In my country(India) I have come across a number of times when the word Presidency is used. How is Presidency related to India that way? Like we had Presidency banks, Presidency University etc. What does the word mean in the context?

I was relating to Bombay presidency etc. I guess it means something.

  • Does it need to mean anything? Presumably it's just an impressive sounding name. Commented May 9, 2021 at 5:56
  • 2
    I was relating to Bombay presidency etc. I guess it means something. Commented May 9, 2021 at 5:59
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    Think of this connection: presidency --> preside over. In Spain, for instance, the Prime Minister can also be called the President, because he/she presides over the Council of Ministers.
    – PatrickT
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


Well, the Bombay Presidency draws its 2nd half of the name from the fact that provinces of India were at one point called "presidencies" under (early) East India Company rule.

During the period of Company rule in India, 1757–1858, the [East India] Company gradually acquired sovereignty over large parts of India, now called "Presidencies".

Under the British Raj (1858–1947), administrative boundaries were extended to include a few other British-administered regions, such as Upper Burma. Increasingly, however, the unwieldy presidencies were broken up into "Provinces". [...]

By the mid-18th century, the three principal trading settlements including factories and forts, were then called the Madras Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort St. George), the Bombay Presidency, and the Bengal Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort William) — each administered by a Governor.

So it seems "presidency" was a larger "province" in mid-18th century British terminology, or at least in East India Company terminology. I'm not enough of a British history fiend to tell you why they preferred that "presidency" term back then for such a territorial division. Wikipedia also seems to suggest that a Governor[-in-Council] was assimilated to a "president", under that system:

The government of Bombay was administered by a Governor-in-Council, consisting of the Governor as president and two ordinary members.

So perhaps that's the origin of the presidency term in the sense that the British used it, i.e. that the Governor-in-Council was like a president (of an executive), but I'm not entirely certain. M-W defines

governor-in-council: the governor of a British colony acting with the advice and usually in the presence of the executive council but not always with its consent.


To add on the origin of the term "Presidency", from A manual of the land revenue systems and land tenures of British India (page 22 of the file):

The first settlements at Surat (A.D. 1613), on the Coromandel Coast, at Fort St. George (A.D. 1640), and at Fort William in Bengal (A.D. 1698) were mere "factories" for trading purposes. These factories then became "settlements," which were governed internally each by a "President and Board." In the course of time, out-stations or dependent factories grew up under the shelter of the parent, and then the original factory was spoken of as the "Presidency town," or centre of the territory where the President resided. In this way, what we now call "the three Presidencies," Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, came into existence.

And the relevant footnotes:

  1. And, indeed, they were not "possessions," but the traders were the tenants of the Mughal Emperor. The first actual possession was the Island of Bombay, ceded by Portugal, in 1661, to Charles II, as part of the marriage dowry of the Infanta. This island was granted to the Company in 1669.

  2. The use of this term has never, even in Acts of Parliament, been precise: sometimes it is meant to signify the form of government, sometimes the place which was the seat of that government ; at other times it meant the territories under such government.

Because the settlements under the Company's control were not under a traditional government, the style of President was more prevalently used.

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