In Circle of Spies, my villain is a railroad tycoon. Slightly tricky because I don't want to imply that any of the actual railroad men were anything like him, LOL, but I digress. As I was blasting through the scenes last week, I very nearly had my hero contrasting himself with good ol' Dev and calling the man a tycoon. Then I thought I'd better, you know, actually look it up...
And I'm glad I did. Because though I would swear I've watched documentaries that use the word for men of that era, it's anachronistic to do so. The word originated in 1857, very specifically--it was used by foreigners to the shogun of Japan. Directly from the Japanese word taikun, "great lord or prince," it was used by the shogun's supporters to indicate that he was more important than the emperor.
In 1861 the word crossed to America and was used, again specifically, in reference to Abraham Lincoln. But it wasn't applied to successful business in general until after World War I!
So while I couldn't use it to speak of Devereaux Hughes, I did find the history intriguing. =) From the shogun to the president, and then nearly fifty years before it gained it modern meaning.