satrap (n.)

late 14c., in translations of the Old Testament, "the governor of a province of ancient Persia," from Latin satrapes, from Greek satrapēs, exatrapēs, from Old Persian xšathrapavan-, literally "guardian of the realm," from xšathra- "realm, province" (related to xšayathiya "king," cognate with Sanskrit kshatra; see shah) + pavan- "guardian" (from PIE root *pa- "to feed; to guard, protect").

Extended by late 14c. to any autocratic superior, and figuratively to a despotic official under a tyrant, a sense, according to OED, also found in Medieval Latin and all the Romanic languages. Related: Satrapy (n.); satrapess (n.); satrapal; satrapial; satrapian.

updated on December 31, 2021