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noun man·da·rin \ˈman-d(ə-)rən\

Simple Definition of mandarin

  • : a small type of orange

  • : a public official in China in the past

  • Mandarin : the official language of China

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of mandarin

  1. 1 a :  a public official in the Chinese Empire of any of nine superior grades b (1) :  a pedantic official (2) :  bureaucrat c :  a person of position and influence often in intellectual or literary circles; especially :  an elder and often traditionalist or reactionary member of such a circle

  2. 2 capitalized a :  a form of spoken Chinese used by the court and the official classes of the Empire b :  the group of closely related Chinese dialects that are spoken in about four fifths of the country and have a standard variety centering about Beijing

  3. 3 [Swedish mandarin (apelsin) mandarin (orange), ultimately from Portuguese mandarim mandarin; perhaps from the color of a mandarin's robes] a :  a small spiny orange tree (Citrus reticulata) of southeastern Asia with yellow to reddish-orange loose-rinded fruits; also :  a tree (as the satsuma) developed in cultivation from the mandarin by artificial selection or hybridization b :  the fruit of a mandarin


play \ˌman-də-ˈri-nik\ adjective


play \ˈman-d(ə-)rə-ˌni-zəm\ noun

Examples of mandarin in a sentence

  1. <the officious mandarins in the motor vehicles department refused to let me renew my license without all of the required forms>

Origin and Etymology of mandarin

Portuguese mandarim, from Malay mĕntĕri, from Sanskrit mantrin counselor, from mantra counsel — more at mantra

First Known Use: 1589

Other Language Terms



adjective man·da·rin

Definition of mandarin

  1. 1 :  of, relating to, or typical of a mandarin <mandarin graces>

  2. 2 :  marked by polished ornate complexity of language <mandarin prose>

Did You Know?

The Portuguese were the first to refer to a Chinese official as a "mandarin." The word hails from the Portuguese word mandarium, which developed from Sanskrit "mantrin," a word for "counselor." Mandarins were promoted by successfully completing the imperial Chinese examination system, which was primarily based on the teachings of Confucian texts. In time, "mandarin" became a word for a pedantic official, a bureaucrat, or a person of position and influence. The noun passed into the English language in 1589, and the adjective appeared about 15 years later. You may also know "Mandarin" as a word for the chief dialect of China or be familiar with the mandarin orange. (The fruit's name comes from the orange color of a mandarin official's robe.)


First Known Use of mandarin


MANDARIN Defined for Kids


noun man·da·rin \ˈman-də-rən\

Definition of mandarin for Students

  1. 1 :  a public official of the Chinese Empire

  2. 2 cap :  the chief dialect of China

Seen and Heard

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