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



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


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

Sauvage features notes of bergamot, mandarin, vanilla, sandalwood and cedar ($150 for 3.4 ounces). Lindsay Weinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "Dior Deletes Johnny Depp Sauvage Ad Amidst Backlash for Native American Depiction," 30 Aug. 2019 The opening scent of mandarin and Italian bergamot, the heart is solar gardenia, coconut water, and exotic tiare. Allure, "Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner Confirm Their KKW x Kylie Fragrances Are Launching in August," 20 Aug. 2019 Get our daily newsletter An old man, a mandarin of the ancien régime, Mr Essebsi was an odd fit for the presidency of a young and newly free country. The Economist, "Tunisians say goodbye to President Beji Caid Essebsi," 1 Aug. 2019 Government mandarins have fretted over Japan’s pension system for years. The Economist, "Japanese people need to put more aside for retirement," 4 July 2019 An old man, a mandarin of the ancien regime, Mr Essebsi was an odd fit for the presidency of a young and newly-free country. The Economist, "Tunisia’s president, Beji Caid Essebsi, has died," 25 July 2019 Macdonald and his mandarins joined half the establishment in adding to the atmosphere of hysteria and crisis of this week, in the process showing that others beside Trump can fly off the handle when criticised. John O'sullivan, National Review, "What to Make of the U.K. Ambassador’s Tiff with Trump," 13 July 2019 With notes of Californian lemon and mandarin, a heart of neroli and Arabian jasmine and a base of white mask and cotton candy, BYREDO's latest perfume, Sundazed, is vacation in a bottle. Jaimie Potters, Marie Claire, "Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore in Nantucket, Massachusetts," 10 May 2019 This is the mandarin mind-set that has prevailed in the nations of Europe for nearly 70 years and in the European Commission for 25. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "The Global Swamp," 12 Dec. 2018

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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Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

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The first known use of mandarin was in 1589

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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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