A journeyman is a tradesman or craftsman who has completed an apprenticeship. In parts of Europe, as in later medieval Germany, spending time as a journeyman (Geselle), moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, was an important part of the training of an aspirant master. In later medieval England, however, most journeymen remained as employees throughout their careers, lacking the financial resources to set up their own workshops.

The word ‘journeyman’ comes from the French word journée, meaning the period of one day; this refers to his right to charge a fee for each day’s work. He or she would normally be employed by a master craftsman, but would live apart and might have a family of his own. A journeyman could not employ others. In contrast, an apprentice would be bound to a master, usually for a fixed term of seven years, and lived with the master as a member of the household.

The terms jack and knave are sometimes used as informal words for journeyman. Hence ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ — someone who is educated in several fields of trade, but is not yet skilled enough in any to set up their own workshop as a master.


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