A coachman is a man whose business it is to drive a coach, a horse-drawn vehicle designed for the conveyance of more than one passenger — and of mail — and covered for protection from the elements. He has also been called a coachee, coachy or whip.
The term "coachman" is correctly applied to the driver of any type of coach, but it had a specialized meaning before the advent of motor vehicles, as the servant who preceded the chauffeur in domestic service. In a great house, this would have been a specialty, but in more modest households, the coachman would have doubled as the stablehand or groom.
In early coaches he sat on a built-in compartment called a boot, bracing his feet on a footrest called a footboard. He was often pictured wearing a box coat or box jacket, a heavy overcoat with or without shoulder capes, double-breasted, with fitted waist and wide lapels; its name derives from its use by coachmen riding on the box seat, exposed to all kinds of weather. An ornamented, often fringed cloth called a hammercloth might have hung over the coachman's seat, especially of a ceremonial coach. He could be seen taking refreshments at a type of public house called a watering house, which also provided water for horses.
The role of the coachman, who sat along with the passengers in the vehicle, was contrasted with that of the postillion, who was mounted directly upon one of the drawing horses.
A coachman was sometimes called a jarvey or jarvie, especially in Ireland; Jarvey was a nickname for Jarvis. In the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories, 'A Study in Scarlet', Conan Doyle refers to the driver of a small cab in London as a jarvey. A coachman who drove dangerously fast or recklessly might invoke biblical or mythological allusions: Some referred to him as a jehu, recalling King Jehu of Israel, who was noted for his furious attacks in a chariot (2 Kings 9:20) before he died about 816 BC. Others dubbed him a Phaeton, harking back to the Greek Phaëton, son of Helios who, attempting to drive the chariot of the sun, managed to set the earth on fire. When there was no coachman, a postilion or postillion sometimes rode as a guide on the near horse of a pair or of one of the pairs attached to a coach.
The English word coach, the Spanish and Portuguese coche, the German Kutsche, and the Slovak and Czech koč all probably derive from the Hungarian word "kocsi", literally meaning "of Kocs". Kocs (pronounced "kotch") was a Hungarian post town, and the coach itself may have been invented in Hungary. Hungarian villages still hold Coachman of the Year competitions (similar to those held in Zakopane in Poland).
The coachman soon became a prominent figure in Hungarian folklore. As the Clever Coachman (tudós kocsis), he turns up unexpectedly in the hero's life, either knowing his name or naming him by his true name. After the hero enters the coach, the coachman becomes a kind of guide. He may not take the hero to where he wants to go, but he always takes him to where he needs to be. Many of Steven Brust's novels play with this image of the coachman.
Coachman is also a synonym for the pennant coralfish (Heniochus Monoceros).
- coach. CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved November 04, 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2011-09-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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