AskDefine | Define janitor

Dictionary Definition

janitor n : someone employed to clean and maintain a building

User Contributed Dictionary



ianitor, doorkeeper


  • (UK) /ˈdʒænɪtə/, /"dZ

Extensive Definition

''For the Scrubs character, see Janitor (Scrubs)
A janitor is a person who takes care of a building, such as a school, office building, or apartment block. Janitors are responsible primarily for cleaning, and often (though not always) some maintenance and security.


Janitor is derived from the Latin word Janus meaning "doorkeeper" (see also building superintendent). A female janitor was formerly called a janitress. (The title custodian is sometimes given to janitors merely as a term of higher respect, however, generally speaking, custodians tend to have higher salaries, and more responsibilities. They may also be required to receive training and licensing in various fields [e.g., Hazmat, CPR, Boiler Operations, etc.], depending on their employer and the specific nature of their job. In these respects a custodian may be considered to be different from a janitor.) In some settings janitors are called housekeepers or housekeeping staff and in others they are referred to as maintenance or maintenance staff. Institutions have also come up with a number of politically correct alternative job titles, including:
  • Porter
  • Custodial technician
  • Sanitation supervisor
  • Domestic engineer
  • Guest Service Associate (G.S.A.)
  • Environmental Services Associate
  • Care taker
  • Industrial Floor Maintenance Sanitation Engineer (Rite Care tm)
  • The Crew
  • General cleaner
  • Physical Plant & Planning
NYC Dept. Of Education Custodial Postions
  • Custodian Engineer-highest pay White Colar worker; hold many lic.
  • Fireman-2nd in comand runs boilers,Mant. does cleaning too
  • HandyMan-runs boilers.Mant,cleans also
  • Cleaner-Only Cleans but sometimes Mant.

Occupational tasks

Typical janitorial work often consists of the following tasks:
  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Cleaning floors
  • Emptying trash and recycling bin
  • Cleaning carpeting
  • Cleaning stainless steel and other special surfaces
  • Stripping and waxing floors
  • Locking and unlocking buildings at the beginning and end of the day


Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services. Some of the reasons for this include:
  • Basic cleaning tasks are standardised, with little variation among different enterprises
  • The nature of the job and required standard of performance can be clearly defined and specified in a contract, unlike more technical or professional jobs for which such specification is harder to develop
  • Many organizations which predominantly employ higher paid workers feel uncomfortable dealing with labour relations with low paid employees; by outsourcing, these labour relations issues are transferred to a contractor whose staff are comfortable and experienced in dealing with these issues, and their approach can benefit from economies of scale.
  • If a cleaner is unavailable due to sickness or leave, a contractor which employs many cleaners can easily assign a substitute. A small organisation which employs one or a few cleaners directly will have much more trouble with this.

Median salaries per employer type (US)

janitor in Danish: Pedel
janitor in German: Hausmeister
janitor in Scottish Gaelic: Neach-àire
janitor in Japanese: 学校用務員
janitor in Kölsch: Huusmeejster (Berof)
janitor in Simple English: Janitor
janitor in Serbian: Хаузмајстор
janitor in Finnish: Vahtimestari
janitor in Swedish: Vaktmästare

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

air warden, attendant, caretaker, castellan, cerberus, char, charwoman, cleaner, cleaner-off, cleaner-up, cleaning lady, cleaning man, cleaning woman, concierge, conservator, curator, custodian, doorkeeper, doorman, forest ranger, game warden, gamekeeper, gatekeeper, governor, guardian, guardian angel, janitress, keeper, lifeguard, lifesaver, next friend, ostiary, porter, prochein ami, ranger, receptionist, shepherd, steward, usher, warden, warder
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