noun, often capitalized
\ i-ˈmäm How to pronounce imam (audio) , ē-, -ˈmam How to pronounce imam (audio) \

Definition of imam

1 : the prayer leader of a mosque
2 : a Muslim leader of the line of Ali held by Shiites to be the divinely appointed, sinless, infallible successors of Muhammad
3 : any of various rulers that claim descent from Muhammad and exercise spiritual and temporal leadership over a Muslim region

Examples of imam in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The primary sites of Shii veneration are the shrines of the Shii imams and their offspring, which are important pilgrimage destinations, especially during the holy months of Ramadan and Muharram. Washington Post, "What Trump’s tweet threatening Iran’s cultural sites could mean for Shiite Muslims," 9 Jan. 2020 One conservative Syrian imam confidently told NBC News that there are no homosexual Muslims and that the act was punishable by death. NBC News, "LGBTQ Syrian refugees forced to chose between their families and identity," 6 Oct. 2019 From the speakers came the voice of an imam reading from the Quran. Jo Becker, New York Times, "The Global Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nationalism," 10 Aug. 2019 For the Khojas, the Aga Khan—a hereditary imam and leader of the Ismaili Muslim people, a branch of Shia Islam—is a spiritual leader. Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, "The extraordinary story of the only B Corp in Afghanistan," 12 Dec. 2019 The city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and the police chief visited the Kowloon Mosque to apologize to the chief imam and Muslim community leaders. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Hong Kong leaders apologize for water cannon use at mosque," 21 Oct. 2019 The city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and its police chief visited the Kowloon Mosque to say sorry to the chief imam and Muslim community leaders. Time, "Hong Kong Leader and Police Chief Apologize to Muslim Community for Spraying Mosque With Water Cannon," 21 Oct. 2019 The police said the spraying of the mosque entrance had been an accident, and contacted the chief imam and Muslim community leaders to explain and express concern. Austin Ramzy, New York Times, "Hong Kong Police Fire Tear Gas as Protesters Defy Ban," 17 Oct. 2019 Whatever position rabbis and imams wind up staking, there’s a lot of money at play. Chase Purdy, Quartz, "Mysticism in the laboratory—the making of high-tech kosher and halal meat," 3 Nov. 2019

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

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for imam

Arabic imām

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Statistics for imam

Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imam.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for imam


How to pronounce imam (audio) How to pronounce imam (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of imam

: a Muslim religious leader

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More from Merriam-Webster on imam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with imam

Britannica English: Translation of imam for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about imam

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