Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
December 14th, 2014
Episode 45 of 823 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 14, 2014 is: nabob \NAY-bahb\ noun : a person of great wealth or importance Examples: Those of us in coach had to wait while the nabobs in first class got seated ahead of us. "Roughly 70 citizens had addresses on the hill. Many of those listed on the hill worked in the useful trades. The development of the hill as an exclusive neighborhood, as the city's nabobs had hoped, did not begin until the early 1880s." Lawrence Kreisman, Seattle Times, November 7, 2014 Did you know? In India's Mogul Empire, founded in the 16th century, provincial governors carried the Urdu title of nawab. In 1612, Captain Robert Coverte 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. 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 returning home after amassing great wealth in Asia. The word was perhaps most famously used by Vice President Spiro Agnew, in a 1970 speech written by William Safire, when he referred to critical members of the news media as "nattering nabobs of negativism."