When I want to refer to the people (and organizations) who supply me with the goods and services I consume---that is, those of whom I am a customer---what word do I use?

My candidates:

  • Customee
  • Seller
  • Supplier

"Customee" gets the meaning across, very effectively I assume, by piggybacking on -er and -ee being paired in many other contexts. However, it sounds awful (IMNSHO).

"Seller" is less foreign to most ears, but only speaks to what the other party does, not specifically that they do it in relation to me. Also, and this is probably connected, "my sellers" could easily be mistaken for "the salespeople I have hired" or something similar.

"Supplier" doesn't sound too bad and speaks to what they're doing for me. However, I have heard that term used more of suppliers of capital goods---that is, inputs to or tools which facilitate production processes; I haven't heard the term used in reference to those who supply me with consumer goods (the things I want "just because"). For that reason, I think it may sow confusion.

What do?

  • Have you searched on synonyms for "supplier" or "retailer" or "vendor"? – Kristina Lopez Nov 5 '13 at 17:26
  • @KristinaLopez: I just did, and got 3*0 hits – Jonas Kölker Nov 5 '13 at 17:36
  • 1
    Thesaurus.com does something really odd: supplier – Andrew Leach Nov 5 '13 at 18:05
  • @AndrewLeach: yep, that had me puzzled as well. – Jonas Kölker Nov 5 '13 at 19:00
  • 1
    Hmmm, here's one site for synonyms for "vendor": Synonyms broker, dealer, merchandiser, seller Related Words merchant, trader, tradesman; auctioneer, concessionaire; black marketer (or black marketeer), bootlegger, fence, fencer, hustler, scalper, smuggler, trafficker; discounter, distributor, e-tailer, exporter, jobber, reseller, retailer, wholesaler; chapman [British], hawker, huckster, peddler (also pedlar); salesclerk, salesman, salesperson, saleswoman, shopgirl; bargainer, haggler, horse trader, palterer – Kristina Lopez Nov 5 '13 at 19:19

In my industry, we typically use the term vendor.

Vendor - a person or company offering something for sale

When used in legalese vendor means "the seller" as opposed to "the buyer." (Same source as above, see definition 3.)


One possible candidate I stumbled upon while replying to a comment by RegDwigнt:

  • Frequentee

In context: "I was just calling up one of my frequentees". I think (okay, maybe just hope) that it bring across the meaining "I frequent them". That meaning is still somewhat... dodgy; I frequent their stores rather than them, and that's not always a given (e.g. when I'm buying stuff on the internet).

Still, I think it's better than "Customee", so perhaps we're getting closer. Along the same lines are "buyee" and "purchasee". On the other hand---or was that the first hand?---they describe my counterparty in passive terms: they're the ones I'm doing my frequenting, buying, purchasing or customering* to; it doesn't say what they are doing.

(* yes yes, I know, that's not a word. Not even a cromulent one.)

Conclusion (for now): I'm still leaning towards suppliers, but it still doesn't sit quite right with me.


Provider might be a word. Or service provider. At least this is OK with Internet service.

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