BEING STILL AT SEA, EVIDENTLY
n. — nautical: an officer on ship responsible for provisions and maintaining accounts. In later use, head steward on a passenger vessel
— a person in charge of money or accounts, generally
— aviation: the member of an air crew in charge of provisions and records
— one who makes purses
— one who steals purses; a cutpurse; a pickpocket
fm. English, by way of the Latin bursarius, meaning treasurer (i.e., bursar)
first published. 1272
In its nautical sense, a purser did not at first handle money, as [naval] wages were not provided at sea until 1825. In 1842, the job title became paymaster & purser, before paymaster was established as a separate role a decade later.
inspiration. the fine and commendable Dungeons & Dragons-based internet show Critical Role, often capable and inspired in its use of old-timey occupations. Its extemporaneous actors made an alarming reference late in a recent episode set at sea to a ship’s accountant! Oh, no sirs. The Critical Role fans who are also Patrick O’Brian fans will not stand for that. By which I mean—I will not stand for that.