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robber baron

noun
  1. History/Historical. a noble who robbed travelers passing through his lands.
  2. a ruthlessly powerful U.S. capitalist or industrialist of the late 19th century considered to have become wealthy by exploiting natural resources, corrupting legislators, or other unethical means.
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Origin of robber baron

First recorded in 1875–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

robber barons in Culture

robber barons

A term applied to certain leading American businessmen of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. The term suggests that they acquired their wealth by means more often foul than fair.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.