" (Ottoman Turkish
: beg, Uzbek
: bek, Kazakh
: бек, Tatar
” or بگ
: бе, Arabic
”) is a Turkic
title for a chieftain
, and an honorific
, traditionally applied to people with special lineages to the leaders or rulers of variously sized areas in the numerous Turkic kingdoms, emirates, sultanates and empires in Central Asia
, South Asia
, and The Middle East
, such as the Ottomans
or the various khanates
in Central Asia
and the Eurasian Steppe
. The feminine equivalent title was begum
. The regions or provinces where "beys" ruled or which they administered were called beylik
, roughly meaning "governorate" and/or "province" (the equivalent of duchy
in other parts of Europe). However the exact scope of power handed to the beks varied with each country, thus there was no clear-cut system, rigidly applied to all countries defining all the possible power and prestige that came along with the title.
Today, the word is still used formally as a social title for men, similar to the way the titles "sir
" and "mister
" are used in the English language. Additionally, it is widely used in the naming customs of Central Asia
, namely in countries such as Uzbekistan
. Notably, the ethnic designation of Uzbeks
comes from the name of Öz Beg Khan
of the Golden Horde
, being an example of the usage of this word in personal names and even names of whole ethnic groups. The general rule is that the honorific is used with first names and not with surnames or last names.
The word entered English from Turkish bey
itself derived from Old Turkic beg
which – in the form bäg
– has been mentioned as early as in the Orkhon inscriptions
(8th century AD) and is usually translated as "tribal leader".
The actual origin of the word is still disputed, though it is mostly agreed that it was a loan-word,
in Old Turkic.
This Turkic word is usually considered a borrowing from an Iranian language.
However, German Turkologist Gerhard Doerfer
assessed the derivation from Iranian as superficially attractive but quite uncertain,
and pointed out the possibility that the word may be genuinely Turkic
Two principal etymologies have been proposed by scholars:
- the Middle Persian title bag (also baγ or βaγ, Old Iranian baga; cf. Sanskrit भग / bhaga) meaning "lord" and "master". Peter Golden derives the word via Sogdian bġy from the same Iranian root. All Middle Iranian languages retain forms derived from baga- in the sense "god": Middle Persian bay (plur. bayān, baʾān), Parthian baγ, Bactrian bago, Sogdian βγ-, and were used as honorific titles of kings and other men of high rank in the meaning of "lord". The Iranian bāy (through connection with Old Indian noun bhāgá "possessions, lot") gave Turkish word bai (rich), whence Mongol name Bayan (rich).
- the Chinese title pö (the older form being pök or pak; according to Edwin Pulleyblankperjk), meaning older brother and feudal lord, often lower members of the aristocracy. 伯 (bó) is the Chinese noble title equivalent to count.
What is certain is that the word has no connections to Turkish berk
, "strong" (Mongolianberke
), or Turkish bögü
" (Mong. böge
Turkish and Azerbaijani beys
As the Ottoman realm grew from a Beylik into an imperial sultanate, the title "Bey" came to be applied to subordinate military and administrative officers, such as a district administrator and lower-level minor military governors. The latter were usually titled Sanjak Bey
(after the term "Sanjak", denoting a military horsetail banner). Beys were lower in rank than pashas
and provincial governors (wālis
, usually holding the title of pasha), who governed most of the Ottoman vilayets
(provinces), but higher than effendis
Over time, the title became somewhat devalued, as Bey was used as a courtesy title for a pasha
's son. It also came to be attached to officers and dignitaries below those entitled to be pashas, notably the following military officer ranks (still lower ranks were styled efendi
- Miralai (army colonel or navy captain)
- Kaimakam (army lieutenant-colonel or navy commander)
Oddly, the compound Beyefendi
was part of the title of the husband (full style Damad-i-Shahyari
(given name) Beyefendi
) and sons (full style Sultanzade
(given name) Beyefendi
) of an Imperial Princess, and their sons in turn were entitled to the courtesy title Beyzade
, "Son of a Bey". For the grandsons of an imperial princess, the official style was simply Bey after the name.
By the late 19th century, "Bey" had been reduced in the Ottoman Empire to an honorary title. While in Qazaq
and other Central Asian Turkic languages
[bɑj] remains a rather honorific title, in modern Turkish, and in Azerbaijan
, the word "bey" (or "bay") simply means "mister" (compare Effendi
) or "sir" and is used in the meaning of "chieftain" only in historical context. Bay
is also used in Turkish in combined form for certain military ranks, e.g. albay
, meaning colonel
, from alay
"regiment" and -bay
, and yarbay
, meaning lieutenant colonel
, from yardim
"assistance" and -bay
(thus an "assistant albay
Lucy Mary Jane Garnett
wrote in the 1904 work Turkish Life in Town and Country
that "distinguished persons and their sons" as well as "high government officials" could become bey
, which was one of two "merely conventional designations as indefinite as our "Esquire
" has come to be.[in the United Kingdom]".
