pub·​li·​can ˈpə-bli-kən How to pronounce publican (audio)
: a Jewish tax collector for the ancient Romans
: a collector of taxes or tribute
chiefly British : the licensee of a public house

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The mystifying rejection weighs heavily on Pádraic at the bar, where questions about his friend’s absence from the publican, Jonjo (Pat Shortt), rub salt into the wound. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Sep. 2022 In British usage, a publican is someone who owns a pub. Julie Carr Smyth,, 27 Feb. 2021 In the kitchen there was Rob, the publican, who had basically given up cooking, and Andy, a northerner who was miserable and really the guy in charge of the kitchen. Dan Hunter, Bon Appetit, 5 May 2017

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin publicanus tax farmer, from publicum public revenue, from neuter of publicus

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of publican was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near publican

Cite this Entry

“Publican.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


pub·​li·​can ˈpəb-li-kən How to pronounce publican (audio)
: a tax collector for the ancient Romans

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