[puhb-li-kuh n]


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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for publican

Historical Examples of publican

  • The publican greeted the furniture dealer with a friendly nod.

    People of Position

    Stanley Portal Hyatt

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

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • The publican, who carried a stick, was drunk, and the "knocker-up" was staggering on a crutch.

    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.


    James Huneker

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 for publican

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

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