I have searched, found no answers, but why is a workshop called a workshop?

In academia, workshops are being held where you learn stuff and calculate stuff. It has nothing to do with a shop (where you buy stuff) and not so much work IMO. So why workshop?

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    A shop (small building) where one works. How, may I ask, did you search? Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 10:49
  • @Susan Confusion may arise from the fact that in Britain the term 'shop', as well as meaning 'a small building' is most frequently used to mean a retail premises. The English were, after all, said by Napoleon, to have been 'a nation of shopkeepers'. A place where goods are sold, is the lead meaning in the UK and across a large part of the world where Britain has held influence. In parts of Asia, for example, few would perhaps think of 'shop' as anything other than that. Hence 'workshop' might be confusing to a person unfamiliar with the wider meaning of 'shop'.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 10:59
  • @WS2 - the common language problem again. Thank you, I did not know that. (But take, then, a milliner's shop. Isn't there a workplace in the back? Isn't that a workshop?) In the US, teens take shop in high school. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 11:07
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    Please see my edit. Workshop= you buy work? I don't get it. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 11:07
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    Ahh. This is clearer now. A workshop is a place to work with one's hands; it is hands on. In academia, workshops are intensive, small group studies with a higher teacher-to-student ratio. Like a mini-apprenticeship. As if one studied from a master craftsman in his workshop. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


Just to solidify what is already in the comments:

There is a bit of divergence on the understanding on the word 'shop'. It can be a place where things are sold (or going to buy them) or it can be a place where work (labour) is done.

A 'workshop' is a place where hands on work is done such as a blacksmith's workshop or a carpentry workshop, etc. Sometimes workshop will be shortened to just 'shop', such as 'shop class' which takes place in a workshop or simply 'shop'.

When brought into an area like a white collar job or academia, it is meant to reflect the 'hands on' nature of the work, not just listening to a lecture or some sort of passive activity.

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