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See also: tāipán and tai-pan



Etymology 1[edit]

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From Cantonese 大班 ‎(daai6 baan1, big shot, rich businessman), originally as taepan.[1] Related to tycoon, from Japanese 大君 ‎(taikun) – the first half of both comes from the Chinese root ‎(big, great).

Alternative forms[edit]


taipan ‎(plural taipans)

  1. A foreign businessman in China; a tycoon. [from 19th c.]
    • 1922, W. Somerset Maugham, "The Taipan":
      Of course it was very sad, but the taipan could hardly help a smile when he thought how many of these young fellows he had drunk underground.
    • 1977, John Le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy, Folio Society 2010, p. 438:
      The British taipans stood in one sodden circle with their womenfolk, like bored officers at a garrison get-together.
Usage notes[edit]

Relatively narrow usage, and somewhat dated (early/mid 20th century); primarily known outside of China due to use in fiction set in Hong Kong, notably The Taipan (1922) by Somerset Maugham and Tai-Pan (1966) by James Clavell. Even in Hong Kong, the more globally widespread (and distantly related) tycoon is more common today.

Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

An inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus)
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From the name of the Thaypan tribe of Aboriginal people of central Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia.


taipan ‎(plural taipans)

  1. Any venomous elapid snake of the genus Oxyuranus, found in Australia and New Guinea. [from 20th c.]
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989




taipan f (plural taipans)

  1. taipan (venomous snake of the genus Oxyuranus)