The position took particular prominence in the Ottoman Empire, where demand for the mediation provided by dragomans is said to have been created by the resistance on the part of the Muslim Ottomans to learn the languages of non-Muslim nations. The office incorporated diplomatic as well as linguistic duties — namely, in the Porte's relation with Christian countries — and some dragomans thus came to play crucial roles in Ottoman politics. The profession tended to be dominated by ethnic Greeks, including the first Ottoman Grand Dragoman Panayotis Nicosias, and Alexander Mavrocordato.
It became customary that most hospodars of the Phanariote rule (roughly 1711–1821) over the Danubian Principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia) would previously have occupied this Ottoman office, a fact which did not prevent many of them from joining conspiracies that aimed to overthrow Turkish rule over the area.
During the Middle Ages the word entered European languages: in Middle English as dragman, in Old French as drugeman, in Middle Latin as dragumannus, and in Middle Greek δραγομάνος. Later European variants include the German trutzelmann, the French trucheman or truchement (in modern French it is drogman), the Italian turcimanno, and the Spanish trujamán, trujimán and truchimán; these variants point to a Turkish or Arabic word "turjuman", with different vocalization. Webster's Dictionary of 1828 lists dragoman as well as the variants drogman and truchman in English.