late 12c., "tax-gatherer for the Roman government," from Old French publician (12c.) and directly from Latin publicanus "a tax collector," noun use of an adjective, "pertaining to public revenue," from publicum "public revenue," noun use of neuter of publicus (see public (adj.)). This original sense is that in Matthew xviii.17, Luke xviii.10-14, etc.
The word that means "keeper of a pub" is recorded by 1728, from public (house), for which see pub, + -an.
updated on January 22, 2021
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