Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, meeting with Nawab Mir Jafar after Plassey, by Francis Hayman.

A Nawab or Nawaab (Urdu: نواب) is an honorific title given to (male) Muslim rulers of princely states in South Asia. It is the Muslim equivalent of the term "maharaja" that was granted to Hindu rulers.

The title of "Nawab" was also awarded as a personal distinction by the paramount power, similarly to a British peerage, to persons and families who never ruled a princely state.

The term "Nawab" was originally used for the Subedar (provincial governor) or viceroy of a Subah (province) or region of the Mughal empire.



Nawab Bahadur Khanji III of Junagadh with Diwan Haridas Viharidas Desai and other State officials

The term is Urdu, borrowed via Persian from the Arabic being the honorific plural of naib i.e. 'deputy'. In some areas, especially Bengal, the term is pronounced Nobab. This later variation has entered the English and other foreign languages, see below.

The title Nawab or Nawaab is basically derived from the Arab word Naib which means "deputy." Muslim rulers preferred this as then they could be referred to as the deputies of God on earth and hence not infringing on God's title, i.e., Lord and master of this earth. The title is specifically founded by Twelver Shia Muslim rulers from the word Naib - E - Imaam (which means Deputy or representative of the Living Imaam Muhammad al-Mahdi).

The Procession of Yusef Ali Khan. A painting depicting Yusef Khan on his way to an encampment for the durbar held at Fatehgarh, in 1859.
The winter Diwan of a Mughal Nawab.

The term "nawab" is often used to refer to any Muslim ruler in north or south India while the term "Nizam" is preferred for a senior official--it literally means "governor of region". The Nizam of Hyderabad had several Nawabs under him: Nawabs of Cuddapah, Sira, Rajahmundry, Kurnool, Chicacole, et al. "Nizam" was his personal title, awarded by the Mughal Government and based on the term "Nazim" as meaning "senior officer". "Nazim" is still used for a district collector in many parts of India. The term "nawab" is still technically imprecise, as the title was also awarded to Hindus and Sikhs, as well, and large Zamindars and not necessarily to all Muslim rulers. With the decline of that empire, the title, and the powers that went with it, became hereditary in the ruling families in the various provinces.

Under later British rule, nawabs continued to rule various princely states of Awadh, Amb, Bahawalpur, Baoni, Banganapalle, Bhopal, Cambay, Jaora, Junagadh, Kurnool, Kurwai, Mamdot, Multan, Palanpur, Pataudi, Rampur, Malerkotla, Sachin and Tonk. Other former rulers bearing the title, such as the nawabs of Bengal and Oudh, had been dispossessed by the British or others by the time the Mughal dynasty finally ended in 1857. The title of the ruler of Palanpur was "Diwan" and not "Nawab".

The style for a nawab's queen is Begum. Most of the nawab dynasties were male primogenitures, although several ruling Begums of Bhopal and Ruchka Begum of TikaitGanj, near Lucknow were a notable exception.

Before the incorporation of the Subcontinent into the British Empire, nawabs ruled the kingdoms of Awadh (or Oudh, encouraged by the British to shed the Mughal suzereignty and assume the imperial style of Badshah), Bengal, Arcot and Bhopal.

Ruling Nawabs

Families ruling when acceding to India

  • Nawab Babi of Balasinor
  • the former Nawabs of Arcot Carnatic, restyled Princes of Arcot
  • Nawab of Banganapalle, previously Masulipatam
  • Nawab of Baoni
  • Nawab of Bhopal (female rulers were known as Nawab Begum of Bhopal)
  • Nawab of Cambay (Kambay)
  • Nawab of Dujana
  • Nawab of Farrukhabad
  • Nawab of Jaora
  • Nawab Sahib of Junagadh
  • Nawab of Kurwai
  • Nawab of Maler Kotla
  • Nawab of Basai [Nawab Khwaja Muhammad Khan]
  • Nawab of Maler kotla


Families ruling when acceding to Pakistan (including present Bangladesh)

  • Nawab of Dir
  • Nawab of Amb
  • Nawab of Bahawalpur
  • Nawab of Kharan
  • Nawab Sahib of Junagadh
  • Nawab of Malerkotla
  • Nawab of Chandka state

Former dynasties which became political pensioners

also imperial Wazir of all Mughal India, both hereditary
  • Nawabs of Bengal, as Nawabs of Murshidabad
  • Nawab of Surat
  • Nawab of Marauli
  • Nawab of Patna

Miscellaneous Nawabs

Personal Nawabs

Left:Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood, Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army, Right: Nawab Sir Muhammad Khan Zaman Khan of Amb. At Darband, Amb State,1925

The title nawab was also awarded as a personal distinction by the paramount power, similarly to a British peerage, to persons and families who never ruled a princely state. The term nawab got widest currency in the nineteenth century. In order to motivate the Bengal ruling classes to participate in the community services the Auckland administration (1836–1842) had introduced a system of conferring honorific titles on the philanthropic and socially leading people. For the Muslim elite various Mughal-type titles were introduced, including Nawab. Among the noted British creations of this type were Nawab Hashim Ali Khan (1858–1940), Nawab Khwaja Abdul Ghani (1813–1896), Nawab Abdool Luteef (1828–1893), Nawab Faizunnesa Choudhurani (1834–1904), Nawab Ali Chowdhury (1863–1929), Nawab Syed Shamsul Huda (1862–1922) and Nawab Sirajul Islam (1848–1923), Nawab Alam yar jung Bahadur, M.A, Madras, B.A., B.C.L., Barr-At-Law (1888–1975). The 'Nawab' title was normally awarded to those influential people who already had some connection in land control and the title was attached to the name of the concerned estate or village, such as the Dhaka Nawab Family (seated at Ahsan Manzil), not to be confused with the earlier Naib Nazims of Dhaka which had been pensioned off in 1793). There also were the Nawabs of Dhanbari (Tangail), Nawabs of Ratanpur (Comilla), Nawabs of Baroda and such others.

