Ushers assist visitors by formally showing the way in a large building or to their appropriate seats. This may coincide with a security role. The word comes from the French huissier, with the same meaning (Latin - ostiarius), ushers were servants or courtiers who showed or ushered visitors in and out of meetings in large houses or palaces.
In the United Kingdom, a variety of titles for courtiers in the Royal Household include the word usher. In England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, from the early sixteenth century until at least the end of the nineteenth century, the term denoted an assistant to a schoolmaster or head-teacher; an under-master, assistant-master. In such use, however, the term is now rare.
At weddings, friends of the groom and bride may be recruited to direct guests at the ceremony, and generally be available for assistance.
Ushers help those in attendance at entertainment and sporting events in theatres and stadiums. Duties include checking tickets, directing people to their assigned seats, distributing programmes, answering questions and assisting people in finding restrooms and refreshments. According to the United States Department of Labor, ushers, lobby attendants and ticket takers earn an average wage of $8.41 an hour and $17,500 a year. Approximately 102,000 are employed in this line of work. Most of these workers are employed by the motion picture and video industries, secondly they work in the performing arts and sporting events venues.
Other jobs also come under the name 'Usher', such as baseball field personnel. A field usher coordinates not only the baseball diamond grounds but also the stadium itself.
Ushers are also expected to help with security and to ensure that only people with proper authority have access to backstage areas. Ushers also monitor the crowds and can summon security when needed.
In cinemas, it was common for ushers to check tickets and show people to their seats to watch the film being shown. If actually during the film, when lights were dimmed, the usher would shine a torch to light the row of seating in question. In Britain these female ushers were accordingly titled "usherettes".