1827 drawing of an ostler at Keston Cross
Ostler at Margam, 1818

A hostler (/ˈhɒslər/ or /ˈɒslər/) or ostler /ˈɒslər/ was traditionally a groom or stableman who was employed in a stable to take care of horses, usually at an inn, in the era of transportation by horse or horse-drawn carriage.[1] In the twentieth century the word came to be used in the railroad industry for a type of train driver in rail yards with switcher locomotives[1] or a type of truck driver in similar work with terminal tractors.


The word is spelled "hostler" in American English, but "ostler" in British English. It traces to c. 1386, meaning "one who tends to horses at an inn"—and also, occasionally, "innkeeper"—is derived from Anglo-French hostiler (modern French hostelier), itself from Medieval Latin hostilarius "the monk who entertains guests at a monastery", from hospitale "inn" (compare hospital, hospitaller, hospitality).[2] A similar word, hostelero (innkeeper, the one that took care of a hostal), exists in Spanish.

Modern uses

According to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, an ostler in motor transportation is a type of truck driver who directs trucks or tractors at vehicle parking or docking areas to move, position, or park trucks or trailers.[3] In the United States railroad industry a hostler is a train driver, a type of railroad engineer who moves locomotives in and out of service facilities.[4][5]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Hostler – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  2. ^ EtymologyOnLine – Hostler
  3. ^ "909.663-010: HOSTLER (motor trans.) alternate titles: hook-up driver; yard spotter". Dictionary Of Occupational Titles. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  4. ^ "910.683-010: HOSTLER (r.r. trans.)". Dictionary Of Occupational Titles. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  5. ^ "Rail Transportation Occupations". Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. Retrieved 19 February 2011.