• mogul •
Pronunciation: mo-gêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Sometimes Moghul) Each of the successive heads of the Muslim dynasty in southern India from the 16th to the 18th century founded by Muhammad Babur (1483-1530), a descendant of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. 2. A magnate, a very rich and powerful person, especially in a particular area, such as a motion picture mogul or Wall Street mogul. 3. A small mound or lump on a ski slope.
Notes: Today we get two words for the (very reasonable) price of one. The word most widely used has the first and second senses above, especially the second: a media mogul or used car mogul. However, in skiing a mogul is a lump or hillock on a ski slope. In this sense it has an adjective, mogully "bumpy". In the second sense, "a magnate", writers have used mogulship "the status of a mogul" and mogulish "like a mogul".
In Play: First, let's see how the two senses of today's Good Word differ: "Even though Ollie Gark is one of the biggest moguls in the ski equipment business, he avoids slopes with visible moguls on them." Becoming a business mogul is not easy: "Robin Banks has become a financial mogul on Wall Street, but no one knows where he got the start-up capital for his company."
Word History: Today's Good Word came from the Persian pronunciation (mugul) of mongol. It came into English via Urdu, a language closely related to Hindi, but which uses the Arabic alphabet. English picked it up during the colonization of India by the British. The original Mongol word for "Mongol" is Mongyol. This variant was borrowed by the French as Mongol and English took its word Mongol from there. The other mogul, the bump on a ski slope, came from a southern dialect of German, Mugel "hillock, pile". Its current spelling clearly was influenced by mogul. Russian mogila "grave" comes from the same origin. (Today we thank Chris Berry, word mogul and Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, for his suggestion of this word.)