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Sahib or Saheb (//, traditionally // or //; Hindustani: साहिब Bengali: সাহেব Arabic: صاحب) is a name of Arabic origin meaning "holder, master or owner." It has passed on to several languages including Pashto, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali and Somali; as well as existing in English, as a loanword especially associated with British rule in India.
Derived non-ruling princes titles
Sahibzada is a princely style or title equivalent to, or referring to a young prince. This derivation using the Persian suffix -zada(h), literally 'born from (or further male/female descendant; compare Shahzada) a Sahib', was also (part of) the formal style for some princes of the blood of Muslim dynasties in the Indian sub-continent, e.g.:
- The sons of a ruling Nawab of Arcot (the head of the family; political pensioners, the only princely title still recognized by the Indian Republic) are styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, not Nawabzada (literally 'son of the Nawab').
- In Bahawalpur, in Pakistan, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab/Amir are styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Abassi; but the Heir Apparent: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan Abassi, Wali Ahad Bahadur.
- In Baoni, the younger sons and other male descendants of the ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, while the Heir Apparent was: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan, Wali Ahad Bahadur; either could be personally promoted to Nawab.
- In Bhopal, the grandsons of the ruling Nawab were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan, while the Heir Apparent was the Wali Ahad Bahadur, the younger sons: Nawab (personal name) Khan Bahadur.
- In Jaora, more distant male relatives of the ruling Nawab then the sons (who were Nawabzada) were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan.
- In Khudadad, Tippu Sultan's short-lived Muslim empire, the grandsons and other male descendants of the sovereign Padshah bahadur were styled: Sahibzada (personal name), until in 1860 the colonial (British) Indian Government extended to them the existing style for sons of the ruling Nawab: Shahzada (personal name) Sahib.
- In Malerkotla, where the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab were styled: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur.
- In Savanur, where sons of the ruling Nawab were Nawabzada, the other male descendants in the male line: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Sahib, and the more remote male descendants of the ruler: Sardar (personal name) Khan Sahib.
This could be further combined, e.g.:
- In Hyderabad, a mainly Muslim state of the Nizam, every son of the ruler was fully styled Walashan Nawab (personal title), Sahibzada Mir (personal name) Khan Bahadur; in the case of the Heir Apparent, all this was followed by The Prince of Berar, with the style of His Highness, normally reserved for ruling princes with at least an 11 (later 9) guns-salute;
- In Loharu, where the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada Mirza (personal name) Khan, both the younger sons, and male descendants, of a ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled: Sahibzada Mirza (personal name) Khan.
- In Murshidabad (present title-seat of the royal house of Bengal), the other sons and male descendants of the reigning Nawab, in the male line: Sahibzada Sayyid (personal name) Mirza;
- In Sachin, the grandsons and other male descendants of the ruling Nawab, in the male line, were styled: Sahibzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur, while the Heir Apparent was Nawabzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur, Wali Ahad Sahib, and the other sons: Nawabzada Sidi (personal name) Khan Bahadur.
- In Bengal, male members of Muslim zamindari families with distant connections to ruling or formerly ruling royal families, were styled Sahibzada if the head of the family was called sahib. It could be affixed to more titles or family names.
- In Hangu, the grandsons of the male line of the ruling Sahib are styled as Sahibzada (personal name) Noor.
- In Palanpur, the younger sons of the ruling Nawab, and other male descendants in the male line, were styled Sahibzada (personal name) Khan; but the Heir Apparent: Nawabzada (personal name) Khan, Wali-ahad Sahib.
- In Junagadh, younger sons of the ruling Nawab and other male descendants in the male line, were styled ' Sahibzada' and (personal name) Khanji Babi.
Colonial and modern use
Sahib means "owner" in Arabic and was commonly used in the Indian Sub-continent as a courteous term in the way that "Mister" (also derived from the word "master") and "Mrs." (derived from the word "mistress") is used in the English language. It is still used today in the Sub-continent just as "Mister" and "Mrs.", and continues to be used today by English language speakers as a polite form of address.
The term sahib was applied indiscriminately to any person whether Indian or Non-Indian. This included Europeans who arrived in the Sub-continent as traders in the 16th Century and hence the first mention of the word in European records is in 1673.
Pukka sahib was also a term used to signify genuine and legitimate authority, with pukka meaning "absolutely genuine".
Sahiba is the authentic form of address to be used for a female. Under the British Raj, however, the word used for female members of the establishment was adapted to memsahib, a variation of the English word "ma'am" having been added to the word sahib.
The term sahib (normally pronounced saab) was used on P&O vessels which had Indian and/or Pakistani crew to refer to officers, and in particular senior officers. On P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises vessels the term continued to be used by non-Indian/non-Pakistani junior officers to refer to the senior deck and engine officers for many years, even when no Indian or Pakistani crew featured in the ship's company.
- Coroner: "What kind of a man was Captain Cathcart?"
- Duke of Denver: "Well - he was a Sahib and all that. I don't know what he did before joining up in 1914. I think he lived on his income; his father was well off. Crack shot, good at games, and so on."
It is noteworthy that the character referred to had never been in India and had no connection with India.
E.M. Forster also employed the term in his 1924 novel A Passage to India. His Anglo-Indian characters refer to the Collector as Burra Sahib, implying the respect felt for him.
The term is used throughout the children's novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
In Herman Cyril McNeile's 1920 novel Bulldog Drummond, an Indian magician was performing tricks in front of a crowd and drew attention to a mysterious box. "'You don't mean the fourth dimension, do you?' demanded a man incredulously.
'I know not what you call it, sahib,' said the Indian quietly. 'But it is the power which renders visible or invisible at will.'"
Jim Davis uses the term in a 1983 Garfield comic strip in which Garfield refers to Jon Arbuckle as "sahib" after Jon asks Garfield to retrieve his newspaper, and again in a 1989 strip after Jon asks Garfield to go outside and see if it's still raining.
This title (pl. musāhibān), etymologically the active part. of to associate, or consort (with), means originally companion, associate, friend (the abstract term is musāhabat); not unlike the Hellenistic Greek Philos and the Latin Comes in the Roman empire, it became a title for a favourite (of a Sahib, especially a prince), and such 'personally close' positions as aide-de-camp, in some princely states even a Minister.
Other compound titles
- Burra sahib (Hindi: बड़ा साहब baṛā sāhab) "big man" or important person (Burra meaning big in Hindi)
- Raja Sahib, compound royal style
- Thakur Sahib, compound princely style
- Sahib-i-Subah or subahdar, provincial governor, notably in the Mughal empire
- Sahibzada Syed Faiz-ul Hassan Shah (1911–1984)
- Khan or Khanzada
- Ramaswal mi, N.S. (2003). Political History of Carnatic Under the Nawabs. India: Abhinav Publications. p. 76. ISBN 978-81-7017-191-1.
- Forster, E. M. A Passage to India. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1924. Print
- Davis, Jim. Garfield, 12 July 1983. <https://garfield.dale.ro/garfield-1983-july-12.html>