1. One who attends to the maintenance or cleaning of a building.
2. A doorman or doorwoman.
[Latin iānitor, doorkeeper, from iānua, door, from iānus, archway; see ei- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
jan′i·tori·al (-tôrē-əl) adj.
Word History: In Latin iānus was the word for "archway, gateway, or covered passage" and also for the god of gates, doorways, and beginnings in general, known in English as Janus. Our month January—a month of beginnings—is named for the god. Latin iānitor, the source of our word janitor and ultimately also from iānus, meant "doorkeeper or gatekeeper." Probably because iānitor was common in Latin records and documents, it was adopted into English. In an early quotation Saint Peter is called "the Janitor of heaven." The term can still mean "doorkeeper," but in Scots usage janitor also referred to a minor school official. Apparently this position at times involved maintenance duties and doorkeeping, and the maintenance duties took over the more exalted tasks, giving us the position of janitor as we know it today.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.