1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grocer
GROCER, literally one who sells by the gross, a wholesale dealer; the word is derived through the O. Fr. form, grossia, from the Med. Lat. grossarius, defined by du Cange, Glossarium, s.v. Grossares, as solidae mercis propola. The name, as a general one for dealers by wholesale, “engrossers” as opposed to “regrators,” the retail dealers, is found with the commodity attached; thus in the Munimenta Gildhallae (“Rolls” series) ii. 1.304 (quoted in the New English Dictionary) is found an allusion to grossours de vin, cf. groser of fysshe, Surtees Misc. (1888) 63, for the customs of Malton (quoted ib.). The specific application of the word to one who deals either by wholesale or retail in tea, coffee, cocoa, dried fruits, spices, sugar and all kinds of articles of use or consumption in a household is connected with the history of the Grocers’ Company of London, one of the twelve “great” livery companies. In 1345 the pepperers and the spicers amalgamated and were known as the Fraternity of St Anthony. The name “grocers” first appears in 1373 in the records of the company. In 1386 the association was granted a right of search over all “spicers” in London, and in 1394 they obtained the right to inspect or “garble” spices and other “subtil wares.” Their first charter was obtained in 1428; letters patent in 1447 granted an extension of the right of search over the whole county, but removed the “liberties” of the city of London. They sold all kinds of drugs, medicines, ointments, plasters, and medicated and other waters. For the separation of the apothecaries from the grocers in 1617 see Apothecary. (See further Livery Companies.)
See The Grocery Trade, by J. Aubrey Rees (1910).