One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A free citizen. Also (South African): a Dutch-speaking colonist freed from Dutch East India Company controls.
Early 17th century. From free + burgher, apparently originally after Dutch vrijburger former employee of the Dutch East India Company settling in the East Indies or South Africa (although this is first attested slightly later: 1628 with reference to Java; goes to Afrikaans vryburger). Compare Dutch vrijburger free citizen, Middle Low German vrībörger citizen free of certain taxes, German Freibürger citizen of a free borough. Compare earlier free burghership.
free burgher/ˌfriː ˈbəːɡə/
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