aya·​tol·​lah | \ ˌī-ə-ˈtō-lə How to pronounce ayatollah (audio) , -ˈtä-, -ˈtə-, ˈī-ə-ˌ How to pronounce ayatollah (audio) \

Definition of ayatollah

: a religious leader among Shiite Muslims used as a title of respect especially for one who is not an imam

Examples of ayatollah in a Sentence

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And, after America and its allies’ and convoy partners’ strictly defensive reaction to Iran’s recent actions, any further hostility by the ayatollahs will confirm them as total belligerents who made force necessary. Deroy Murdock, National Review, "Trump Should Assemble a Multinational Naval Convoy," 28 June 2019 The feature, then, would not have been used in the Khamenei incident earlier this year; the account, @khamenei_ir, while long believed to belong to the ayatollah or his office, is not verified. Paris Martineau, WIRED, "Twitter Will Quarantine Politicians’ Tweets If They Violate Rules—Finally," 27 June 2019 Against formidable odds, U.S. officials managed to keep the prominent Shia ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from urging his followers to violently oppose the American occupation, which would have made matters in Iraq vastly worse. Hal Brands, National Review, "Lessons from the Iraq War," 20 June 2019 Yet the ayatollahs were clandestinely cooperating with the Jewish state, the enemy of Tehran’s Iraqi enemy. Eliora Katz, WSJ, "Iranians Are Now Chanting ‘Death to Palestine’," 13 July 2018 The nuclear deal offered the promise of economic improvement but mostly enriched the ayatollahs. Eliora Katz, WSJ, "Iranians Are Now Chanting ‘Death to Palestine’," 13 July 2018 Khomeini and the other ayatollahs attempted to eradicate Iran’s national identity by erasing its pre-Islamic past. Eliora Katz, WSJ, "Iranians Are Now Chanting ‘Death to Palestine’," 13 July 2018 America’s European allies would probably rejoice if Mr. Trump abruptly offered to meet the ayatollah. David Pollock, WSJ, "If a Trump-Iran Summit Happens, Ayatollah So," 18 June 2018 Sadr’s father and uncle were revered grand ayatollahs whose teachings guided the behavior of millions of followers and inspired a generation of Shiite Islamist activists. Thanassis Cambanis, BostonGlobe.com, "How did Iraq’s Moqtada al-Sadr become a statesman? People just got used to him," 26 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ayatollah.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ayatollah

1950, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ayatollah

Persian āyatollāh, literally, sign of God, from Arabic āyatallāh, from āya sign, miracle + allāh God

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Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

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The first known use of ayatollah was in 1950

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