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Emir (Arabic: ; , female: أميرة; emira; ), (Persian: امیر) ("commander" or "general", also "prince" ; also transliterated as amir, aamir or ameer) is a high title of nobility or office, used throughout the Arab World and historically in 19th-century Afghanistan and also in the medieval Muslim World. Emirs are usually considered high-ranking sheik, but in monarchical states the term is also used for princes, with "Emirate" being analogous to principality in this sense.The word is also used as a name (rather than an honorific) in Bosniamarker and Turkeymarker.While emir is the predominant spelling in English and many other languages (for example, United Arab Emiratesmarker), amir, closer to the original Arabic, is more common for its numerous compounds (e.g., admiral) and in individual names. Spelling thus differs depending on the sources consulted.


Amir, meaning "chieftain" or "commander", is derived from the Arabic root , "command". Originally simply meaning commander or leader, usually in reference to a group of people, it came to be used as a title of governors or rulers, usually in smaller states, and in modern Arabic usually renders the English word "prince." The word entered English in 1593, from the French émir. It was one of the titles or names of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Princely, ministerial and noble titles

Emir Mejhem ibn Meheid and sons, 1920.
  • The caliphs first used the title Amir al-Muminin ("Commander of the Faithful"), stressing their leadership over all Islam, especially in the military form of jihad; both this command and the title have been assumed by various other Muslim rulers, including sultans and emirs. For Shiite Muslims, they still give this title to the Caliph Ali as Amir al Muminin.
  • The Abbasid (in theory still universal) Caliph Ar-Radi created the post of Amir al-Umara ("Amir of the Amirs") for his – in fact governing – Wazir (chief minister) Ibn Raik; the title was used in various Islamic monarchies; see below for military use
  • In Lebanonmarker, the ruling Emir formally used the style al-Amir al-Hakim since, specifying it was still a ruler's title. Note that the title was held by Christians as well.

  • The word Emir is also used less formally for leaders in certain contexts, for example the leader of a group of pilgrims to Meccamarker is called an emir hadji, a style sometimes used by ruling princes (as a mark of Muslim piety), sometimes awarded in their name. Where an adjectival form is necessary, "emiral" suffices.

  • Amirzade, the son (hence the Persian patronymic suffix -zade) of a prince, hence the Persian princely title Mirza.

  • In Nigeriamarker, the traditional rulers of the predominantly Muslim northern regions are known as Emirs.

  • The temporal leader of the Yazidi people is known as an emir, or prince.

Military ranks and titles

From the start, Emir has been a military title, roughly meaning "general" or "commander."

The Western naval rank "admiral" comes from the Arabic naval title amir al-bahr, general at sea, which has been used for naval commanders and occasionally the Ministers of Marine.

In certain decimally-organized Muslim armies, Amir was an officer rank; e.g. in Mughal India Amirs commanded 1000 horsemen (divided into ten units, each under a Sipah salar), ten of them under one Malik.In the imperial army of Qajar Persia:

In the former Kingdom of Afghanistan, Amir-i-Kabir was a title meaning "great prince" or "great commander."

Other uses

  • Amir-i-Il designates the head of an Il (tribe) in imperial Persia.

  • In addition to being an Arabic name, Amir is also a common Muslim male name for both Arab and non-Arab Muslims, taken from Arabic just as the Western name Rex ("king") is borrowed from Latin while Amira is a common Muslim female name. In Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker female-name Emira often interpreted as "princess" – is a derivative of male-name Emir.

See also

Specific emirates of note

Famous people having Emir as a first name

Islamic titles

Emirs in fiction

Sources and references

  • WorldStatesmen Here Religious Organisations - see also many present Muslim countries

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