Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Chiefly British The keeper of a public house or tavern.
  • n. A collector of public taxes or tolls in the ancient Roman Empire.
  • n. A collector of taxes or tribute from the public.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. the landlord of a public house
  • n. a tax collector in ancient Rome

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A farmer of the taxes and public revenues; hence, a collector of toll or tribute. The inferior officers of this class were often oppressive in their exactions, and were regarded with great detestation.
  • n. The keeper of an inn or public house; one licensed to retail beer, spirits, or wine.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In ancient Rome, one who farmed the public revenues; a tax-gatherer.
  • n. Hence Any collector of toll, tribute, customs, or the like.
  • n. The keeper of a public house or other such place of entertainment. In law, under the term publicans are included innkeepers, hotel-keepers, keepers of ale-houses, wine-vaults, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the keeper of a public house

Etymologies

Middle English, tax collector, from Old French, from Latin pūblicānus, from pūblicum, public revenue, from neuter of pūblicus, public; see public.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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