Plumber at work.jpg
Residential plumber at work.
Activity sectors Construction

A plumber is a tradesperson who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water, sewage, and drainage in plumbing systems.[1] The term dates from ancient times, and is related to the Latin word for lead, "plumbum." A person engaged in fixing metaphorical "leaks" may also be referred to as a "plumber".[citation needed]



The word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire.[2] In Roman times lead was known as plumbum in Latin which is why the periodic table of the elements uses the symbol of 'Pb' for lead. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes[3] and some were also covered with lead, lead was also used for piping and for making baths.[4] In medieval times anyone who worked with lead was referred to as a plumber as can be seen from an extract of workmen fixing a roof in Westminster Palace and were referred to as plumbers "To Gilbert de Westminster, plumber, working about the roof of the pantry of the little hall, covering it with lead, and about various defects in the roof of the little hall".[5] Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a Plumbarius which was later shortened to plumber.

By country

Years of training and/or experience are needed to become a skilled plumber; some jurisdictions also require that plumbers be licensed.

Some needed skills, interests, and values

  • Reading drawings, and specifications to determine layout of water supply, waste, and venting systems
  • Installing, repairing and maintaining domestic, commercial, and industrial plumbing fixtures and systems
  • Locating and marking positions for pipe connections, passage holes, and fixtures in walls and floors
  • Measuring, cutting, bending, and threading pipes using hand and power tools or machines
  • Testing pipes for leaks using air and water pressure gauges
  • Awareness of legal regulations and safety issues
  • Ensuring safety standards and build regulations are met.

Plumbers in the United States

Each state and locality may have its own licensing and taxing schemes for plumbers. There is no federal law establishing licenses for plumbers.

Other uses

The term "White House Plumbers" was a popular name given to the covert White House Special Investigations Unit established on July 24, 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Their job was to plug intelligence "leaks' in the U.S. Government relating to the Vietnam War (i.e. the Pentagon Papers); hence the term "plumbers".

Notable plumbers

See also


  1. ^ The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering
  2. ^ Pulsifer,Notes For a History of Lead, New York University Press, 1888 pp 132, 158
  3. ^ Middleton, The Remains of Ancient Rome, Vol. 2, A & C Black, 1892
  4. ^
  5. ^ EW Wedlake; J Britton (1836). "Westminster Palace". The history of the ancient palace and late Houses of Parliament at Westminster. J B Nichols and son. pp. 122. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Doubts raised on US 'plumber Joe'". BBC News. 2008-10-17. Retrieved 2008-10-29. "Joe Wurzelbacher, 34, found himself at the center of a media frenzy on Thursday after "Joe the plumber" was mentioned 26 times during the final debate." 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Plumber — Plumb er, n. [F. plombier. See {Plumb}.] One who works in lead; esp., one who furnishes, fits, and repairs lead pipes. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence: Any worker who installs or repairs piping and related equipment for conveyance of water, gas, or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • plumber — (n.) late 14c. (from c.1100 as a surname), a worker in any sort of lead (roofs, gutters, pipes), from O.Fr. plummier (Fr. plombier), from L. plumbarius worker in lead, properly an adjective, pertaining to lead, from plumbum lead (see PLUMB (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • plumber — ► NOUN ▪ a person who fits and repairs the pipes and fittings of water supply, sanitation, or heating systems. ORIGIN originally denoting a person dealing in and working with lead: from Old French plommier, from Latin plumbum lead …   English terms dictionary

  • plumber — [plum′ər] n. [ME < MFr plummier < L plumbarius, lead worker < plumbum, LEAD2: see PLUMB] a skilled worker who installs and repairs pipes, fixtures, etc., as of water, drainage, or gas systems in a building …   English World dictionary

  • plumber — n. 1) to call (in) a plumber 2) a master plumber * * * [ plʌmə] a master plumber to call (in) a plumber …   Combinatory dictionary

  • Plumber — Orig. a person who worked with lead, after the Latin plumbum = lead. Indeed English plumbers were in great demand on the continent: English lead roofed both Clairvaux and Rouen cathedrals in the 12c. However, lead was also used for rain pipes and …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • plumber */ — UK [ˈplʌmə(r)] / US [ˈplʌmər] noun [countable] Word forms plumber : singular plumber plural plumbers someone whose job is to fit and repair pipes, water tanks, and other equipment used for supplying and storing water …   English dictionary

  • plumber — [[t]plʌ̱mə(r)[/t]] plumbers N COUNT A plumber is a person whose job is to connect and repair things such as water and drainage pipes, baths, and toilets …   English dictionary

  • plumber —    Used by other tradesmen and their labourers on a British building site to address a plumber. Occasionally shortened to ‘Plum(b)’ …   A dictionary of epithets and terms of address

  • plumber's helper — ☆ plumber s helper n. Informal PLUNGER (sense 2): also plumber s friend …   English World dictionary

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