Definitions

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

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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.

  • n. 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

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.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Persian آیت‌الله (âyatollâh), from Arabic آية الله ('āyatu-llāh, "sign of God") (Wiktionary)

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