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early 14c., from Old French drugemen, from late Greek dragoumanos, from Arabic targuman "interpreter," from targama "interpret." Treated in English as a compound, with plural -men.
official interpreter in countries where Arabic, Turkish, and Persian are spoken. Originally the term applied to any intermediary between Europeans and Middle Easterners, whether as a hotel tout or as a traveller's guide, but there developed the official dragomans of foreign ministries and embassies, whose functions at one time included the conduct of important political negotiations. In the latter sense the dragoman has, essentially, ceased to exist, especially since the passing of the Ottoman Empire, although in the latter part of the 20th century many embassies in the Arab world still employed an interpreter-courier known as a kavass (Turkish kavas; Arabic qawwas), used largely for ceremonial purposes.