Historically, the ruler or monarch of a Mongol tribe. Early on a distinction was made between the title of khan and that of khakan, or “great khan.” Later the term khan was adopted by the Seljuq and Khwarezm-Shah dynasties as a title for the highest nobility. Gradually it became an affix to the name of any Muslim property owner. Today it is often used as a surname.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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