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n. Petty merchandise, small wares.
578 T. N. tr. Conq. W. India 23 With great store of Haberdash, as bels, necklaces, beades of glasse, collers, points, pinnes, purses, needels, girdels, threed, knives, sissers, pinsers, hammers, hatchets, shirts, Coyfes, headkerchiefs..breeches, coates, clokes, caps, Marriners breeches. 1648 GAGE West Ind. 17 To barter with the Spaniards for their small Haberdash, or Iron, Knives, or such things which may help them in their Wars.
[Has the form of a derivative of HABERDASH n. (q.v.), or of the AFr. hapertas (quasi *hapertassier, *haberdassier);
but the actual nature of the relationship between these words is left doubtful by their relative dates, as well as by the undetermined relation in which haberdash and hapertas stand to each other.]
Formerly, a dealer in a variety of articles now dealt with by other trades, including caps, and probably hats: see quots. In the course of the 16th c. the trade seems to have been split into two, those of:
a. A dealer in, or maker of, hats and caps, a hatter (obs.);
b. A dealer in small articles appertaining to dress, as thread, tape, ribbons, etc. Formerly also a drink-seller (as a dealer in ‘tape’ = spirituous liquor).
1561 STOW Eng. Chron. (Howe 1615) 869/1 The Milloners, or Haberdashers, in that place, sould mousetrappes, bird cages, shooing hornes, Lanthornes, and Jews trumpes.
c. fig. (cf. dealer, retailer, vendor).