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Tintorería means both dry-cleaner and place for dying clothes. The latter is the older definition, and follows the words etymology. (See it here, but it is clear from tinturar's meaning to dye.)

To dye clothes and to clean clothes seem to me near opposites, but I do understand that both might be performed by the same person—a person who works with clothes. Tintorería, though, doesn't refer to all clothes washing, but only to dry clearning. Besides, other occupations also relate to clothes, like a tailor, and aren't included in tintorería. Tintorería did not become a general term for places that deal in the after-sales clothes market.

Why, then, does tintorería mean dry-cleaner?

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  • As I have thought more about this, both dying and dry cleaning involve treating clothes with chemicals, even if to different effect. – Unrelated Oct 26 '16 at 5:07
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Looking for the definition throughout years shows us that this has not been like that forever:

Back in 1780 the definition was:

s. f. La casa donde se tiñen los paños y otras cosas. Infectoris officina.

This lasted until 1925, when this very definition became:

  1. f. Oficio de tintorero.
  2. Tinte, 3.a acep.

Then in 1992 we get:

  1. f. Oficio de tintorero.
  2. f.Establecimiento donde se tiñe o limpia la ropa.

And now it is:

  1. f. Oficio de tintorero.
  2. f. Establecimiento donde se limpian o tiñen telas, ropas y otras cosas.

The way I got more information was through Nuevo tesoro lexicográfico de la lengua española (NTLLE). Using it, we find out that from 1899 there is the definition of tintorera:

Tintorera (De tinturar.) f. La que tiene por oficio teñor ó dar tintes. || Mujer del tintorero. || Amér. Hembra del tiburón.

That is, the women of the tintorero starts to take action into the business model. From this, my hypohtesis is that the tintorería started to have the business split in two: the tintorero colouring the clothes, while the tintorera cleaning them. Times went by until colouring became quite unusual, while cleaning clothes did have a big market. So the tintorerías stopped colouring and just focused on cleaning, but the name remained.

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    I was starting to write this same answer based on the NTLLE, I'll try to be faster the next time! :-) – Charlie Oct 26 '16 at 6:55
  • @CarlosAlejo haha it is a problem we shared all our resources in that meta question :D – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 26 '16 at 7:07
  • Really good answer, I didn't knew all this! Really interesting and it seems a good hypothesis. – Nox Oct 26 '16 at 11:01
  • Thanks for the thorough research but I am not seeing in it the basis of your claim--in the definition of tintorera it mentions nothing about cleaning. Could you spell it out for me a but more? Thanks! – Unrelated Oct 26 '16 at 13:25
  • @Unrelated it is just my assumption: women in those ages would normally not perform the profession of their husband. However, cleaning clothes was the kind of things they would do. So my hypothesis is that they kind of joined the business by providing the cleaning service. But I do not have sources for that, it is just what I can think of upon thinking on why tintorera would appear in the dictionary (and not panadera and many other wives to men working on specific professions). – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 26 '16 at 13:51

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