The term “flea market” may come from the French marche aux puces ("market of the fleas") which refers to open air markets in Paris during the 1860s. Another possibility is that the term came from the Fly Market located in New York in the 1700s. 
Why do they call it a “flea market”? There’s lots of theories but not much proof. Still, the history behind the term is intriguing.
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Marche aux Puces
Marche aux puces is the French phrase for “flea market”. Many believe the term started in Paris. In the 1860s, the French sold used goods out in the street. Some say the old furniture being sold had fleas. Others believe that they were fleeing from new zoning plans set up by the empire of Napoleon III. The second explanation doesn’t make much sense though. Puces means flea, as in the insect. It doesn't mean flee, as in “to run away from”.
The French explanation was first made popular in the article "What Is a Flea Market?" by Albert LaFarge. His story was published in the 1998 winter edition of Today's Flea Market magazine which is no longer in print.
Another theory behind the name comes from a market called the Fly Market which was popular in the 1700s in New York. The market stood on land that was originally a salt marsh near the Manhattan East River. Probably a lot of flies were in the area and the fly market term eventually morphed into flea market.
Modern Day Flea Markets
Today, the flea market is a place to find rare and original objects for sale. The items for sale might be handmade, used, collectables or antiques. Probably every city in the US has many flea markets running at any time. It’s also a way for the local community to get together, just like they may have done in the streets of Paris in the 1800s.
Other things you might find at a flea market are edibles, such as jams, baked goods, drinks, teas and snacks. And of course, every flea market sells clothes. Some of the most original and eclectic designs are offered by flea market clothing vendors. For those who can’t express their style with big brand offerings, the flea market might be your only solution.
Advantages of the Modern Flea Market
Another reason why flea markets are so popular is that there’s a good chance you’ll find some great bargains. Rare jewelry, cool furniture, stylish memorabilia and many other categories make it fun to shop around.
Not everything in today’s flea market is used. In fact, may new and modern items can be found such as clothing, cell phone covers, knives, mugs, hats and luggage. Still, the used goods market always thrives at flea markets. Some items, such as certain diecast toy cars, may be out of production. That’s why at every flea market, you’re bound to bump into savvy collectors looking for a rare find.
Centuries Old Tradition
No matter how the flea market tradition got started, the practice has survived for centuries. No doubt the flea market success is thanks to the combination of variety, value and satisfaction of specific tastes.
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Article source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flea_market