• nabob •
nay-bahb • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A governor or deputy governor of a town or district in India under the Mogul Empire. 2. A prominent, wealthy, and powerful person.
Notes: Vice President Spiro Agnew probably uttered the most famous example of today's word when, on November 13, 1969 in Des Moines, Iowa, he called the US press corps "nattering nabobs of negativism". Natter means simply "to chatter" or "to grumble." The phrase was actually written by William Safire, who was then a speech writer for President Nixon.
In Play: Because of the humor associated with today's word, a minor industry producing derivations of it has grown up over the years: a nabobery is a place frequented by nabobs, nabobical is the adjective meaning "pertaining to a nabob", while nabobish means "rather like a nabob," as does its adverb, nabobishly. Nabobism is great wealth and luxury, and the class of all nabobs is nabobery.
Word History: Today's word was borrowed from Hindi nawab or nabab. The Indians borrowed their word from Arabic nuwwab, the plural of na'ib "representing, representative", the active participle of the verb naba "to represent". An interesting twist of this word is that it came to be the mispronounced name of the exclusive neighborhood of the nabobs of San Francisco, now known simply as Nob Hill. Hobbing with nobs like these could do wonders for your career, but this word is unrelated to hobnob. (Let me take this opportunity to thank the Good Word editors for the outstanding job they have been doing for many years now: Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, Mary Jane Stoneburg, and Jeremy Busch. I assume full responsibility for any errors that escape their scrutiny.)
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