Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A high-ranking Shiite religious authority regarded as worthy of imitation in matters of religious law and interpretation.
  • noun Used as a title for such a leader.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A religious leader in Iranian Shi’ite Islam; a member of the ’ulama.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a high-ranking Shiite religious leader who is regarded as an authority on religious law and its interpretation and who has political power as well

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Persian āyatollāh, from Arabic ’āyatu llāh, sign of God : ’āyatu, bound form of ’āya, sign, Koranic verse; see ℵwy in Semitic roots + allāh, Allah; see Allah.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Persian آیت‌الله (âyatollâh), from Arabic آية الله ('āyatu-llāh, "sign of God")

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