man·​da·​rin | \ ˈman-d(ə-)rən How to pronounce mandarin (audio) \

Definition of mandarin

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a public official in the Chinese Empire of any of nine superior grades
b(1) : a pedantic official
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 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 [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 (such as the satsuma) developed in cultivation from the mandarin by selective breeding or hybridization
b : the fruit of a mandarin



Definition of mandarin (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or typical of a mandarin mandarin graces
2 : marked by polished ornate complexity of language mandarin prose

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Other Words from mandarin


mandarinic \ ˌman-​də-​ˈri-​nik How to pronounce mandarinic (audio) \ adjective
mandarinism \ ˈman-​d(ə-​)rə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce mandarinism (audio) \ noun

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.)

Examples of mandarin in a Sentence

Noun the officious mandarins in the motor vehicles department refused to let me renew my license without all of the required forms
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There isn’t much more beautiful than a satsuma mandarin, palm-size and brilliant-hued, and usually sold with its rich green leaves still attached—the flavor is honeyed and the tiniest bit astringent, sparkling like champagne. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies: From Murderous Mermaid Salt to Lamps Made Out of Croissants," 12 Dec. 2019 Popular brands such as Blue Moon and Shock Top incorporate oranges but are Belgian-style beers — a style neither Jeff nor Leah like. Orange Blossom Ale offers a hit of mandarin without any sourness, refreshing yet soft. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Everything you need to know about Papago Orange Blossom, one of Arizona's favorite beers," 21 Nov. 2019 The scent blends its star, vanilla, with notes of bergamot, mandarin, neroli, and jasmine sambac, rounding it out with base notes of cedarwood and musk. Taylore Glynn, Marie Claire, "Beauty Editors Share Their Signature Winter Fragrances," 3 Dec. 2019 The Papago brewing team was inspired by a mandarin hefeweizen made by pioneering brewer Bert Grant. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Everything you need to know about Papago Orange Blossom, one of Arizona's favorite beers," 21 Nov. 2019 Nebulon’s visionaries and seers, its éminences grises and starchy mandarins, mostly attended Nebulese community colleges on volleyball scholarships but dropped out in the first semester grousing about undue homework burdens. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Elizabeth Warren’s Plan Nine from Outer Space," 19 Nov. 2019 Florian Faude, owner and distiller at this forward-thinking operation, makes a variety of fruit brandies and liqueurs from traditional (mandarin, raspberry) to cutting-edge (beetroot, cucumber). Liza Weisstuch, Washington Post, "Following a trail of schnapps through Germany’s storied Black Forest," 25 Oct. 2019 When Grant’s brewing company closed in 2004, Papago decided to create their own mandarin and vanilla flavored beer. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Everything you need to know about Papago Orange Blossom, one of Arizona's favorite beers," 21 Nov. 2019 Fruit Several varieties of fruit will be hit, including oranges, mandarins, lemons, pears, peaches and cherries. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "As new tariffs against Europe take effect, get ready to pay more for your cheese and wine," 24 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The sweet-and-sour fish is Cuban pargo (red snapper), not mandarin fish. The Economist, "What a new Chinese restaurant in Havana says about Cuba," 14 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mandarin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mandarin


1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mandarin


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

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Time Traveler for mandarin

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The first known use of mandarin was in 1589

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mandarin.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for mandarin


How to pronounce mandarin (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mandarin

: a small type of orange
: a public official in China in the past
: the official language of China


man·​da·​rin | \ ˈman-də-rən How to pronounce mandarin (audio) \

Kids Definition of mandarin

1 : a public official of the Chinese Empire
2 capitalized : the chief dialect of China

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Comments on mandarin

What made you want to look up mandarin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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