Printable Version
Pronunciation: shee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: One of the two major branches of Islam that considers Ali, a cousin of Muhammad, to be the first caliph (legitimate successor of Muhammad), and his descendants to be the true bearers of Muhammad's teachings.

Notes: A member of the larger Islamic sect, the Sunni, should be called a Sunnite, but the US media generally omit the suffix: a Sunni, the Sunnis. Sunnite should also be used as an adjective, as in 'Sunnite beliefs'. The derivation Shiite [shee-ite], however, is always used as the agent noun and adjective of Shia, as the Shiite beliefs of the Shiites. Today's word may also be properly spelled Shiah, should you need an extra letter to finish a line.

In Play: This word emerged regularly in the news back at the beginning of this century. The US pullout from Iraq opened the door to a civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites. That war took the form of the invastion of the Sunni terrorist army of ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Sunnis accept the Sunna as the basis of their beliefs and consider Ali only the 4th caliph. The Sunna is a supplement to the Qur'an written by the immediate disciples of Muhammad.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a transcription of Arabic shi'a "following, sect", from sha'a "to spread, become known". It is sometimes spelled shi'a in English, with the single quote indicating a glottal stop. The break between the oh's in the English response to a mishap, "Oh-oh!" is a glottal stop. It functions as a regular consonant in some languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.

Dr. Goodword,

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