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Indo-Persian Royal and Noble Ranks
Coronet of an earl
Emperor : Sultan, Shah
King : Sultan, Shah
Royal Prince : Shahzada, Mirza
Noble Prince : Mirza, Sahibzada
Nobleman: Nawab, Baig
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Indo-Persian Royal and Noble Ranks
Coronet of an earl
Emperor : Sultan, Shah
King : Sultan, Shah
Royal Prince : Shahzada, Mirza
Noble Prince : Mirza, Sahibzada
Nobleman: Nawab, Baig

Sahib (play /səˈhb/, traditionally /ˈsɑː.b/ or /ˈsɑːb/; Arabic: صاحب‎, Urdu: صاحب, Punjabi: ਸਾਹਬ, Hindi: साहिब) 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 (صاحب) 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:

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 Régence 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.:

This could be further combined, e.g.:

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. musāhibān), etymologically the active part. of to associate, or consort (with), means originally companion, associate, friend (the abstract term is musāhabat); 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

Also see

Sources and references

  1. ^ Ramaswami, N.S. (2003). Political History of Carnatic Under the Nawabs. India: Abhinav Publications. pp. 76. ISBN 978-81-7017-191-1.