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Sahib (, traditionally or ; , Urdu: , , ) is a word of Arabic origin and is primarily used in Urdu which literally translates to "Owner" or "Proprietor". The primary Punjabi meaning of Sahib ( ) is "associate, companion, comrade, friend" though it also includes "(with foll. genit.) man, owner, possessor, holder, master, lord, commander, representative, author or originator of ..." (Cowan 1994, 588). It has passed on to several languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Pashto, Persian, Turkish and Marathi. It has been translated in the Indian sub-continent after the advent of colonialism as: grace or by Sikhs as "Guru's honour".


Ruler titles

Combined ruler styles

(This list may well be incomplete; gun salutes mentioned are as in 1947, some may be the result of one or more promotions)

Subsidiary ruler styles

In various dynasties, members of certain genealogical rank were awarded various combinations of additional styles, in se not their rank, which may include sahib. This could even happen in a Muslim dynasty, e.g. sons of the ruling Nawab of Junagadh used Nawabzada before their personal name, then Khanji and the father's name, finally Sahib.

Again this could be combined titles:

  • Sahib-i-Jah "Lord, or Possessor of Dignity" was a title of the ruling Nawab of Baoni.

Non-Indian ruler title

The ruling Bey of Tunis, an Arabo-Barbaresque satellite state under Ottoman suzerainty in North Africa, also known as 'regency' since the French protectorate, used the style Basha Bay Tunis, Sahib al-Mamlaka at-Tunisiyya ("Pasha Bey of Tunis, Lord of the Tunisian Realm"; in French: Bey de Tunis, Seigneur de la R gence de Tunis), suggesting their realm was at par with that of a Malik (Arabic for King), until the last incumbent changed it in 1956 (till 25 July 1957) in "King (Padshah) of the Tunisians and Commander of the Faithful".

Derived non-ruling princes titles


Sahibzada is a princely style or title equivalent to, or referring to a young prince.[1] This derivation using the Persian suffix -zada(h), literally 'son (or further male descendant; compare Shahzada) of a Sahib', was also (part of) the formal style for some princes of the blood of Muslim dynasties, e.g.:

  • the sons of a ruling Nawab of Arcot (the head of the family; political pensioners, the only princely title still recognized by the Indian Republic) are styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, not Nawabzada (literally 'son of the Nawab').
  • in Bahawalpur, in Pakistan, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab/Amir are styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Abassi; but the Heir Apparent: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan Abassi, Wali Ahad Bahadur
  • in Baoni, the younger sons and other male descendants of the ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, while the Heir Apparent was: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan, Wali Ahad Bahadur; either could be personally promoted to Nawab
  • in Bhopal, the grandsons of the ruling Nawab were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan, while the Heir Apparent was the Wali Ahad Bahadur, the younger sons: Nawab (personal name) Khan Bahadur
  • in Jaoroa, more distant male relatives of the ruling Nawab then the sons (who were Nawabzada) were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan
  • in Khudadad, Tippu Sultan's short-lived Muslim empire, the grandsons and other male descendants of the sovereign Padshah bahadur were styled: Sahibzada (personal name), until in 1860 the colonial (British) Indian Government extended to them the existing style for sons of the ruling Nawab: Shahzada (personal name) Sahib
  • in Malerkotla, where the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur
  • in Savanur, where sons of the ruling Nawab were Nawabzada, the other male descendants in the male line: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Sahib, and the more remote male descendants of the ruler: Sardar (personal name) Khan Sahib.

This could be further combined, e.g.:

  • in Hyderabad, the great, mainly Muslim state of the Nizam, every son of the ruler was fully styled Walashan Nawab (personal title), Sahibzada Mir (personal name) Khan Bahadur; in the case of the Heir Apparent, all this was followed by The Prince of Berar, with the style of His Highness, normally reserved for ruling princes with at least an 11 (later 9) guns-salute;
  • in Loharu, where the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada Mirza (personal name) Khan, both the younger sons, and male descendants, of a ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled: Sahibzada Mirza (personal name) Khan.
  • in Murshidabad (present title-seat of the royal house of Bengal), the other sons and male descendants of the reigning Nawab, in the male line: Sahibzada Sayyid (personal name) Mirza;
  • in Sachin, the grandsons and other male descendants of the ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled: Sahibzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur, while the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur, Wali Ahad Sahib, and the other sons: Nawabzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur.
  • in Bengal, male members of Muslim zamindari families with distant connections to ruling or formerly ruling royal families, were styled Sahibzada if the head of the family was called sahib. It could be affixed to more titles or family names.
  • in Hangu, the grandsons of the male line of the ruling Sahib are styled as Sahibzada (personal name) Noor.

Wali-ahad Sahib

  • In Palanpur, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab, and other male descendants in the male line, were styled Sahibzada (personal name) Khan; but the Heir Apparent: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan, Wali-ahad Sahib.

Colonial and modern use

Sahib means "friend" in Arabic and was commonly used in the Indian Sub-continent as a courteous term in the way that "Mister" (also derived from the word "master") and "Mrs." (derived from the word "mistress") is used in the English language. It is still used today in the Sub-continent just as "Mister" and "Mrs.", and continues to be used today by English language speakers as a polite form of address.

The term sahib was applied indiscriminately to any person whether Indian or Non-Indian. This included Europeans who arrived in the Sub-continent as traders in the 16th Century and hence the first mention of the word in European records is in 1673.

Pukka sahib was also a term used to signify genuine and legitimate authority, with pukka meaning "absolutely genuine".

Sahiba is the authentic form of address to be used for a female. Under the British Raj, however, the word used for female members of the establishment was adapted to memsahib, a corruption of the English word "ma'am" which was added to the word sahib.

The same word is also appended to the names of Sikh gurus.

Literary Reference

The following dialogue in Dorothy Sayers' 1926 novel "Clouds of Witness" shows what the term implied in British society at the time.

- Cornoner: "What kind of a man was Captain Cathart?" - Duke of Denver: "Well - he was a Sahib and all that. I don't know what he did before joining up in 1914. I think he lived on his income; his father was well off. Crack shot, good at games, and so on."


This title (pl. mus hib n), etymologically the active part. of to associate, or consort (with), means originally companion, associate, friend (the abstract term is mus habat); not unlike the Hellenistic Greek Philos and the Latin Comes in the Roman empire, it became a title for a favourite (of a Sahib, especially a prince), and such 'personally close' positions as aide-de-camp, in some princely states even a Minister.

Other compound titles

  • Burra sahib; "big man" or important person

Sources and references

See also


de:Sahib es:Sahib fr:Sahib pl:Sahib sv:Sahib

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