The Republican Turkish authorities abolished the title circa the 1930s.
As with most Turkish titles, it follows the name rather than precedes it, e.g. "Ahmet Bey" for "Mr. Ahmet". When one speaks of Mr. Ahmet
, the title has to be written with a capital (Ahmet Bey), but when one addresses him directly it is simply written without capital (Ahmet bey). Bey
may combine with efendi
to give a common form of address, to which the possessive suffix -(i)m
is usually added: beyefendim
has its feminine counterpart: hanımefendi [haˈnɯmefendi]
, used alone, to address a woman without her first name
. And with the first name: Ayşe Hanım
or Ayşe hanım
, for example, according to the rule given above about the use of the capital letter.
The title Bey (Arabic
; Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [beː]
) could be maintained as a similar office within Arab states that broke away from the High Porte, such as Egypt
under the Muhammad Ali Dynasty
, where it was a rank below pasha
(maintained in two rank classes after 1922), and a title of courtesy for a pasha's son.
Even much earlier, the virtual sovereign's title in Barbaresque North African 'regency' states was "Bey" (compare Dey
). Notably in Tunis
the Husainid Dynasty
used a whole series of title and styles including Bey:
- Just Bey itself was part of the territorial title of the ruler, and also as a title used by all male members of the family (rather like Sultan in the Ottoman dynasty).
- Bey al-Kursi "Bey of the Throne", a term equivalent to reigning prince.
- Bey al-Mahalla "Bey of the Camp", title used for the next most senior member of the Beylical family after the reigning Bey, the Heir Apparent to the throne.
- Bey al-Taula "Bey of the Table", the title of the Heir Presumptive, the eldest prince of the Beylical family, who enjoyed precedence immediately after the Bey al-Mahalla.
- Beylerbeyi (or Beglerbegi) "Lord of Lords", was the administrative rank formally enjoyed by the ruler of Algiers and by rulers of parts of the Balkans in their official capacity of Ottoman Governor-General within the Turkish empire.This title was also used in Safavid empire.
was also the title that was awarded by the Sultan of Turkey in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire to Oloye Mohammed Shitta
, an African merchant prince of the Yoruba people
who served as a ranking leader of the Muslim community in the kingdom of Lagos
. Subsequently, he and his children became known in Nigeria
by the double-barrelled surnameShitta-Bey
, a tradition which has survived to the present day through their lineal descendants.
Other Beys saw their own Beylik promoted to statehood, e.g.:
(Constantine in French), an Ottoman district subject to the Algiers regency
since 1525 (had its own Beys since 1567), the last incumbent, Ahmed Bey ben Mohamed Chérif (b. c. 1784, in office 1826–1848, d. 1850), was maintained when in 1826 the local Kabyle
population declared independence, and when it was on 13 October 1837 conquered by France, until it was incorporated into Algeria
Sometimes a Bey was a territorial vassal within a khanate, as in each of the three zuzes
under the Khan
of the Kazakhs.
The variation Beg
, is still used as a family name or a part of a name in South and Central Asia as well as the Balkans
. In Slavic
-influenced names, it can be seen in conjunction with the Slavic -ov/-ović/ev
suffixes meaning "son of", such as in Kurbegović, Izetbegović
, Abai Kunanbaev
'Bey' is also used in colloquially in Urdu-speaking parts of India and its usage is similar to "chap" or "man". When used aggressively, it is an offensive term.
- ^ "Bey". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
- ^ "Bey". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Archived from the original on 8 March 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
- ^ a b c d e f "Beg". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i "Baga". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- ^ "Bey" in Nişanyan Dictionary
- ^ a b Alemko Gluhak (1993), Hrvatski etimološki rječnik, August Cesarec: Zagreb, pp. 123–124
- ^ P. Golden, "Turks and Iranians: An historical sketch", in S. Agcagül/V. Karam/L. Johanson/C. Bulut, Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects, Harrassowit, 2006, p. 19ff
- ^ Daryaee, Touraj (2010), "Ardashir and the Sasanian's Rise to Power" (PDF), Anabasis: Studia Classica et Orientalia, 1, p. 239, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016, retrieved 24 April 2015
- ^ Eilers, Wilhelm (22 August 2011). "Bāḡ". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- ^ Garnett, Lucy Mary Jane. Turkish Life in Town and Country. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904. p. 5.
- ^ Shaw, Stanford J. and Ezel Kural Shaw. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Volume II). Cambridge University Press, 27 May 1977. ISBN 0521291666, 9780521291668. p. 386.
- ^ "Private Drawing Room, I, Kasr-el-Said, Tunisia". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
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Last edited on 14 April 2021, at 15:23
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