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

Recent Examples on the Web

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 The ayatollahs, who fostered and protected the country’s transition to democracy, increasingly sound like an opposition. The Economist, "Iraqi voters are fed up with the old guard," 10 May 2018 Secularism is making inroads even in the holy city of Najaf, the seat of Iraq’s ayatollahs, which has thrived on Shia pilgrimage since the American invasion. The Economist, "Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is getting back on its feet," 28 Mar. 2018 That would be a greater danger to both his administration and U.S. interests than the displeasure of Erdogan or the ayatollahs could ever be. Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, "Trump Should Buck the Consensus on the Kurds," 26 Sep. 2017

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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The first known use of ayatollah was in 1950

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