What does nabob (nawab) mean in Arabic and Where does the word “nabob” come from?

The great Tamerlane invaded India in 1398, looting its treasures at will, but making no attempt to add it to his empire.

But, in 1526, Baber, the fifth in descent in this illustrious line of eastern rulers, led another expedition southward.

From this invasion India came under the rule of a long line of Mogul emperors, lasting until the country came under the British crown in 1858.

Among the customs during the Mogul Empire was the delegation of authority in the various subdivisions of India to men who acted as governors or vice-regents. The native title of these men was nawwab, or Arabic na’ib, meaning “deputy.”

In theory, the provinces or districts under a nawwab, corrupted by Europeans into nabob, continued to pay tribute to the central government in Delhi, but some of these districts grew so wealthy and powerful that the tribute did not pass beyond the nabob.

Thus they grew fabulously wealthy and, with the further decline of central government, the office became hereditary. Through the wealth of these officials, Europeans acquired the habit of referring to any wealthy man as a nabob, especially such a person as had obtained his wealth in India.

The custom spread to England, and we now use the term to include any influential person of great wealth.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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