AskDefine | Define commissary

Dictionary Definition



1 a retail store that sells equipment and provisions to military personnel
2 a snack bar in a film studio

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A store primarily serving soldiers.
  2. A cafeteria at a movie studio.

Extensive Definition

A commissary is someone delegated by a superior to execute a duty or an office; in a formal, legal context, one who has received power from a legitimate superior authority to pass judgment in a certain cause or to take information concerning it.

Word history

The word is recorded in English since 1362, for "one to whom special duty is entrusted by a higher power". It derives from Medieval Latin commissarius, from Latin commissus (pp. of committere) "entrusted,". Originally its use was ecclesiastical, as in Commissary Apostolic or in charge of a Franciscan Commissariat of the Holy Land.
The military sense of "official in charge of supply of food, stores, transport" dates to 1489.

Metonymic use

In the United States armed forces and prisons, as well as the United Nations, it has the derived meaning of a store for provisions. Modern commissaries are quite similar to civilian supermarkets, providing military members with most of the same groceries available in the U.S. economy regardless of where they are stationed world-wide. Commisaries sell primarily grocery articles; other items can be purchased at a base exchange. United States commissaries are under the ultimate control of the Defense Commissary Agency.
In the US film industry, the word commissary is often used to mean something which is a refectory.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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