“The interpreter – the one who translates from one language to another, who makes communication possible between different peoples speaking different languages, appears very early. Again I go back to the book of Genesis, where we learn that Joseph, as a high Egyptian official, spoke to his brothers newly arrived from Canaan, and they did not know that he understood them when they spoke among themselves – ‘For he spake unto them by an interpreter’. (Genesis 42: 23). The word used in the Hebrew is melitz. Melitz has a number of meanings; more often it means something like intercessor or advocate or even ambassador. But in this case, interestingly, the Authorized Version translates it as interpreter (obviously interpreting between Egyptian and Hebrew), and if we look at one of the earliest translations from Hebrew text into Aramatic, we find that the word melitz is rendered as meturgeman. Here we have an early form of what later, in English, came to be called ‘dragoman’. A meturgeman is a translator; the word is very old, and goes back to Assyrian, where ragamu means to speak, rigmu is a word and the taf’el form indicates one who facilitates communication.
This word meturgeman, also turgeman, passed from Aramaic to Hebrew, to Arabic, to Turkish, to Italian, to French, to English and many other languages. It occurs in Italian in the form turcimanno, no longer used in modern Italian. In French it becomes truchemant, in English, dragoman and drogman. The Hebrew word Targum is from the same root.”
(Bernard Lewis, From Babel to Dragomans. This was presented to the British Academy on 19 May 1998, as the Elie Kedourie Memorial Lecture, and published in the proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 101 (1998) Lectures and Memoirs, pp. 37-54)