merchant marine

Commercial ships of a nation, whether privately or publicly owned, and the personnel who operate such ships, as distinct from the personnel of naval vessels. Merchant ships are used to transport people, raw materials, and manufactured goods. Merchant fleets can be important economic assets for nations with limited natural resources or a small industrial base. By carrying the commerce of other nations on the seas, a merchant fleet contributes to its home nation's foreign-exchange earnings, promotes trade, and provides employment. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (founded 1943) is in Kings Point, N.Y.

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Firm that originates, underwrites, and distributes new security issues of corporations and government agencies. The Banking Act of 1933 required the separation of investment banking and commercial banking functions. Investment banks operate by purchasing all the new securities issued by a corporation at one price and selling fractions of the new issue to the investing public at prices high enough to yield a profit. The investment bank is responsible for setting the public offering price, which it bases on probable demand and assessments of the economic climate. A syndicate of investment banking firms underwrites and distributes most security issues in order to divide the risk of the new issue. An initial public offering (IPO) refers to the issuance of the first public shares of a formerly nonpublic company. Seealso bank; central bank; savings bank; security.

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Merchants function as professionals who deal with trade, dealing in commodities that they do not produce themselves, in order to produce profit.

Merchants can be of two types:

  1. A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant. Some wholesale merchants only organize the movement of goods rather than move the goods themselves.
  2. A retail merchant or retailer, sells commodities to consumers (including businesses). A shop owner is a retail merchant.

A merchant class characterizes many pre-modern societies. Its status can range from high (even achieving titles like that of merchant prince or nabob) to low, such as in Chinese culture, due to the soiling capabilities of profiting from "mere" trade, rather than from the labor of others reflected in agricultural produce, craftsmanship, and tribute.

In the US, "merchant" is defined (under the Uniform Commercial Code) as any person while engaged in a business or profession or a seller who deals regularly in the type of goods sold. Under the common law and the Uniform Commercial Code in the United States, merchants are held to a higher standard in the selling of products than those who are not engaged in the sale of goods as a profession. For example, when a merchant sells something, he or she is deemed to give an implied warranty of merchantability, guaranteeing that the product is fit to be sold, even if there is nothing in writing to this effect. The UCC also contains a "merchant's confirmation" exception to the Statute of Frauds.


  • The Merchant Class of Medieval London By Sylvia L. Thrupp The class in which merchants buy or sell things!

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