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From Middle English customere, custommere, from Old French coustumier, costumier (compare modern French coutumier), from Medieval Latin custumarius (a toll-gatherer, tax-collector, noun), from custumarius (pertaining to custom or customs, adjective), from custuma (custom, tax). More at custom. By surface analysis, custom +‎ -er.



customer (plural customers)

  1. (obsolete) A habitual patron, regular purchaser, returning client; one who has a custom of buying from a particular business.
  2. A patron, a client; one who purchases or receives a product or service from a business or merchant, or intends to do so.
    Every person who passes by is a potential customer.
  3. (informal) A person, especially one engaging in some sort of interaction with others.
    a cool customer, a tough customer, an ugly customer
    • 1971, Herman Wouk, chapter 52, in The Winds of War:
      Pug could just see Slote's pale face under his fur hat. "I don't agree with you on that. He's a pretty tough customer, Hopkins."
    • 2020 January 2, Philip Haigh, “Ten eventful years and plenty of talking points”, in Rail, page 54:
      This switch led to Philip Hammond becoming the Transport Secretary and he quickly proved to be a tricky customer, asking questions about rail spending and reining it back whenever possible.
  4. (India, historical) A native official who exacted customs duties.
    • 1609, Danvers, Letters, i. 25; and comp. Foster, ibid. ii. 225
      His houses [] are seized on by the Customer.
    • 1615, Sir T. Roe, Hak. Soc. i. 44:
      The Customer should come and visit them.
    • 1682, Hedges, Diary [Hak. Soc. i. 33]
      The several affronts, insolences, and abuses dayly put upon us by Boolchund, our chief Customer

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