/man"deuh rin/, n.
1. (in the Chinese Empire) a member of any of the nine ranks of public officials, each distinguished by a particular kind of button worn on the cap.
2. (cap.) the standard Chinese language.
3. (cap.) a northern Chinese dialect, esp. as spoken in and around Beijing.
4. a small, spiny citrus tree, Citrus reticulata, native to China, bearing lance-shaped leaves and flattish, orange-yellow to deep-orange loose-skinned fruit, some varieties of which are called tangerines.
5. any of several plants belonging to the genus Disporum or Streptopus, of the lily family, as S. roseus (rose mandarin) or D. lanuginosum (yellow mandarin), having drooping flowers and red berries.
6. an influential or powerful government official or bureaucrat.
7. a member of an elite or powerful group or class, as in intellectual or cultural milieus: the mandarins of the art world.
8. of or pertaining to a mandarin or mandarins.
9. elegantly refined, as in language or taste.
[1580-90; < Pg mandarim, alter. (by assoc. with mandar to order) of Malay mantari < Hindi mantri, Skt mantrin councilor]

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In imperial China, a public official drawn from the ranks of the lesser officeholders who had achieved success in the Chinese examination system.

The word comes from the Portuguese version of the Malay term for a minister of state. It has come to mean a pedantic official, a bureaucrat, or a person of position and influence (and usually a traditionalist or reactionary mindset) in intellectual or literary circles. The Mandarin language is the most widely spoken of the Chinese languages.

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▪ public official

      in imperial China, a public official of any of nine grades or classes that were filled by individuals from the ranks of lesser officeholders who passed examinations in Chinese literary classics. The word comes through the Portuguese mandarim from Malay mantri, a counselor or minister of state; the ultimate origin of the word is the Sanskrit root man-, meaning to “think.” See Chinese civil service.

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