Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Origin of "Entrepreneur" ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Origin of "Entrepreneur"
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: genabean-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Jul 2004 10:27 PDT
Expires: 31 Jul 2004 10:27 PDT
Question ID: 368558
I have heard that the term and definition of "entrepreneur" was coined
by the Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Say.  What else can you tell me about
the origin of the term, its definition and Jean Baptiste Say (i.e. the
exact quote and definition, other definitions...)?
Subject: Re: Origin of "Entrepreneur"
Answered By: bobbie7-ga on 01 Jul 2004 11:00 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi genabean!

My search returned the following results regarding the definition and
origins of the term entrepreneur.

The Origin & Meaning of the Word Entrepreneur:

?The word entrepreneur comes from the 13th century French verb
entreprendre, meaning ?to do something? or ?to undertake.? By the 16th
century, the noun entrepreneur, had emerged to refer to someone who
undertakes a business venture. The first academic usage of the term
was by economist Richard Cantillon in 1730. For Cantillion, the
bearing of risk ? engaging in business without an assurance of the
profits that will be derived ? is the distinguishing feature of an

The term entrepreneur was further popularized by economist Jean
Baptiste Say, who in the early 1800s, used the term to refer to
individuals who create value in an economy by moving resources out of
areas of low productivity and into areas of higher productivity and
greater yield. In 1848, economist John Stuart Mill used the term in
his very popular book, Principles of Political Economy. To Mill, the
distinguishing feature of an entrepreneur was that they assume both
the risk and the management of a business.?

West Virginia University: College of Business and Economics


The Evolution of Entrepreneur Definitions

13th Century
?The earliest definition we found was from the 13th century, where we
learn the word?s root.  The origin of the English word entrepreneur
comes from the French word entreprendre, which can be translated to
mean ?to do something? or ?to undertake.?

16th Century
?In the 16th century, we see the first mention of business used in the
definitions.  Therefore, we find entrepreneur defined as someone who
undertakes a business venture.?

18th Century
?Richard Cantillon (in about 1730 in academia) ascribed to a
definition which added a risk component to the definition.  Therefore,
an entrepreneur was someone who undertakes a business venture with no
guarantee of profits. said another way an entrepreneur is ?the bearer
of risks inflicted by changes in market demand.?

19th Century 
?During the 19th century, three economists post views on
entrepreneurship:  John Baptiste Say, John Stuart Mill, and Alfred
Marshall.  This is the first century in which we begin to see the
definition include actions and special skills required of

?Jean Baptiste Say determines that the entrepreneur is someone who
earns profits by shifting resources from areas of low productivity to
areas of high productivity.  He further is known to require the
entrepreneur to possess knowledge and judgment so that the
entrepreneur is constantly aware of the costs and prices of his goods
and can determine how to compare opportunities.?

?Mid-century, John Stuart Mill describes the entrepreneur as someone
who assumes not only the risk of a business venture (as a capitalist)
but also the management of the business venture.  It is this addition
of a management component that builds on Say?s judgment requirement.?

?In the late 1800?s Alfred Marshall emphasizes the importance of
entrepreneurship by tying the resource component (from Say) and
management component (from Mill) together.  Marshall claims that four
primary factors are necessary for production:  land, labor, capital,
and organization (which is the key factor to coordinate the other
three resources).?


From the Louisville Business Journal:

?One of the first uses of the word was in the late 1700s by Jean
Baptiste Say, an economist who is credited with developing the concept
of entrepreneurship. He described an entrepreneur in terms of
behavior. "He is called upon," said Say, "to estimate, with tolerable
accuracy, the importance of a specific product, the probable amount of
demand, and the means of production; sometimes to employ a great
number of hands; again to buy or order raw materials, to combine the
workers, find consumers, to exercise a spirit of order and economy. In
the course of such operations there are obstacles to be surmounted,
anxieties to be overcome, misfortunes to be repaired, and expedients
to be devised."

?During the 19th century the "ability to take calculated risks" was
added to the definition. By mid-20th century, the importance of
innovative talent -- the ability to find and profitably introduce new
and better products, services and processes -- was recognized and
included in the entrepreneur's "job description."

Louisville Business Journal


?In Say's Treatise it should be pointed out that the commonly found
text is a reprint of the American edition of 1880, and in that edition
the French word "entrepreneur" is translated as "adventurer." See Say,
Treatise, p. 78n.?


A historical view of the concept of Entrepreneurship

?The word itself, the term entrepreneur stems from the French 
literally, between taker,  or go between  with early references having
been traced to the eighteenth century economists Richard Cantillon,
Anne- Robert_Jacques Turgot, and Francois Quesnay.

?The term was even used as early as the Middle Ages to denote an actor
with reference to warlike action or in particular, a person in charge
of large-scale construction projects such as cathedrals, bearing no
risks but simply carrying the task forward until resources were
exhausted. By the Seventeenth Century, the term was associated with
risk bearing, with the entrepreneur being "a person who entered into a
contractual relationship with the government for the performance of a
service or the supply of goods. The price at which the contract was
valued was fixed and the entrepreneur bore the risks of profit and
loss from the barging." In France, during the eighteenth century, the
term was used in a variety of ways. Cantillon, in 1725, associate
entrepreneur with risk-bearing, yet Cantillon  clearly distinguished
between entrepreneurs who provided capital versus those who relied on
their own labor and resources.


?For Quesnay, an entrepreneur was "simply a tenant farmer who rents
property at a fixed rent a produces a given output with given factors
at given price. ?


 In England during this same time period, the concept of
entrepreneurship evolved along with the industrial revolution of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with it's demands for expanding
industrial skills, and the rise of the combination
landowner/entrepreneur who exploited the resources on their lands. As
early as 1697, Daniel Defoe used the term projector in the sense of a
"creative entrepreneur" and postlethwayt's Universal Dictionary of
trade and commerce (London, 1751-55) went a included both the inventor
and creative entrepreneur as compared to the "idle, roguish and
enthusiastical  projector" whose activities reflected "whim and

Entrepreneurs in High Growth Companies

Search criteria:
Origin Entrepreneur
History Entrepreneur
Definition Entrepreneur

I hope you find this helpful!

Best regards,
genabean-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.50

Subject: Re: Origin of "Entrepreneur"
From: bobbie7-ga on 01 Jul 2004 16:14 PDT
Thank you for the tip!

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy