The word tirshatha is probably of Persian origin and references the title of a Persian deputy or governor of an area. The Hebrew word is found five times in the Old Testament: Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65, 70; 8:9; and 10:1. The word is found in the King James Version as a transliteration of the Hebrew word.
A transliteration simply reproduces the pronunciation of the word in the source language without making an attempt to give its meaning. Names and titles are often transliterated, as the “meaning” of a name is not as important as its pronunciation. In addition, titles may have no exact equivalent in the target language. Transliteration may also be used when the proper translation of a particular word is in question. For instance, the English word baptize is simply a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo. (At the time of the KJV translation, as today, there was controversy over the mode of baptism, so instead of translating the word as “immerse” or “dip,” the translators decided on a transliteration that would be ambiguous.)
Most modern versions of the Bible translate tirshatha, giving an approximate meaning. The NIV, NASB, and ESV all translate the word as “governor.” It is used to refer to Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, who were the local territorial rulers over Jerusalem and the surrounding area, appointed by the king of Persia.
The word governor will convey some ideas not present in the original if the reader automatically thinks of state governors in the United States. However, it does convey a more accurate picture than the transliteration tirshatha, and it makes for much smoother reading than “local territorial ruler.”