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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

Military ranks and titles

See also: Amir (Iranian Army)

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:

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

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.