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[puhb-li-kuh n] /ˈpʌb lɪ kən/
Chiefly British. a person who owns or manages a tavern; the keeper of a pub.
Roman History. a person who collected public taxes.
any collector of taxes, tolls, tribute, or the like.
Origin of publican
First recorded in 1150-1200; Middle English word from Latin word pūblicānus. See public, -an Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for publican
Historical Examples
  • The publican greeted the furniture dealer with a friendly nod.

    People of Position Stanley Portal Hyatt
  • The publican, who carried a stick, was drunk, and the "knocker-up" was staggering on a crutch.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • He was a publican, who lived in Brown's Square and had been a friend of the soldier Wilkes.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • Pope Csar, the publican, in his chapel hat and white choker!

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • He was denounced by priest and publican as a subverter of morals.

    Melomaniacs James Huneker
  • The publican runs out to meet him in the passage and says to him: Not this way.

    Within the Tides Joseph Conrad
  • For we pray standing, as it is written: The publican standing afar off.

  • He expressly dedicated it to 'the publican' in January 1536.

  • The prayer of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner," was heard and answered.

  • That he was not like "this publican" was made a point of special thanksgiving.

    Jesus the Christ James Edward Talmage
British Dictionary definitions for publican


(in Britain) a person who keeps a public house
(in ancient Rome) a public contractor, esp one who farmed the taxes of a province
Word Origin
C12: from Old French publicain, from Latin pūblicānus tax gatherer, from pūblicum state revenues
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for publican

c.1200, "tax-gatherer," from Old French publician (12c.), from Latin publicanus "a tax collector," noun use of an adjective, "pertaining to public revenue," from publicum "public revenue," noun use of neuter of publicus (see public (adj.)). Original sense in Matt. xviii:17, etc.; meaning "keeper of a pub" first recorded 1728, from public (house) + -an.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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