mandarin

noun
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
(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 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

mandarin

adjective

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

Other Words from mandarin

Noun

mandarinic \ ˌman-​də-​ˈri-​nik How to pronounce mandarin (audio) \ adjective
mandarinism \ ˈman-​d(ə-​)rə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce mandarin (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 mandarim, which developed, by way of Malay měntěri, from Sanskrit mantrin, meaning "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 the late 16th century, and the adjective appeared in the early 17th. 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 Orange, lemon and mandarin trees that continue to bear fruit all these decades later. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2022 This warm and spicy fragrance oozes aromatics of fresh and juicy Italian mandarin, spicy gingerbread accord, warm cedarwood, and a twist of pineapple all housed in a luxurious bottle adorned in Valentino’s iconic rock-stud detailing. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 May 2022 These include top notes of bergamot, Italian green mandarin and diva lavender from France; middle notes of Turkish rose and sage heart; and base notes of Haitian vetiver and bourbon geranium from Madagascar. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 6 Apr. 2022 Housed in a gorgeous golden glass bottle are citrus notes of Italian mandarin and bergamot that are bright, sunny, and perfect for warmer weather. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, 23 Jan. 2022 Cassirer was laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey—a destination the German mandarin could never have imagined. Adam Kirsch, The New York Review of Books, 8 Apr. 2021 Cassirer was laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey—a destination the German mandarin could never have imagined. Adam Kirsch, The New York Review of Books, 8 Apr. 2021 Cassirer was laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey—a destination the German mandarin could never have imagined. Adam Kirsch, The New York Review of Books, 8 Apr. 2021 Cassirer was laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey—a destination the German mandarin could never have imagined. Adam Kirsch, The New York Review of Books, 8 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The sweet-and-sour fish is Cuban pargo (red snapper), not mandarin fish. The Economist, 14 Sep. 2019 See More

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.

First Known Use of mandarin

Noun

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mandarin

Noun

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

Learn More About mandarin

Time Traveler for mandarin

Time Traveler

The first known use of mandarin was in 1589

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About mandarin

Dictionary Entries Near mandarin

mandar

mandarin

mandarinate

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for mandarin

Last Updated

27 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mandarin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mandarin. Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for mandarin

mandarin

noun
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

More from Merriam-Webster on mandarin

Nglish: Translation of mandarin for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mandarin for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mandarin

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!