The term comprador, a Portuguese word that means buyer, derives from the Latin comparare, which means to procure. The original usage of the word in East Asia meant a native servant in European households in Guangzhou in southern China or the neighboring Portuguese colony at Macao who went to market to barter their employers' wares. The term then evolved to mean the native contract suppliers who worked for foreign companies in East Asia or the native managers of firms in East Asia. Compradors held important positions in southern China buying and selling tea, silk, cotton and yarn for foreign corporations and working in foreign-owned banks. Robert Hotung, a late-nineteenth-century compradore of the British-owned trading conglomerate Jardine, Matheson & Co. was believed to be the richest man in Hong Kong by the age of 35. Li & Fung partly functioned as a Canton comprador in its early stages.
In Marxism, the term comprador bourgeoisie was later applied to similar trading-class in regions outside of East Asia.
With the emergence (or re-emergence) of globalization, the term comprador has reentered the lexicon to denote trading groups and classes in the developing world in subordinate but mutually advantageous relationships with metropolitan capital. The Egyptian Marxist Samir Amin has discussed the role of compradors in the contemporary global economy in his recent work. In addition, the Indian economist, Ashok Mitra, has accused the owners and managers of firms attached to the Indian software industry of being compradors. Growing identification of the software industry in India with comprador 'qualities' has led to the labeling of certain persons associated with the industry as 'dot.compradors'.
In Marxist terminology, Comprador Bourgeoisie, perceived as the serving the interests of foreign imperial powers, is counterposed to National Bourgeoisie which is considered as opposing foreign Imperialism and promoting the independence of its own country - and as such, could be under some circumstances a short-term ally of Socialist revolutionaries.