AskDefine | Define clerk

Dictionary Definition



1 an employee who performs clerical work (e.g., keeps records or accounts)
2 a salesperson in a store [syn: salesclerk, shop clerk] v : work as a clerk, as in the legal business

User Contributed Dictionary




From Latin clericus "a priest," < Greek κληρικός klerikos (adj.) in church jargon "of the clergy," < κλήρος kleros "lot, inheritance" (orig. "a shard used in casting lots").


  1. One who occupationally works with records, accounts, letters, etc.; an office worker.
  2. A facilitator of a Quaker meeting for business affairs



  1. To act as a clerk, to perform the duties or functions of a clerk
    The law school graduate clerked for the supreme court judge for the summer.

Extensive Definition

Clerk, the vocational title, commonly refers to a white collar office worker who conducts general office or (in some instances) sales tasks. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record keeping, filing, staffing service counters and other administrative tasks. In American English, this includes shop staff, but in British English, such people are known as shop assistants and are not considered to be clerks. Also, the pronunciation is different: /klɑː(ɹ)k/ ('clark'/'clahk') in most British English dialects, but /klɝk/ ('clurk') in American English.


The word clerk, derived from the Latin clericus meaning 'cleric', i.e. clergyman (Latin was the foremost language used at most early medieval courts, writing mainly entrusted to clergy as most laymen couldn't even read), can denote someone who works in an office and whose duties include record-keeping or correspondence. The word entered English from Scots Gaelic clèireach also derived from Latin clericus, which in turn derived from Greek κληρικός (klerikos) "of the clergy".
In a medieval context, the word meant "Scholar" and still related to the word "cleric". Even today, the term Clerk regular designates a type of regular clerics. The cognate terms in some languages, e.g. Klerk in Dutch, became restricted to a specific, fairly low rank in the administrative hierarchy.

United States

Clerical workers are perhaps the largest occupational group in the United States. In 2004 there were 3.1 million general office clerks, 1.5 million office administrative supervisors and 4.1 million secretaries. Clerical occupations often do not require a college degree, though some college education or 1 to 2 years in vocational programs are common qualifications. Familiarity with office equipment and certain software programs is also often required. Employers may provide clerical training. The median salary for clerks is $23,000, while the national median income for workers age 25 or older is $33,000. Median salaries ranged from $22,770 for general office clerks to $34,970 for secretaries and $41,030 for administrative supervisors. Clerical workers are considered working class by American sociologists such as William Thompson, Joseph Hickey or James Henslin as they preform highly routinized tasks with relatively little autonomy. Sociologist Dennis Gilbert, argues that the white and blue collar divide has shifted to a divide between professionals, including some semi-professionals, and routinized white collar workers. White collar office supervisors may be considered lower middle class with some secretaries being located in that part of the socio-economic strata where the working and middle classes overlap.
Traditionally clerical positions have been held almost exclusively by women. Even today, the vast majority of clerical workers in the US continue to be female. As with other pre-dominantly female positions, clerical occupations were and, to some extent, continue to be assigned relatively low prestige on a sexist basis. The term pink collar worker is often used to describe predominantly female white collar positions.

Functions and titles

Various functions or offices, generally of such 'clerical' nature, include the word and an indication of the task and/or employer, that is lower in position. For example:
However in large offices and organizations which require an administrative hierarchy, some titles simply indicate the relative rank of certain clerical positions, e.g. Head Clerk, Junior Clerk, Clerk, Senior Clerk, Principal Clerk, Senior Principal Clerk, Chief Clerk, Senior Chief Clerk, Executive Clerk, Senior Executive Clerk, Principal Executive Clerk.
Alternatively (in American English) a clerk is a person who sells items in a store or performs services at a desk, e.g.
  • sales clerk (as in grocery sales)
  • deli clerk
  • hotel front desk clerk
  • service desk clerk
  • cash register clerk
The surnames Clark, Clarke, Clerk, Clerke are derived from this occupation.


clerk in German: Kontorist
clerk in Simple English: Company clerk
clerk in Slovenian: Uradnik

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bible clerk, Bible reader, CA, CPA, DD, Doctor of Divinity, Federal, Holy Joe, abbe, academician, accountant, accountant general, acolyte, actuary, agent, almoner, amanuensis, anagnost, archivist, auditor, baggage agent, bank accountant, bank examiner, beadle, bedral, bookkeeper, bookman, business agent, calculator, calligrapher, capitular, capitulary, certified public accountant, chaplain, chartered accountant, chirographer, choir chaplain, churchman, churchwarden, claim agent, classicist, clergyman, cleric, clerical, colossus of knowledge, commercial agent, commission agent, comptroller, consignee, controller, copier, copyist, cost accountant, cost keeper, curate, cure, customer agent, deacon, deaconess, divine, documentalist, dupe, ecclesiastic, elder, elderman, engraver, factor, fed, federal agent, filing clerk, floorwalker, freight agent, functionary, general agent, genius, giant of learning, humanist, implement, ink spiller, inkslinger, instrument, insurance agent, journalizer, land agent, law agent, lay elder, lay reader, learned clerk, learned man, lector, lecturer, letterer, librarian, literary agent, literary man, litterateur, loan agent, lover of learning, man of God, man of learning, man of letters, marker, mastermind, military chaplain, mine of information, minister, news agent, notary, notary public, official, padre, parish clerk, parliamentary agent, parson, passenger agent, pastor, pen, pencil driver, penman, penner, philologist, philologue, philomath, philosophe, philosopher, polyhistor, polymath, preacher, precentor, press agent, prothonotary, pundit, puppet, purchasing agent, reader, real estate agent, reckoner, record clerk, recorder, recording secretary, recordist, rector, register, registrar, reverend, ruling elder, sacrist, sacristan, sales agent, sales engineer, sales force, sales manager, sales personnel, salesclerk, salesgirl, saleslady, salesman, salespeople, salesperson, saleswoman, savant, scalper, scholar, scholastic, schoolman, scorekeeper, scorer, scribbler, scribe, scrivener, secretary, seller, selling agent, servant of God, sexton, shames, shepherd, shop assistant, shop clerk, sidesman, sky pilot, special agent, station agent, stenographer, steward, stonecutter, store clerk, student, succentor, suisse, supply clergy, supply minister, teaching elder, the Reverend, the very Reverend, theatrical agent, thurifer, ticket agent, ticket scalper, timekeeper, tonsured cleric, tool, transcriber, travel agent, verger, vergeress, walking delegate, walking encyclopedia, word-slinger, writer
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