Custodian [kuh-stoh-dee-uh n], (noun): a person who has custody; keeper; guardian. a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining a property; janitor.


Definition of custodian: one that guards and protects or maintains, especially: one entrusted with guarding and keeping property or records.


The word custodian comes from Latin custos, meaning “guardian,” and anyone who looks after something can be a custodian. You might be the custodian of your club’s records — you take care of the files and keep them up to date. Or you could be the custodian of the crown jewels — you hold the keys to the treasury and it’s your job to make sure the jewels don’t get lost or stolen.


Custodian (n.): 1781, “one who has the care or custody of anything” (a library, a lunatic, etc.), from custody (Latin custodia) + -an. In this sense Middle English had custode (late 14c.), custodier (late 15c.). As “janitor,” by 1944, American English, short for custodian-janitor (by 1899). Related: Custodianship.

The True Definition of Custodian

Working in the facilities and operations industry, we’re often quick to define a Custodian in a way that strictly relates to cleaning.  But the definition of a custodian, no matter where you look, clearly defines that words as something more…a caretaker, a guardian, a protector.  Custodians, often referred to as janitors, are more than just the person who pulls your trash.  Custodians share in a responsibility to “protect” your facility, “guard” your facility’s assets, and “care” for the facility in the background, often at night or at a time when no one sees them.  Every day, when a custodian starts his or her shift, that person contributes to better indoor air quality, the health of the facility and its occupants, and your overall comfort in your workplace.  The custodian guards your building’s assets by maintaining the cleanliness and finish of your building’s floors, walls, elevators, carpets and stairwells.  Without constant attention, your carpets and floors and walls and stairs and desks and windows use would deteriorate from every day use and your assets become damaged.  Without a Custodian onsite every day disinfecting door handles, sinks, desks, phones and light switches, building occupants would share and pass flu and cold germs more quickly and at a much higher rate.  Without spending the time to protect and finish floors and surfaces like stainless steel, your facility would appear old, dirty and uncomfortable.

Did you also know that many years ago the word janitor meant doorkeeper, or a person who holds the key to a door? Not only do custodians or janitors truly often hold keys to the doors of a facility, but they are the gatekeepers that return your space to its original form, it’s cleanest and most comfortable.  Before closing the doors for good, your custodian is tasked with leaving you a clean and comfortable atmosphere before you return the next morning.  Often Custodians and Janitors spend all of their time working overnight when facilities are empty.  Never seeing any of the building occupants, and rarely having interaction with those who most benefit from their work and dedication.  Don’t forget how important the Custodian’s work truly is.  Recognizing your Custodians goes a long way in everyone’s success.  Remember that your Custodian works hard protecting, guarding, and caring.