Emir (Arabic: أمير; , female: أميرة; emira; ), (Farsi and Urdu: 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 some Turkic states. Emirs are usually considered high-ranking sheiks, but in monarchical states the term is also used for princes, with "Emirate" being analogous to principality in this sense. Also is used as a name in Turkey like Emir Niego and Emir Sevinc. While emir is the predominant spelling in English and many other languages (for example, United Arab Emirates), 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 1595, from the French émir. It was one of the titles or names of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Princely, ministerial and noble titles

  • 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.
  • 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 – Wasir (chief minister) Ibn Raik; the title was used in various Islamic monarchies; cfr. infra for military use
  • In Lebanon, the ruling Emir formally used the style al-Amir al-Hakim since, specifying it was still a ruler's title, but now as part of the Ottoman Empire; unchanged when in 1698 the Banu Shihab replaced the Banu Ma'n dynasty and on 27 May 1832 was annexed by khedival Egypt (both nominally Ottoman), but Ottoman rule was restored on October 10, 1840, until the Mount Lebanon emirate ended on January 16, 1842, as the Ottoman Sultans divided their Lebanese province administratively, creating a Christian district in the north and an area under Druze control in the south.
  • The word Emir is also used less formally for leaders in certain contexts, for example the leader of a group of pilgrims to Mecca 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.
  • Amirzada, the son (hence the Persian patronymic suffix -zade) of a prince, hence the Persian princely title Mirza.

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.
  • Amir is also a Jewish name. Amir is also a common Muslim male name for Arab and non-Arab Muslims (Bosnia, Iran), taken from Arabic just as the Western name Rex ("king") is borrowed from Latin. In Bosnia and Herzegovina female-name Emira – often interpreted as "princess" – is a derivative of male-name Emir.

See also

Specific emirates of note

Islamic titles

Emirs in fiction

Sources and references

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

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