Transparent Image

Why is it called a Flea Market?

Table of Contents

Why in the world do people call outdoor markets that sell second-hand goods “flea markets.” Was somebody trying to compare people that buy second-hand to INSECTS?! If you think about it, that’s the real meaning of the word flea; tiny irritating parasites whose sole purpose in this world is to suck another animal’s blood.

Flea markets were actually named after fleas!

Now, don’t get me wrong, no one was insulting people for buying second-hand. The origin of the word dates way back in medieval age Paris. You probably know that Paris wasn’t the cleanest city to live in during these times. It was pretty filthy, and that affected Paris’s outdoor markets. Sold goods sometimes became a home for the parasitic insect. 

So, when something got infested with fleas, Parisians of the time wouldn’t just throw it away. Paris had plenty of people living in extreme poverty that wouldn’t mind buying something infested with fleas at a low price.

So, traders came up with a genius idea and created the “marché aux puces,” which translates to “flea market.” 

This outdoor market would sell all kinds of goods that were believed to have fleas. And usually, the items were sold at a very affordable price to poor Parisians.

Why is the word “flea market” still being used today? 

Have you ever wondered how flea markets transitioned from selling things infested with the parasite to used items?

First of all, let’s point out the obvious.People eventually started taking care of their hygiene and put more effort into cleaning their surroundings after the medieval era.  By the 1700s, there were not enough flea infested items to sell in flea markets. 

So, how did they stay relevant?

Well, most of you might be unaware that flea markets started to serve as a platform for pawnbrokers to dispose of the goods they had seized from their debtors. The idea behind having a flea market was to make sure that these pawnbrokers could now sell their goods off to recover some money and make more profits. In 1922, the “flea market” started being used in the UK and shortly after in the US. But now, people didn’t exactly use it to describe a market selling goods infested with fleas. Instead, the term was used to describe outdoor markets that sold second-hand goods at low prices. 

Why did flea markets become so popular?

Flea markets were not very popular, at least in the United States, until the 1960s. The reason flea markets did not become popular all these years is that most people thought that they were just a place where old things were sold and traded at ridiculously high prices. Which is ridiculous because these markets are the exact opposite!

After the 1960s, flea markets started becoming normal for everyone. People took regular trips to their local flee markets in hopes of finding unique antiques, rare vintage clothing, and more! Today, these outdoor markets have become extremely widespread among many Americans and Europeans and have even attracted a lot of tourists and vacationers.

The reason they are all the rage today is because they offer hundreds of great deals on products or objects that you may need. 

You can find all sorts of products in these markets, including antique furniture and even jewelry. You can also find clothes and accessories for yourself or for your family members at extremely cheap rates!

Flea markets are often held regularly. They are usually organized by antiques and collectibles dealers who rent a booth to sell their goods. 

The objects sold at these markets can be new or vintage, but they are almost always collected from garage sales, estate sales, auctions, and other sources.

However, did you know that some flea market requires fees to enter? 

Some have an admission fee paid at the entrance, while others do not charge any fee to enter the premises.

Most flea markets have a designated area where food and drinks are sold, while some may also have an enclosed area where live performances are staged. 

These outdoor markets are generally open year-round and typically operate every weekend. 

Why should you visit a flea market?

Good Place to Sell Your Stuff

A very interesting thing about flea markets is that it’s not just the buyers who source product to resell online. If you decide to sell your old stuff in a flea market, then you can earn some decent cash too. Of course, you won’t get the same price as what antique shops offer, but it’s still worth selling your items because you can still get a couple of bucks out of it! 

Great for Finding Bargains

As much as flea markets are about selling antique items, they are also about bargains. So, while you know that you can get old items at an affordable price at a flea market, you might want to get your preferred item at the lowest price possible. This is because flea markets have no standard pricing scheme! In most retail outlets, prices are set by the store owner and are usually non-negotiable. That means that the same item in different stores will have different prices. Flea markets do not follow this concept since you can get different items from one vendor, which may have different prices.

Can Find Some True Hidden Gems and Antiques


Second-hand markets give people the opportunity to revisit history.  If you like antiques, you can visit a flea market and buy one for yourself. You may even find a treasure with a high monetary value in the process.  In addition, flea markets provide an opportunity to get handmade items within your budget. Unlike other markets, you also have a better chance of getting unique handcrafted items there. 

Final Thoughts

The number one reason why I would recommend visiting a flea market is that you’ll find things that are hard to find anywhere else, especially if it’s something handmade or made locally by someone. I’ve found some truly fantastic stuff there over the years, from professional-quality leather cowboy boots for $25 (their owner had a stall at his local craft fair) to an original oil painting for $8!


The term originates from Parisian markets infested with fleas, which sold goods at low prices, hence the name “flea market”.
With improved hygiene, fewer goods were flea-infested. Flea markets became platforms for pawnbrokers to sell seized goods and evolved to sell used items.
Flea markets are good places to sell your items, find bargains, and discover unique antiques or handmade items often unavailable elsewhere.

Related Posts