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As millions of people every day may say this word, do we really know what the word means? It may be interesting to look at the actual word, “auc·tion·eer.”

The word auc·tion·eer is obviously the word, “auction” with the affix “eer.” The “eer” in the English language means someone associated with, concerned with, or engaged in a specified activity, depending upon how the noun (in this case, auction) is used.

Other common examples of nouns ending in “eer” include: engineer, mountaineer, puppeteer, and mutineer.

It seems clear that for the word auctioneer, the common connotation is “engaged in a specified activity” rather than merely associated with, or concerned with.

Many people are associated with auctions, including sellers, buyers, advertising representatives, sales representatives, setup personnel, clerks, cashiers, ringmen, etc. — and they aren’t considered auctioneers due to their “association.” As well, “concerned with” seems to suggest anyone with an interest in, and that too would include many people generally not considered auctioneers themselves.

So, we’re left with the concept of “engaged in a specified activity.”

Many definitions of the word, “auction” denote, generally: “A public sale where property is sold to the highest bidder” In this general case, then, an “auctioneer” would be someone engaged in the public sale of property to the highest bidder.

Let’s look at the words, “engaged in” and see how we might interpret someone who is such, selling property to the highest bidder. “Engaged in” means things like devoted to, employed, undertake, conduct, and many other meanings, depending upon context.

The Random House dictionary, Ed 2010, says an “auctioneer” is a person who conducts sales by auction — so we see the word, “conduct” here. If we use the word, “conduct” then it seems to me the word auctioneer might mean “someone who conducts auctions, selling property to the highest bidder?”

Let’s look at the word, “conduct” and see how that is likely interpreted in regard to an auctioneer. “Conduct” means things like “to behave, manage or direct in action or course.” As we look at prominent auction houses in Europe and the United States, it certainly appears one can “manage and/or direct in action or course” an auction [company or house,] without being an auctioneer — in fact, in that regard, being an auctioneer would be the exception to the rule in those instances.

We’re left with “behave” and behaving implies action (many dictionaries list “perform” as a synonym.) As the state of Ohio, and other states, have said, an auctioneer is “a person who calls for, recognizes and accepts bids,” one might assume the calling, recognizing and accepting is the action or behavior being implied.

Maybe then the word “auc·tion·eer” means someone who performs, carries out, behaves as such by calling for, recognizing and accepting bids, in order to sell property to the highest bidder? I’m comfortable with that.

There are some who argue that anyone who places an item into an auction then becomes an auctioneer. It doesn’t appear to me that this is substantiated with our analysis of the word, “auc·tion·eer,” nor with common perceptions; many people place items into an auction, such as www.ebay.com sellers, all auction consignors (sellers) and others utilizing an auction to sell items either live, by silent bid or online.

Can an auc·tion·eer place items into an auction, being his own auction, with another auc·tion·eer or an online software solution? Certainly. In other words, an auc·tion·eer can have various tools at his disposal to service his clients including a live auction and/or an online auction.

However, does someone become an auc·tion·eer simply by placing items into an auction, for themselves or others? I don’t think so, by our analysis here.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.