What Does Brick and Mortar Mean?

Brick and Mortar Meaning

Definition: A physical store or other building.

Many businesses today have multiple methods of selling goods and services. Some of these methods involve selling on the Internet, on the phone, or on social media sites.

When people are looking to buy things in person, instead of using these alternative methods, they will look for a brick and mortar store. This means that they are going to a physical building to purchase items. Most of the time this phrase is used to contrast selling items in person to selling items online.

Origin of Brick and Mortar

brick and motor or brick and morterBricks and mortar are two of the materials used to create buildings, and so they are used to represent a total physical building in this phrase.

Although the phrase is more commonly used in modern times, Charles Dickens was the first to use this phrase. In his book Little Dorrit, he referred to brick and mortar businesses. Before the advent of the Internet, the phrase was used to contrast stores with businesses that sold items via mail.

Examples of Brick and Mortar

define brick and mortarOftentimes, this phrase is used to contrast two items. A girl may say,

  • I ordered five samples over the Internet, but I only received three of them. I prefer going to brick and mortar stores so that mistakes like this don’t happen.

Another person may respond to her,

  • I actually prefer shopping online because I don’t like getting dressed and driving to the nearest brick and mortar store. It takes too long to get there and isn’t as efficient.

This phrase may also be used to show a progression of sales activity. Some stores now begin online and grow to exceed the capabilities of the people who started the businesses. These people will often expand their businesses from online-only sales to brick and mortar stores.

More Examples

  • Business owners say that while the internet is disrupting some traditional brick-and-mortar stores, it’s also allowing budding retailers to test ideas on a smaller scale before sinking thousands of dollars into real estate, furniture and inventory. –Orlando Sentinel
  • More grim news for malls came Friday as apparel retailer The Limited said it will close all its brick-and-mortar stores at the end of this weekend. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase brick and mortar refers to a physical building or store.