Brick and mortar

Brick and mortar is an idiom that is decades old. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom brick and mortar, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Brick and mortar refers to a business that has a physical location from where the merchant can serve customers. Brick and mortar may be used as a noun to mean a business with a physical location; it is also often used an adjective. When used as an adjective before a noun, the term is hyphenated as in brick-and-mortar. The term brick and mortar came into use in the 1970s. At that time, most stores were brick and mortar, with a few companies doing business conducted by mail order. The term brick and mortar has come to be used to mean any store that is not an e-commerce store or mail-order business. The phrase brick and mortar has been in use since the 1800s to simply mean a building; today, it is used to mean a business located in a building.


The Beignet Stand to make brick-and-mortar debut on San Antonio’s Broadway corridor this fall  (San Antonio Current)

“We did see digital go through the roof last year, but our brick and mortar sales kept pace.” (Footwear News

Moelis & Co., the New York-based investment bank, expects well-funded digital startups to acquire more brick and mortar companies in India as they tweak strategies to cater to clients in the world’s second-most populous country. (Bloomberg News)

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