mandarin

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mandarin an official in any of the senior grades of the former imperial Chinese civil service. Mandarins were chosen by examination, and there were nine grades, each of which was distinguished by the material from which the round ornament or ‘button’ on top of the official headgear was made. From the early 18th century, Mandarin has also been used for the standard literary and official form of Chinese.

Recorded in English in the late 16th century, the word comes from Portuguese mandarim, via Malay, from Hindi mantrī ‘counsellor’. The current transferred meaning of a powerful official or senior bureaucrat, especially one perceived as reactionary and secretive, developed in the early 20th century.

The mandarin orange may be named from the colour of the fruit being likened to the official yellow robes of a mandarin.

mandarin

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mandarin1 Chinese official. XVI. — Pg. mandarin (after mandar command) — Malay mantĕriHindi mantrī :- Skr. mantrín- counsellor, f. mántra- counsel (rel. to MIND).