Is there an English term for the type of street seller who aggressively sells his products? The type who yell after you and may follow you as you walk down the street?

  • 1
    Lucky-lucky man. ("Hey, where are you from my friend?")
    – Sean D
    Feb 19, 2015 at 22:50

5 Answers 5


We refer to that salesman as a hawker:

A person who travels about selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting:

I have always carried the word picture of a hawker swooping down to seize his customer with that shrill falcon scream, but the two hawks are homophones from different semantic roots:


(n.) c.1300, hauk, earlier havek (c.1200),

from Old English hafoc (W. Saxon), heafuc (Mercian), heafoc, from Proto-Germanic * habukaz

(cognates: Old Norse haukr, Old Saxon habuc, Middle Dutch havik, Old High German habuh, German Habicht "hawk"),

from a root meaning "to seize," from PIE *kap- "to grasp" (cognates: Russian kobec "a kind of falcon;" see capable).


(v.1) "to sell in the open, peddle," late 15c.,

back-formation from hawker "itinerant vendor" (c.1400),

from Middle Low German höken "to peddle, carry on the back, squat,"

from Proto-Germanic * huk-.

Related: Hawked; hawking. Despite the etymological connection with stooping under a burden on one's back, a hawker is technically distinguished from a peddler by use of a horse and cart or a van.

From the same peddling roots, huckster implies more aggressive than a hawker, and even a bit devious:

A person who sells in an aggressive or ruthless way.

  • 6
    You were snagged in the same etymological trap I was, @LittleEva. Be Free!
    – ScotM
    Feb 19, 2015 at 0:28
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    Polysemous: multiple meanings; homophonous: same sounds, distinct meanings. Yet "hawk' still carries the "raptor" connotation in the popular mind. I'm flying free, though. thanks.
    – user98990
    Feb 19, 2015 at 0:50
  • In the Mid-Atlantic US, 'huckster' would be more common. (thefreedictionary.com/huckster)
    – Rache
    Feb 19, 2015 at 20:29

Many tourist guidebooks will warn you against the tout [all dictionary definitions below are from AHD]:

tout, n. 1. One who solicits customers brazenly or persistently:

"The administration of the nation's literary affairs falls naturally into the hands of touts and thieves" (Lewis H. Lapham).

  • A British tourist who was murdered … was seen with a travel tout shortly before he “disappeared”.The Independent

  • But travelers have been complaining for nearly a millennium about Cairo's touts and scams and souvenir hawkers.The New York Times

Tout has a number of uses, however— in Northern Ireland and Scotland it refers to an informer, in Britain in general it apparently refers to what Americans would term a scalper (someone who buys up event tickets and resells them for profit), and in North America it can refer to someone offering racing tips to gamblers. Context is therefore important.

Another option is hawker, and evidently crier:

hawker, n. One who sells goods aggressively, especially by calling out. Also called crier.

A pusher, as might be guessed, is also in the business of thrusting a product or service upon you. The word is more pejorative than tout or hawker. I would couple this with the type of wares— insurance pusher, Microsoft pusher, Jesus pusher— as the word by itself is closely associated with a particular street trade:

pusher, n. 2. Slang One who sells drugs illegally.

If the salesman is himself suspect, beyond the ethicality of the product, you might say he is a huckster— a seller who is dishonest as well as aggressive:

huckster, n. 1. One who sells wares or provisions in the street; a peddler or hawker. 2. One who uses aggressive, showy, and sometimes devious methods to promote or sell a product.

For audiences who dislike being approached by strangers for a sale, even relatively neutral terms like peddler, costermonger, or even street vendor can do the trick. He's a fruit peddler is descriptive, but He's such a fruit peddler! is uncomplimentary.

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    The noun "tout" has the connotation of somebody who's angling for commission (taxi tout, hotel tour, etc), whereas a "hawker" is selling something directly (street hawker, drink hawker, etc). Feb 19, 2015 at 1:02
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    @jpatokal Perhaps, but they're still selling, and still in your face. OP didn't restrict by compensation mechanism.
    – choster
    Feb 19, 2015 at 1:09
  • 3
    Also "pitch man", " barker" Feb 19, 2015 at 2:19
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    @choster "street seller who aggressively sells his products" sounds closer to the hawker end of the spectrum to me. Feb 19, 2015 at 2:22
  • @jpatokal They're "his" regardless of ownership. They probably belong to the boss.
    – choster
    Feb 19, 2015 at 2:24

Hustler -

hus·tle (hŭs′əl) v. hus·tled, hus·tling, hus·tles v.intr. 1. To move or act energetically and rapidly: We hustled to get dinner ready on time. 2. To push or force one's way. 3. To act aggressively, especially in business dealings.

It obviously has additional meanings, but it fits and its more colloquial than other suggestions I saw here so far. If I had to use something that people would know what I'm talking about, I'd go with this.

  • 1
    Huckster is every bit as colloquial as hustler, and it has the added advantage of not implying that the vendor is trying to sell you… well, himself. Feb 19, 2015 at 0:36
  • 2
    sounds dated, is all I'm saying - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Swindlers,Hucksters_and_Snake_Oil_Salesman-_Hype_and_Hope_Marketing_Anti-Aging_Products_to_Seniors.pdf
    – joeav
    Feb 19, 2015 at 0:46
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    Doesn't sound dated to me—I've heard it used in normal conversation, and I've used it myself. Hustler in this sense sounds more dated to my ear. But in many contexts, I would consider hustler inappropriate just because of ambiguity. “The worst thing about this city is all the hustlers always badgering you in the streets all the time”, for instance, would I wager be interpreted by most as referring to male prostitutes, not fruit vendors. Feb 19, 2015 at 0:52
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    +1, Ngram query: Huckster, Hustler
    – user98990
    Feb 19, 2015 at 0:57
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    Hustler has been more popular in writing since the 1960's, and currently about 2x more common, but its use for prostitution skews the comparison. For accuracy of communication colloquial is not the same as popular, @joeav. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/colloquial Good answer, though you might do well to substitute familiar for colloquial.
    – ScotM
    Feb 19, 2015 at 1:05

A huckster:

  • One who uses aggressive, showy, and sometimes devious methods to promote or sell a product.



My personal favorite is mountebank. Others: Hustler. Panhandler. Hawker.

  • 1
    Welcome to EL&U. References or examples would be helpful to support your answer. As I understand the terms, a mountebank is more of a cheat than a loud or aggressive salesman, and panhandler is a soft word for a beggar.
    – choster
    Feb 19, 2015 at 20:46
  • Hi Choster. I agree with you entirely and did not realize the forum etiquette encouraged definitions or, at least, examples. The only word most folks won't be familiar with is mountebank; and it is my understanding the word refers colloquially to someone who is a kind of cheat (specifically in relation to a sale). Richard Dawkins once called someone he was debating "a prating mountebank." With the prating modifier in place, I think the phrase fits the OP's needs quite well.
    – Guest
    Feb 19, 2015 at 20:50
  • I mean, maybe it's a little on the edge of description, but mountebank is related to commerce and it's certainly unique. Not sure what the OP wants or if a King's English word like mountebank is really appropriate but I like that word. It's punchy.
    – Guest
    Feb 19, 2015 at 20:56

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