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A fishmonger in Pike Place Market on the waterfront of Seattle

A fishmonger (fishwife for women practitioners - "wife" in this case used in its archaic meaning of "woman") is someone who sells raw fish and seafood. Fishmongers can be wholesalers or retailers, and are trained at selecting and purchasing, handling, gutting, boning, filleting, displaying, merchandising and selling their product. In some countries modern supermarkets are replacing fishmongers who operate in shops or fish markets.

Worshipful Company of Fishmongers[edit]

A 16th-century fishmongers stall. Bartolomeo Passarotti

The fishmongers guild, one of the earliest guilds, was established in the City of London by a Royal Charter granted by Edward I shortly after he became king in 1272. Partnership with foreigners was forbidden and the sale of fish was tightly controlled to ensure freshness and restrain profit, which was limited to one penny in the shilling. Nevertheless, the guild grew rich and, after Edward's victory over the Scots, was able to make a great show, including one thousand mounted knights.[1]

During the reign of Edward II, the political power of the fishmongers waned and Parliament decreed that no fishmonger could become mayor of the city. This was soon rescinded though and their wealth increased further so that, during the reign of Edward III, the guild could provide £40 to the war against the French, this being a great sum at that time.[1]

The guild was then reformed by Great Charter as the Mystery of the Fishmongers of London. They were given a monopoly over the crying and selling of fish and they regulated the catching of fish in the Thames which teemed with fish such as salmon at that time.[1] The guild still continues today as one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies.


The tools used by fishmongers include:[2]

  • pliers to pull out pinbones
  • a fish scaler to remove scales
  • a filleting knife to cut away the flesh from the bones
  • short strong knives for opening oysters and other shellfish
  • protective gloves
  • a curved knife for gutting and removing roe

Fishmongers in culture[edit]

In many countries, the fishwife was proverbial for her sharp tongue and outspoken speech. In Medieval France, the ones in Paris were known for their special privilege of being able to speak frankly to the King himself, when he ventured into the marketplace, and voice criticism without fear of punishment.

Molly Malone is a character from a popular Irish song about a young fishwife who tragically dies at a young age.

Charles Fort in his book Lo! compiles the story of the Mad Fishmonger or "St. Fishmonger", which later may or may not appear in the Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. St. Fishmonger allegedly caused crabs and periwinkles to fall from the sky.

In the English translation of the Asterix series, the village fishmonger is called Unhygienix. In the film The Beach, the Island's chef has only fish as a source of meat, and is named Unhygienix in reference to the Asterix character.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, some contend that the word fishmonger was a euphemism for a "fleshmonger," or pimp.[3][4][5]

Historic fishmongers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c John Timbs (1865), "Curiosities of the Fishmongers' Hall", Walks and talks about London, Lockwood 
  2. ^ "A few good tools", The Fishmonger's Apprentice, p. 19 
  3. ^ Steve Roth, Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, 2009
  4. ^ Hamlet's Puns and Paradoxes, Click Notes
  5. ^ Shaaber MA (1971) "Polonius as Fishmonger" Shakespeare Quarterly, 22 (2).


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishmonger — Please support Wikipedia.
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Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Tue, 07 Jul 2015 17:23:20 -0700

The fishmonger, 58, who included roughly 300 recipes, calls the book “the capstone of my culinary career” and says his regular customers encouraged him to write it. He has given cooking classes in the store for many years, first in Newton before that ...
Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:00:00 -0700

Hollygrove fishmonger Valdrie Collins sells whole fish and shrimp by the pound out of his tiny store From the Boat to You (3206 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-914-4509; www.fromtheboattoyou.com). A chef by trade, Collins started selling fish on the streets ...

NL Times

NL Times
Fri, 24 Jul 2015 05:45:00 -0700

Scheveningen fishmonger Gebroeders Simonis has been awarded this year's prize for selling the best herring in the Netherlands in the annual AD Haring Test. Gebroeders Simonis started as an eel smokehouse in The Hague in 1880. The business has since ...

Grimsby Telegraph

Grimsby Telegraph
Mon, 13 Jul 2015 01:27:24 -0700

FIRST EDITION: Phil Coyne, centre, is presented with a copy of the Code of Practice for Mobile Fishmongers, by Steve Norton, at Humber Seafood Institute, watched by, from left, George Krawiec, chairman of Seafood Grimsby & Humber, Julie Snowden and ...
The Malaysian Insider (press release)
Wed, 15 Jul 2015 20:45:00 -0700

A fishmonger from Seremban main market was killed early today after a collision between his motorcycle and an SUV vehicle on Jalan Lobak, Seremban. Woo Choon Wah died on the spot in the 1.30am accident and his body was sent to Tuanku Jaafar ...


Tue, 28 Jul 2015 05:11:15 -0700

The women's only visitor is a sad-sack fishmonger named Patsy, who shows up “with the tide,” bearing crates of stiff catch and anxious visions of the existential terror outside the play's paltry, unwelcoming refuge. Derry Woodhouse as Patsy, Marya ...

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:45:00 -0700

Played by Adrianne Krstansky, Ada is being wooed, after a fashion, by an awkward, good-natured fishmonger named Patsy, portrayed by Derry Woodhouse (excellent). In certain superficial respects, “The New Electric Ballroom'' may bring to mind Brian Friel ...

National Catholic Reporter (blog)

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Tue, 28 Jul 2015 05:00:00 -0700

I'd like to be like the Zen fishmonger who after his transfiguration still peddled fish and still smelled of fish, but when his friends asked, "What's so great about your life now?", he answered, "Well, everything is exactly the same as it was before ...

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