He goes to a barber downtown. (Merriam-Webster’s)

Does a barber mean a person or a shop?

2 Answers 2


It could refer to either a person or a shop, but probably a person. However, nearly all barbers work in barber shops. So, in effect, the person is going to go to a barber (person) who works in a barber shop (place) that is located downtown.


Well the dictionary indicates a barber is a person, not a shop. Should I infer that you doubt the definition in dictionary? The term for the place is "barber shop" or "barber's shop". But yes, the implicit meaning is that he goes to a barber shop; this is accentuated by the lack of otherwise specification and by the presence of the article "a". In the same way, when you say "I go to the dentist" usually means I go to the dentist's office.

  • Perhaps "figurative" is a better word than "implicit" meaning Sep 6, 2013 at 18:50
  • True for barber, perhaps, but there are more ambiguous examples, like, "I'm taking my car to the dealer," where dealer refers to the owner or manager, but the speaker probably means "to the dealership."
    – J.R.
    Sep 8, 2013 at 0:47

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