KHAN

A new addition to Encyclopaedia Iranica

KHAN (ḵān), a Turkish high title indicating nobility. Its meaning and designation, however, depends upon the historical and social contexts in which it is used. Context is critical, and the meaning of the title varied greatly depending upon place and time period.  For instance, in the Mongol period, the title was restricted to the ruling elite family as an attribute of rulership and descent within the Chingizid family (see ČENGĪZ KHAN; while, under the Safavids, it was a designation of the governor (lower than beglarbegi); in the late Qajar period, when there was a proliferation and debasement of titles, the use of khan ranged from tribal leaders to individuals in authority or to simply a feign attempt at ingratiation, and in contemporary time in Iran it may be affixed to the name of anybody as a sign of respect.  It can be used consequently as a title, an office, a form of address, or as part of a place name; for example, Khanbaliq (Dadu or Beijing), Kublai Khan’s capital, or Ḵānābād in Afghanistan.