Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: nabob \NAY-bahb\
1 : a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India
2 : a person of great wealth or prominence

In India's Mogul Empire, founded by the Moslem prince B?bur in the 16th century, provincial governors carried the title of "naw?b" in the Urdu language. In 1612, Captain Robert Coverte (apparently unaware of earlier travel accounts) published a report of his "discovery" of "the Great Mogoll, a prince not till now knowne to our English nation." The Captain informed the English-speaking world that "An earle is called a Nawbob," thereby introducing the English version of the word to the written page. "Nabob," as it thereafter came to be spelled, gained its extended sense of "a prominent person" in the late 18th century, when it was applied sarcastically to British officials of the East India Company who returned home after amassing great wealth trading in Asia.

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