ca·​liph | \ˈkā-ləf, ˈka-ləf\
variants: or less commonly calif

Definition of caliph 

: a successor of Muhammad as temporal (see temporal entry 1 sense 1c) and spiritual head of Islam used as a title

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Other Words from caliph

caliphal \ -​lə-​fəl \ adjective

Examples of caliph in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

For four centuries, the sultan in Istanbul was also the religious leader, or caliph, of the entire Muslim world. Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, "The Long Struggle for Supremacy in the Muslim World," 26 Oct. 2018 That glittering opulence may have been an allusion to the story of King Solomon’s glass palace, but the appearance of al-Mu’tasim’s audience chamber also created a physical manifestation of the caliph’s power. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Medieval artisans built a glass-walled palace in the desert," 31 Aug. 2018 The original Byzantine church was destroyed by the Persians in A.D. 614. Rebuilt shortly thereafter, the Egyptian caliph al-Hakim destroyed the church in 1009 and had the tomb hacked down to bedrock. Joe Yudin, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Israel," 5 Oct. 2016 But Hussein was the head of the Hashemite clan, keeper of Islam’s holy places and a man with good claim to the title of caliph, leader of Muslims. Anthony Sattin, WSJ, "‘Behind the Lawrence Legend’ Review: Picking Sides in the Middle East," 6 Apr. 2018 Some make her the daughter of Muatamid bin Abbad, a wine-drinking caliph descended from the Prophet. The Economist, "Muslims consider Queen Elizabeth’s ties to the Prophet Muhammad," 5 Apr. 2018 One of the rules for choosing a caliph is that he must be descended from the lineage of the prophet. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, "What New York Attack Suspect’s Words May Say About ISIS Ties," 2 Nov. 2017 It can be written or recorded as audio or video, but the pledge is supposed to be to addressed to an individual, in this case the caliph of the Islamic State, and not to the organization overall. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, "What New York Attack Suspect’s Words May Say About ISIS Ties," 2 Nov. 2017 Abu Haitham al-Obaidi, a prominent ISIS official in Hawija , has allegedly declared himself caliph. Simon Mabon, Fortune, "We’re Not Safe From ISIS Even If Its Leader Is Dead," 15 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caliph.' 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 caliph

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for caliph

Middle English caliphe, from Middle French calife, from Arabic khalīfa successor

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Statistics for caliph

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for caliph

The first known use of caliph was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for caliph


variants: or calif \ ˈkā-​ləf \

Kids Definition of caliph

: an important Muslim political and religious leader

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Comments on caliph

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something that serves to warn or remind

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