I recently came across the word "solicit", but I didn't know its meaning although I know what "solicitor" is. Based on my existing knowledge about "solicitor", I guessed "solicit" was referring to something like "to give someone legal advice", but later I noticed no such definition is referred to in any dictionaries.

Here are some definitions for "solicit" from a couple of dictionaries.

Cambridge Dictionary
1. to ask someone for money
2. to ask someone for information or help
3. to contact possible customers in order to sell a product

1. to make petition to
2. to approach with a request or plea
3. to urge (something, such as one's cause) strongly
4. to entice or lure especially into evil
5. to proposition (someone) especially as or in the character of a prostitute
6. to try to obtain by usually urgent requests or pleas

Is "solicitor" a noun form derived from "solicit"? If so, which definition above is linked? Or, do they have totally different word origins?

  • 1
    See here:link
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 9:16

3 Answers 3


You can rest assured that the connection between the terms "solicit" and "solicitor" isn't obvious to native speakers, either. They are learned as two separate items of vocabulary. People will naturally - and correctly - assume that the two terms are connected, but they won't be able to tell you what the connection is.

"Solicitor" doesn't derive directly from "solicit", but both words come French, where "soliciteur" was formed as the noun meaning "someone who solicits" (from the verb "soliciter").

"Solicit" can mean "to entreat or petition" (OED). The OED also notes obsolete senses including "To conduct, manage, or attend to (business, affairs, etc.); to push forward or prosecute" and "To conduct (a lawsuit, etc.) as a solicitor; to transact or negotiate in the capacity of a law-agent", as well as a sense of "To request, petition, or sue for (some thing, favour, etc.)" (which is still current).

The sense of "solicitor" can be traced from the earliest sense of "One who urges" through the obsolete sense of "One who conducts business on behalf of others" to the modern senses of "One who entreats, requests, or petitions; one who solicits or begs favours; a pleader, intercessor, advocate" and of "One properly qualified and formally admitted to practise as a law-agent in any court".

Today the term "solicitor" survives as a name for a type of lawyer in England, Wales, Ireland, Hong Kong, and three of the states of Australia.

In the US only certain government lawyers are called solicitors. England and Wales, Scotland, the United States, several of the individual States of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of other jurisdictions all have an official called the Solicitor-General.


Yes, solicitor is derived from solicit.

solicit [15]

The ultimate source of solicit is Latin sollicitus ‘agitated’, which also gave English solicitous [16]. It was a compound adjective, formed from _sollus _‘whole’ (source also of English solemn) and citus, the past participle of ciēre ‘move’ (source of English cite, excite, etc) – hence literally ‘completely moved’. From it was formed the verb sollicitāre‘disturb, agitate’, which passed into English via Old French solliciter. By the time it arrived it had acquired the additional meaning ‘manage affairs’, which lies behind the derived solicitor [15]; and the original ‘disturb’ (which has since died out) gave rise in the 16th century to ‘trouble with requests’.
      French insouciant, borrowed by English in the 19th century, goes back ultimately to Latin sollicitāre.

Word Origins (2005 2e) by John Ayto, p 467 Left column.


Here is an example of the derivation ...

solicitor (n.)

early 15c., "one who urges," from Middle French soliciteur, from soliciter (see solicit). Meaning "one who conducts matters on behalf of another" is from early 15c. As a name for a specific class of legal practitioners in Britain, it is attested from 1570s. Both the fem. forms, solicitress (1630s) and solicitrix (1610s), have been in the sexual sense, but the latter seems more common in non-pejorative use.


and the meaning ...

solicitor[ suh-lis-i-ter ]


a person who solicits. a person whose business it is to solicit business, trade, etc. an officer having charge of the legal business of a city, town, etc. (in England and Wales) a member of that branch of the legal profession whose services consist of advising clients, representing them before the lower courts, and preparing cases for barristers to try in the higher courts.


To solicit appears to be the root meaning behind the noun although it has more than one inferred meaning as a result of the 'sexual usage', although in either case the action of soliciting is the same.

  • Could you explain a little more clearly how this addresses OP's problem? It seems to address the origin issue, but it's not as clear how the present day definitions cited by OP are related to the legal profession of solicitor (which is BrE). This might still confuse OP (and future visitors). We ask that citations be used as support for your own detailed explanation. See Contributor's Guide (Answering) and How do I write a good answer?
    – Em.
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 9:15

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