WOW Word-Of-the-Week #456: Oligarch

May 1, 2013 by  

Oligarch a member of a small governing faction.

Have you ever seen this word before? Do you like learning words even if you’ll probably never use them?

While we were traveling on our last trip, the only newspaper I ever saw written in English was the UK Herald Tribune (and that wasn’t very often.) I remember reading an article about the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky who died from hanging. So I looked up the word and the definition didn’t make sense to me.

a oligarch

Boris Berezovsky

Then I asked my tour guide what it meant and he said, “It refers to Russians who are nouveau riche.” And then when I got home the LA Times featured an AP article written by Tom Hays titled, “STARS, COLORFUL CHARACTERS CITED IN RUSSIAN MOB POKER CASE.”

Hays writes, “It’s a case teeming with colorful characters: a reputed Russian mob boss once accused in an Olympic scandal, a wealthy art world impresario who hung out with Leonardo DiCaprio, and a woman named Molly Bloom who gained a celebrity following by hosting them at high-stakes poker games.”

“The steep rise in wealth among the upper class in the former Soviet Union has driven the insatiable appetite for sports betting around the globe. Prosecutors say the US ringleader was living in an apartment one floor below Donald Trump. He oversaw a network of Internet sites that formed ‘the world’s largest sports book’ catering ‘almost exclusively to oligarchs living in the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”

So then I went to wikpedia and found this explanation. “Business oligarch” is a near-synonym of the term “business magnate”, borrowed by the English speaking and western media from Russian parlance to describe the huge, fast-acquired wealth of some businessmen of the former Soviet republics (mostly Russia and Ukraine) during privatization in Russia and other post-Soviet states in 1990s. Businessmen with great wealth from these countries were commonly labeled (simply) “oligarchs” in Russian regardless of whether they had real political power, as the term “oligarch” would imply.”

And there you have it! This week’s focus is on anything you want. Do you like learning new words? How often do you use the dictionary? Do you have better things to do with your time then look up words you’ll never use? Is there anything you’re curious about?