• satrapy •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A province ruled by a Persian warlord or governor (satrap). 2. A minor self-contained country or province, probably ruled by a possessive governor with a taste for luxury, but controlled by a larger power.
Notes: Surprisingly, this rather provincial word has developed quite a few derivations, though it is difficult to determine if all are used seriously. Satrapal, satrapian, and satrapical have been offered as adjectives for satrap, the ruler of a satrapy. Satrapial has been used as an adjective for today's word. Use them all with caution.
In Play: Today's word works best in speaking of the Middle East: "Each of the warlords of Afghanistan controls his own satrapy over which the central government has little control." However, it has long been used metaphorically in sentences such as, "Joe Bologna has his own little satrapy in accounting and he can't be budged because no one else understands his bookkeeping methods."
Word History: Today's Good Word is an extension of Old French satrape "satrap", a word inherited from Latin satrapes, a transliteration of the identical word in Greek. Greek had greatly reduced the Old Persian khshathrapava "protector of the realm", a compound noun made up of khshathra- "province, realm" + pava "protector" from pa- "protect". This pa- shares an origin with the first syllable of a recent Good Word, bezoar (see the Word History there). It originally meant "nurture, protect", and took the first meaning into such native English words as food, fodder, foster. We also see it in words borrowed from Latin like pasture, pastor and company, which is based on con "together with" + panis "bread". (We enjoy the company of Monika Pohle, especially when she suggests a wonderful word like today's.)
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