AskDefine | Define bricklayer

Dictionary Definition

bricklayer n : a craftsman skilled in building with bricks

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A craftsman who builds walls and suchlike out of bricks.
    • I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer.
      ~Dr. McCoy on Star Trek (“Devil in the Dark”)

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Extensive Definition

A bricklayer or mason is a tradesman who lays bricks to construct brickwork. The term also refers to personnel who use blocks to construct blockwork walls and other forms of masonry. In British and Australian English, a bricklayer is colloquially known as a "brickie".
The training of a trade in European cultures has been a formal tradition for many centuries. A tradesman typically begins in an apprenticeship, working for and learning from a master craftsman, and after a number of years is released from his master's service to become a journeyman. After a journeyman has proven himself to his trade's guild (most guilds are now known by different names), he may settle down as a master craftsman and work for himself, eventually taking on his own apprentices.
Since the 20th century, this process has been changed in many ways. A tradesman still begins as an apprentice, but the apprenticeship is carried out partly through working for a qualified tradesman and partly through an accredited technical college delivering level one, two and three brickwork qualifications to learners (in the UK). These come in a variety of forms; City and Guilds, Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced Construction Awards and site-based NVQ Levels one to three. After about two years college, the learner/worker is ready for site as an improver having attained level two, and works under guidance until he or she is well-rounded in the craft. From start to finish it takes at least four years, and even then there is still more to be learned; modern construction methods are always developing, and a typical bricky will be expected to turn his or her hand to allied trades. Fully qualified doesn't mean expert, which is why employment ads often state 'must have ten years experience in the trade' - a longer learning curve than a junior doctor. Starting one's own business is purely a financial matter, rather than being dependent on status. So when employing a bricklayer, ask for three or more quotes and ask to see sample photographs or addresses/contact numbers of previous work. There is a vast variety in skill and diligence between cowboys and artisans, so the best way to hire a bricklayer is through personal recommendation.
A notable person who laid bricks (as a hobby) was Sir Winston Churchill.

Bricklayers in Germany

The German word for A bricklayer is Maurer. In Germany bricklaying is one of the most traditional trades.


The young bricklayer starts his career as a Lehrling (apprentice). From a Meister (master craftsmen) he learns the skills necessary for the trade. He also goes to Berufsschule (vocational school). There he learns the more theoretical stuff.
The training takes three years. After that there is an examination by the Innung (guild). The apprentice must show that he is able to construct masonry, knows how to protect a house from humidity, knows about thermal insulation, knows about construction material science and about occupational health and safety. If the apprentice is successful he will be rewarded with the Gesellenbrief (journeymans's certificate). He will be able to call himself Geselle (journeyman) now.
After that the journeyman may choose to go on the Walz. The Walz, also called Stör or Tippelei are the journey years of the traditional tradesmen. For this purpose he may join a Schacht. The most important Schächte (plural form of Schacht) are as follows:
1. Rechtschaffene Fremde (righteous journeymen)
The members of this Schacht wear a black Ehrbarkeit (Ehrbarkeit will be explained later). That is why they are called the blacks''. They are more than 200 years old. The members of this Schacht have a secret ceremonial. It is not allowed to describe the ceremonial, but people say that its content and language are of great beauty. This Schacht is very near to the Unions and many of its members are members of the unions as well. A journey with this Schacht takes three years.
2. Fremder Freiheitsschacht (best translated with Freedom-Schacht of the journeymen)
This Schacht was founded on Mayday of 1910 by the famous bricklayer Hermann Schäfer. The wear a red Ehrbarkeit and are called the reds. Their maxim is "" (dialect: we all are brothers, we all are the same). They call each other Bruderherz (dear brother).
3. Rolandschacht (Schacht of Saint Roland)
The wear a blue Ehrbarkeit and are called the blue ones. Their maxim is "" (loyalty and friendship and brotherhood will unite us brothers of Roland all the time)
After his journey years the craftsmen is allowed to become a Einheimischer (To settle himself down), but he will only allowed to do so, if he behaved respectable on his journey (the role of respectabily will be discussed later).
A man who has many years of experience in his trade will be allowed to become a master. He will have an exam again. In this exam he will show that he is an expert of his trade. He also must show that he can work with other people well and has some knowledge of pedagogy, because as a master he will be allowed to educate younger bricklayers.
If he did well in the exam he will be rewarded with the Meisterbrief (master craftmen's diploma) by the chamber of crafts.
As a master he will be allowed to start his own construction company.
Another benefit of the Meisterbrief is that some universities equate it with the high school diploma (education in Germany differs very much from education in other countries. Only some 20% of the population have the high school diploma, most bricklayers do not). So bricklayers take the chance and study engineering after that.

Traditional clothing of the German bricklayer of a Schacht

The "Ehrbarkeit"

The Ehrbarkeit in most cases is a cravat the bricklayer wears. Ehrbarkeit can be translated with "respectability". By wearing the it the Ehrbarkeit the bricklayer shows that he is a decent and reputable person. If you happen to meet a german bricklayer on his journeys you are not supposed to touch his Ehrbrakeit, because that will be a dishonour and a blemish for him. The freie Vogtländer Deutschlands und do not wear a cravat. Their Ehrbarkeit is a golden pin.
Why does he wear the Ehrbarkeit?
The bricklayer wears the traditional Ehrbarkeit to show he is an honourable man. Of course he could also be an honourable man without wearing it. But the Ehrbarkeit is his proof honour.
If the bricklayer-journeyman behaves in a immoral way his brothers from his Schacht go and talk with him. They try to appeal to his honour. If he does not listen they will take it away from him.
It is a blessing for the bricklayer journeyman to wear the Ehrbarkeit. Sometimes a bricklayer happens to be new in a city and may be he has no money to pay for his food and lodging. In that case he will show his Ehrbarkeit. When the people see it, they will be happy to give him board and lodging, because they know he will pay for it one day. In case he is not able to pay his brothers will pay for him.

The Earring

He also wears a traditional earring. It is from gold. The earring shows the sign of his Zunft and the star of David. It shows the star of David, because the first bricklayer was a jew (at least people say so). If one day he dies the earring will be used to pay cash down for his funeral. If he misbehaves (lies, steals, does not help his brothers and so on) his brothers will tear the earring from his ear. That is why a rascal is called Schlitzohr (ragged ear) in Germany. Nowadays it does not happen as much as it used to.

The golden watch

In many cases he wears a golden watch. That watch has a chain he wears the emblems of the cities he traveled to.

Bricklayers in German poetry

  • Armin Berg: "Der gewissenhafte Maurer"

External Links

Zunft-Clothing of the german bricklayers


bricklayer in German: Maurer
bricklayer in Spanish: Albañil
bricklayer in Esperanto: Masonisto
bricklayer in French: Maçon
bricklayer in Dutch: Metselaar
bricklayer in Portuguese: Alvenaria
bricklayer in Finnish: Muurari
bricklayer in Swedish: Murare
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