If you ask most dogs, they’ll tell you they don’t like fleas. Fleas bite and make them itch. Dogs certainly don’t buy them.

And if there was a market that sold them, you definitely wouldn’t find any dogs there. So what’s the deal with flea markets?

A flea market is a marketplace where secondhand (used) or inexpensive goods are sold or traded. Flea markets can be indoors (warehouses, gymnasiums), outdoors (vacant lots, side streets) or a combination of the two.

Flea markets are sometimes called “swap meets.” This is because many people who sell goods at flea markets will also barter (trade) for other items, too.

In Australia, flea markets are often called “trash and treasure markets.” This name reflects the wild variety of goods you’re likely to find at most flea markets.

Whether it’s books, music, clothes, tools, collectibles or odds and ends, you never quite know what you’re going to find at a flea market.

The sellers at flea markets (called “vendors”) range from families selling a few unwanted household items to people who make their living selling goods at the flea market. In fact, some people may buy goods from garage sales and other flea markets just to resell them at a profit at their own flea market booth.

Flea markets attract a wide variety of customers, too. Some come seeking bargains.

Others come just to browse and spend quality time shopping with family and friends. Since many flea markets also feature food vendors, a trip to the flea market can be an all-day adventure, complete with snacks or lunch.

But do flea markets actually sell fleas? Surely not! So where did the name come from?

There’s no definite answer to that question, but there are a couple of popular explanations that many people believe.

Some believe the term came from the Fly Market, an 18th-century New York City market that was located near the East River. The Fly Market was the most popular market in New York City. It got its name from the Dutch name for the market — vly or vlie — which meant “valley” and was pronounced “flea.”

Most experts, however, believe that the name came from Paris. A popular market there was called Le Marché aux Puces, which means “market of the fleas.” Its name came from the fact that many people believed the shabby used goods sold there likely contained fleas.


18 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Natalia! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder! Some people in the video do look less-than-happy, but we think there were LOTS of vendors (people who sell things) that looked very happy and excited to be working for themselves! We really enjoyed all the bright colors of the different items the vendors were selling in the video, didn’t you? :-)

  1. HELLO, Wonderopolis! My teacher is a wonderful teacher. We made a sign it said “We love learning on Wonderopolis.” We put a heart instead of love. Pretty soon, it will be on our website. Other people have been commenting on your website.
    From, Allison

    • Hi, Allison! Your teacher shared the picture with us on Twitter…we LOVE it! Thank you and your classmates for taking the time and using your creativity to make us such a special sign. We are really happy to know that you guys love learning on Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. Hola, Wonderopolis!!! My classmates and I LOVE your website. My teacher LOVES it, too. Something weird happened at the end of your video!!! When it said “Feb. 3 2010,” I said, “that’s my b- day!!!” Yesterday, in class, we went on your website and watched your video and read your article. I think it was appropriate for Veterans Day!!! When I was little, I went there!!! I am surprised that it takes them 5 hours to shine their shoes!!! P.S. I love LEARNING!!!

    • Hola, Jake! We are so happy to read your comment! We can tell you are very excited about learning and we LOVE that you enjoy learning in Wonderopolis! Please tell your teacher and your classmates that we think it is AWESOME that you all visit us and learn new things together! :-)

    • We think your teacher is pretty cool for introducing you to Wonderopolis, Alex, and we think YOU are COOL for leaving us this comment! We hope you’ll keep visiting us and learning new things every chance you get! :-)

    • Hello, Jacob! Thanks so much for letting us know you thought this Wonder was COOL! We think YOU are COOL for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving us this great comment! :-)

  3. So do dogs really shop at the flea market? Because there was a point in time when my dog kept getting fleas? We tried everything.

    • We think some dogs and their owners might visit flea markets together, Ashlei, but we don’t think the dogs actually shop there (unless they can buy something with a wag of their tail or a super cute bark)! Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day® today and leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

    • Ha ha, thanks for making us laugh, Tyler J! We Wonder if you have ever checked out a flea market with a parent or friend? You can find some very interesting things there… :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do dogs shop at flea markets?
  • Why are they called “flea markets”?
  • What kinds of stuff can you find at flea markets?

Wonder Gallery

puppy scratching_shutterstock_31893040Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to shop? There’s nothing like experiencing a flea market firsthand. Check out this flea market directory to find out if there’s a flea market in your area.

You can also check local newspapers to find out about local flea markets. If there are no flea markets in your area, you can always try yard sales or garage sales.

You never know what kind of surprise treasures and good bargains you’re going to find. Go into your shopping experience with an open mind, and you won’t be disappointed.

When you’re finished, email us to tell us about your shopping trip. What’s the most interesting thing you saw for sale?

Did you find any great bargains? Did you learn something new along the way?

We can’t wait to hear about your experiences. You can also post them on Facebook or tweet about them on Twitter. Have fun at the flea market!


Still Wondering

Use National Geographic Xpeditions’ Marco Polo activity to retrace the steps of Marco Polo. Discover what you can learn from the cultures you encounter along the way and what you might take home to share with your friends and family.


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