Khan (surname)

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For the Mongol title, see Khan (title).
Not to be confused with Kahn.

Khan (Urdu, Pashto: خان) is a surname and title of Central Asian or Mongolian origin, primarily found in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Asian countries. It is a common surname among the ethnic Pashtuns of South-Central Asia which can be simply defined as "leader" in Pashto. Possibly an old Turkic influence when the Pashtuns were in more northern regions of central asia[clarify], especially an old territory named Scythia, being a region of cross cultural influence between Turks and other Altaic peoples.[citation needed][tone]

Use as a title[edit]

The surname Khan originates with the Mongolian honorific khan. Originally used in the Mongol Empire, and later more widely by Islamic chieftains in South Asia.[1][2]

As a title, khan is now mainly used by the Pashtuns. In the South Asian Subcontinent a Pashtun is addressed as Khan Sahib routinely whether he has Khan formally as part of his name or not. Moreover, the term Khawanain is used to refer to the Khans, collectively, as rulers, chiefs etc. of Khanates in the North West Frontier Province of India, and later Pakistan, particularly in Hangu, Hazara, Swat, Dir, Mardan and other districts in contemporary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the non-Frontier regions of the Subcontinent Khanates did not exist at anytime in history.

Communities using Khan as a surname[edit]

The communities that use the surname Khan include the Pashtuns, Baloch, Afghans, Bengalis, Mughals, Muslim Rajputs, and Turkic people from Central Asia to northern Pakistan; tribes in Pakistan and their descendents in India, Baloch tribes in Balochistan and in Sindh and various Mongol, Turks, and Tatar tribes in central and northern Asia.

Other usage[edit]

Khan is also a last name found in Tatars, a Muslim Turkic speaking group, mostly in Russia. Also been known to be part with Genghis Khan's army. The name Khan has also been used by the Peoples of the Caucasus since the region has a history of Turkic and Mongolic (Mughal) rulers.

It is now a widespread Islamic surname in most countries of Central and South Asia. Khan is the surname of over 80,000 Islamic Britons, mostly British Asian, making it the 80th most common surname in the United Kingdom, and one of only a handful in the 100 most common surnames which are of neither British nor Irish origin.[3]

List of people called Khan[edit]

Malik Umar Hayat Khan as an Honorary Lieutenant of the 18th King George's Own Lancers, early 20th century watercolour by Major A.C. Lovett (1862–1919)

Actors and entertainers[edit]

In sports[edit]

Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricketer, philanthropist and Chairmain of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Amir Khan, a British (Pakistani Origin) who became the WBA Light-welterweight World Champion.

In science and technology[edit]

  • Abdul Qadeer Khan, an engineer from Pakistan, considered the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme
  • Fazlur Khan, Bengali-American structural engineer and designer of Chicago's Sears Tower and John Hancock Center
  • Geoffrey Khan, (b. 1958), professor of Semitic Languages at the University of Cambridge.
  • M S Khan (1910–1978), a Bengali academic from Bangladesh, "father of the Library and Information Science discipline in Bangladesh"
  • Salman "Sal" Khan, a Bangladeshi-American educator, famous for Khan Academy


Fictional characters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khan entry in Hobson-Jobson: the Anglo-Indian dictionary
  2. ^ As cited in The Baburnama, 2002, W.M. Thackston p273.
  3. ^ "Khan in the UK". Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  4. ^ "Origin of 'M Khan' Graffiti". 2001-04-12. Retrieved 2012-06-09.