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The court of the Durrani Emirate of Afghanistan in 1839

Emir ( /əˈmɪər, ˈmɪər, ˈmɪər/; Arabic: أمير ʾamīr [ʔæˈmiːr] ( listen ), sometimes transliterated amir, amier, or ameer, is a word of Arabic origin that can refer to a male monarch, aristocrat, holder of high-ranking military or political office, or other person possessing actual or ceremonial authority. The title has a long history of use in the Arab World, East Africa, West Africa, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In the modern era, when used as a formal monarchical title, it is roughly synonymous with " prince", applicable both to a son of a hereditary monarch, and to a reigning monarch of a sovereign principality, namely an emirate. The feminine form is emira (أميرة ʾamīrah), with the same meaning as " princess". Prior to its use as a monarchical title, the term "emir" was historically used to denote a "commander", "general", or "leader" (for example, Amir al-Mu'min). In contemporary usage, "emir" is also sometimes used as either an honorary or formal title for the head of an Islamic, or Arab (regardless of religion) organisation or movement.

Qatar and Kuwait are the only independent countries which retain the title "emir" for their monarchs. In recent years, the title has been gradually replaced by "king" by contemporary hereditary rulers who wish to emphasize their secular authority under the rule of law. A notable example is Bahrain, whose monarch changed his title from emir to king in 2002. [1]


Amir, meaning "lord" or " commander-in-chief", is derived from the Arabic root a-m-r, "command". Originally simply meaning "commander", it came to be used as a title of leaders, governors, or rulers of smaller states. In modern Arabic the word is analogous to the title "Prince". The word entered English in 1593, from the French émir. [2] It was one of the titles or names of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[ citation needed]

Princely, ministerial and noble titles

Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, taken in 1911 by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
  • The monarchs of Qatar and Kuwait are currently titled emir. [3] [4] [5]
  • All members of the House of Saud have the title of emir (prince). [6] [7] [8]
  • The caliphs first used the title Amir al-Muminin or "Commander of the Faithful", stressing their leadership over the Islamic empire, especially over the militia. The title has been assumed by various other Muslim rulers, including sultans and emirs. For Shia Muslims, they still give this title to the Caliph Ali as Amir al-Muminin.
  • The Abbasid (in theory still universal) Caliph Al-Radi created the post of Amir al-Umara ("Amir of the Amirs") for Ibn Raik; the title was used in various Islamic monarchies; see below for military use. In Iraq, the direct descendants of previous Emirs from the largest tribes who ruled the kingdoms before modern statehood, use the title of Sheikh or Prince as the progeny of royalty. [9] [10]
  • Formerly in Lebanon, the ruling emir formally used the style al-Amir al- Hakim, specifying it was still the ruler's title. The title was held by Druze and Christians as well.[ citation needed]
  • 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 title sometimes used by ruling princes (as a mark of Muslim piety) which is sometimes awarded in their name. Where an adjectival form is necessary, "emiral" suffices.[ citation needed]
  • Amirzade, the son (hence the Persian patronymic suffix -zade) of a prince, hence the Persian princely title mirza.
  • The traditional rulers of the predominantly Muslim northern regions of Nigeria are known as emirs, while the titular sovereign of their now defunct empire is formally styled as the Sultan of Sokoto, Amir-al-Muminin (or Sarkin Musulmi in the Hausa language).[ citation needed]
  • The temporal leader of the Yazidi people is known as an emir or prince.[ citation needed]
  • Afghanistan under the government of the Taliban is officially an emirate, with the leader of the Taliban bearing the title Amir al-Mu'minin.
  • Amīr al-Baḥr (أمير البحر, "commander of the sea"), a position in the Fatimid navy, is frequently mistaken as the etymological origin of the English admiral, the French amiral, and similar terms in other European languages. [11] The titles actually derive solely from Medieval Latin forms of emir itself, [11] originally in reference to the " amirs al-umara" of Norman Sicily.

Military ranks and titles

From the start, emir has been a military title. In the 9th century the term was used to denote a ruler of a state i.e. Italy's Emirate of Sicily.

In certain decimally-organized Muslim armies, Amir was an officer rank. For example, in Mughal India, the 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:

  • Amir-i-Nuyan
  • Amir Panj, "Commander of 5,000"
  • Amir-i-Tuman, "Commander of 10,000"

The following posts referred to "amir" under medieval Muslim states include:

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

Muhammad Amin Bughra, Nur Ahmad Jan Bughra, and Abdullah Bughra declared themselves emirs of the First East Turkestan Republic.

Other uses

  • Amir is a masculine name in the Persian language and a prefix name for many masculine names such as Amir Ali, Amir Abbas.
  • Amir-i-Iel designates the head of an Il (tribe) in imperial Persia.
  • The masculine Amir and feminine Amira are Arabic-language names common among both Arabs regardless of religion and Muslims regardless of ethnicity, much as Latin Rex and Regina ("king" and "queen", respectively) are common in the Western world. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the female name Emira, often interpreted as "princess", is a derivative of the male name Emir.
  • The masculine Amir and feminine Amira are Hebrew-language names that are relatively common in Israel. In Hebrew the word can also mean "bundle of grain" or "treetop" depending on the spelling.

See also

Specific emirates of note


  1. ^ "Ruling Bahrain (Part I): The emir declares himself king". 14 March 2019. Archived from the original on 5 September 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "amir (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2 July 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Emir of Kuwait wraps up Gulf mediation visits – Qatar News – Al Jazeera". Archived from the original on 2017-06-07. Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  4. ^ "Gulf Ministers Hold Key Talks Before GCC Summit". December 5, 2017. Archived from the original on 2018-01-15. Retrieved 2018-01-15.{{ cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL ( link)
  5. ^ Al Qasimi, Muhammad. "Sheikh Dr Sultan". Archived from the original on 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  6. ^ Amos, Deborah (1991). "Sheikh to Chic". Mother Jones. p. 28. Archived from the original on 3 August 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Saudi Arabia: HRH or HH? - American Bedu". 7 August 2016. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Family Tree". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  9. ^ Howell, Georgina (15 January 2015). Queen of The Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell. Pan Books. ISBN  9781447286264.
  10. ^ Batatu, Hanna (1978). The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba'thists and Free Officers. Princeton University Press.
  11. ^ a b "admiral, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2024.