When I was looking up a boat term the other day, I happened to find a Wiki article about chandleries and it got me to thinking about the origin of so many nautical terms. I thought I'd share this particular one with you because I found it particularly interesting. A chandlery to us is a shop that specializes in boating equipment, gear and parts. We think as large as West Marine and Defender or as small and parts-deprived as Moe's in the Cook Islands. So it was a big surprise to find that a chandlery in medieval times was a room where candles and wax were kept. The chandler was the person responsible for making and stocking the household with candles for its evening light. Chandelier, from Old French, was an early lighting fixture which held many candles. Soap is a by-product of candle-making (unbeknownst to me) and was added to the list of chandler responsibilities evidently when humans finally began to wash. That must have been an interesting day.
As populations and towns and cities grew, commercial enterprises specialized in the sale of soaps and candles...still called chandleries. The larger towns were usually near the sea and the chandlers many times provided stores to big ships. In their efforts to expand their product lines, the chandlers began to offer nautical items to these same ships. These shops became known as ship-chandleries. Other sources suggest that maybe a chandler was a corruption of the word handler, meaning a dealer or purveyor of commercial goods, like a ship's chandler for nautical things or a corn chandler who dealt in corn and seed.
With the advent of gas and electric lights, candles (other than for romance, hurricanes and birthday cakes) went the way of dial-up internet, but the nautical items remained. Boat supply stores are still called chandleries or chandler's shops. The place that sells candles and soap is now called WalMart.