation with the 'driver' of the carriage.

My questions:

  1. Is 'driver' the formal term to describe the person who is 'driving' the carriage? (to illustrate the seriousness of the word choice, I can think of pilots - not drivers - who fly planes!)
  2. Is it called a horse carriage or a horse driven carriage?
  • 4
    Drivers originally drove carriages (and livestock). Pilots originally piloted ships. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 2:07

5 Answers 5


A coachman is the driver of a horse-drawn carriage.

  • Horseless carriages (cars) didn't really get started until 1900, but driver had already eclipsed coachman by the mid-1800s, long before there were any "cars" at all. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 2:33
  • @FumbleFingers: That is a neat chart, but driver has additional meanings, nautically and mechanically, that probably also increased in usage during the 1800's. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 2:43
  • @Pieter: I've no first-hand knowledge of historical usage, obviously. I can certainly imagine the Georgian passenger calling out "Don't stop, coachman!" when they meet Dick Turpin on the highway in the 1700s (but I get that impression from historical dramas, not the literature of the age). When it comes to the Victorian passenger in the 1800s though, I think he'd more likely call out "Home, driver! And don't spare the horses!" Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 2:56
  • Conversely, as a scientist I see the increased usage of 'driver' nicely tracking the increasing mechanization of the industrial revolution. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 3:07

I think OP is just confused because you ride a horse, but drive a car to get yourself from A to B.

It's also true that at least some cowboys rode the cattle (mostly they drove the cattle, obviously).

But in the case of a horse-drawn carriage, I think the usage for stagecoach is evidence enough...

driver of the stagecoach (that's 4450 hits in Google Books)

Strictly speaking, he's driving/urging on the horses (but he's also driving/steering the carriage).


The Victorian statutes, Volume 1 uses the phrase

carriage driver

So it appears that term was in use in 1866.

  • Was a "carriage driver" the same thing as a "carriage conductor"? Or were they two different jobs? They certainly are two different jobs today on American trains, and I wouldn't be surprised if this terminology had carried over directly from carriages. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 12:54
  • From the context, it's hard to tell. There seems to be a distinction between driver and conductor. I attempted to correct the link so that it points to the book at the right page, rather than just the specific text. I apologize for that. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 13:04
  • Definitely different people. From Justice of the Peace and Local Government Review 1872: "The driver uses the break, and the conductor has a bell to signal the driver, who stands on a platform by himself driving the horses." I'd guess the bell here signaled the driver to stop and let off passengers (and the conductor collected the money from them and asked for their destinations). Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 13:05
  • I removed the reference to conductor, as that appears to be a different role from the driver. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 15:16

A teamster drives a team of draft animals. Today, the word refers primarily to truck drivers, but it previously referred to animal drivers. Note that a teamster can also drive animals on foot (as in a pack train).

  • 1
    Teamster was predominantly an American term. See this Google Ngram. In the U.K., I believe coachman or driver would have been used. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 12:51
  • 1
    The Duke of Edinburgh is a noted carriage driver (apparently it is a competitive sport), but probably not a teamster. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 13:30

Either way, "coachman" sounds, for literary purposes at least, more appropriate, unambiguous, and certainly more romantic. Of course, if you are writing a work of non-fiction, romanticism is ill-advised and a more pragmatic approach should be taken. That is, unless your thesis involves Romanticism .. I believe I could keep this going for a good amount of time so at the risk of becoming vexatious I shall go away now.

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