• caliphate •
kæ-lê-fayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An Islamic state led by a caliph, a supreme leader. 2. The region politically ruled by a caliph. 3. (Usually capitalized) The era of Islam from the death of Mohammed until the 13th century.
Notes: Caliphate in English is based on the noun caliph. Do not forget that although the Latin C is used to reflect the sound [k] (not Greek K), the Greek digraph PH is used to convey the sound [f], as it is in elephant.
In Play: Some Muslims maintain that their goal is to reestablish the Caliphate in the third sense above; ISIS claims to have already done that. There have been other caliphates declared, the last being the Ottoman caliphate (1517-1924). The problem comes from the fact that the caliphate is primarily a Sunni Muslim construct not shared in its entirety by Shias. The Sunni outnumber the Shia by a margin of 85% to 15%.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from the title khalifat Allah "of the follower of God" or khalifat rasul Allah "of the Messenger of God". Calife entered Middle English from Old French caliphe. It comes from Arabic khalifa "successor (to Muhammad)", a noun from the verb khalafa "to succeed, follow". (At this point we must thank Albert Skiles, our most prolific contributor of suggestions, for recommending today's Good Word.)
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