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"Saheb" redirects here. For the city in Iran, see Saheb, Iran. For the administrative subdivision of Iran, see Saheb Rural District.

Sahib (/ˈsɑːhɪb/, traditionally /ˈsɑː.b/ or /ˈsɑːb/; Arabic: صاحب‎) is a name of Arabic origin meaning "holder, master or owner." It has passed on to several languages including Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Pashto, Turkish, Marathi and Kannada. It has also entered English, as a loanword especially associated with British rule in India.

Derived non-ruling princes titles[edit]


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 'born from (or further male/female descendant; compare Shahzada) a Sahib', was also (part of) the formal style for some princes of the blood of Muslim dynasties in the Indian sub-continent , e.g.:

This could be further combined, e.g.:

Wali-ahad Sahib[edit]

Colonial and modern use[edit]

Sahib means "owner" 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[edit]

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


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[edit]

See also[edit]


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