Nawab as a court rank

At the court of Persia's Shahanshahs of the imperial Qajar dynasty, precedence for non-members of the dynasty was organised in eight protocollary classes, generally coupled to various offices and qualities; the highest of these, styled nawab, was usually reserved for minor princes, while the six next classes (Shakhs-i-Awwal, Janab, Amir or Khan, 'Ali Jah Muqarrab, 'Ali Jah, 'Ali Sha'an) were awarded to various ministers, officers, commanders, Muslim clergy and so on, the eight and lowest, 'Ali Qadir, even to guild masters and the like.

A powerful Mughal Nawab of Oudh.

Nawab was also the rank title—again not an office—of a much lower class of Muslim nobles—in fact retainers—at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar State, ranking only above Khan bahadur and Khan, but under (in ascending order) Jang, Daula, Mulk, Umara and Jah; the equivalent for Hindu courtiers was Raja Bahadur.

Derived titles


Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan of Karnal who later became the 1st Prime Minister of Pakistan

This style, adding the Persian suffix -zada which means son (or other male descendants; see other cases in Prince), (etymo)logically fits a Nawab's sons, but in actual practice various dynasties established other customs.

For example, in Bahawalpur only the Nawab's Heir Apparent used Nawabzada before his personal name, then Khan Abassi, finally Wali Ahad Bahadur (an enhancement of Wali Ehed), while the other sons of the ruling Nawab used the style Sahibzada before the personal name and only Khan Abassi behind. "Nawabzadi" implies daughters of the reigning nawab.

Elsewhere, rulers who were not styled nawab yet awarded a title nawabzada.


In colloquial usage in English (since 1612),[1] adopted in other Western languages, the form nabob refers to commoners: a merchant-leader of high social status and wealth. "Nabob" derives from the Bengali pronunciation of "nawab": Bengali: নবাব nôbab. During the 18th century in particular, it was widely used as a disparaging term for British merchants or administrators who, having made a fortune in India, returned to Britain and aspired to be recognised as having the higher social status that their new wealth would enable them to maintain. Jos Sedley in Thackeray's Vanity Fair is probably the best known example in fiction. From this specific usage it came to be sometimes used for ostentatiously rich businesspeople in general. It can also be used metaphorically for people who have a grandiose sense of their own importance, as in the famous dismissal of the news media as "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a speech that was delivered by Spiro Agnew and written by William Safire.


A corrupted form of the English Nabob, which in itself is a corruption of the Indian Nawab. Noun representing a person who has a negative disposition or one who tends to disagree with everything. Example of usage "Of course you can do it, just ignore the naybobs".[citation needed]


The word Naib (Arabic: نائب‎) has been historically used to refer to any local leader in some parts of Ottoman Empire and eastern Caucasus (e.g. during Caucasian Imamate).

Today, the word is used to refer to directly-elected legislators in lower houses of parliament in many Arabic-speaking areas in order to contrast them against officers of upper houses (or Shura). The term Majlis al-Nuwwab (Arabic: مجلس النواب‎, literally council of deputies) has been adopted as the name of several legislative lower houses and unicameral legislatures.


Indian states formerly ruled by Nawabs


  1. ^ Origin of NABOB, Retrieved September 16, 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nawab — (en lengua Urdu: نواب y en hindi: नवाब) era originalmente el subedar (gobernante provincial) o virrey de la subah (provincia) de la región del Imperio Mogol, pero que terminó transformándose en un elevado título de nobleza en el mundo Musulmán.… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Nawâb — Nawab Nawab ou Nawaab (ourdou: نواب, hindi: नवाब) est le titre donné à un souverain indien ou pakistanais. Ce titre est donné aux souverains de religion musulmane. Il s agit d un mot anglais, qui pourrait être traduit par émir et qui a donné en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nawab — Na*wab , n. [See {Nabob}.] 1. A deputy ruler or viceroy in India; also, a title given by courtesy to other persons of high rank in the East. [1913 Webster] 2. A rich, retired Anglo Indian; a nabob. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Nawab — ou nawaab (ourdou: نواب, hindi: नवाब) était le titre donné à un souverain indien de religion musulmane. Il s agit d un mot d ourdou, provenant du persan et de l arabe noaib, qui pourrait être traduit par émir ou député et qui a donné en français… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • nawab — [nə wäb′, nəwôb′] n. [Urdu nawwāb: see NABOB] Slang NABOB (sense 1) …   English World dictionary

  • Nawab — Bahadur Khanji III. (mitte) der Nawab von Junagadh Nawab (Urdu: نواب; Hindi: नवाब, Navāb; Bengalisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • nawab — UK [nəˈwɑːb] / US [nəˈwɑb] noun [countable] Word forms nawab : singular nawab plural nawabs Indian English an important minister in the government of some Indian states …   English dictionary

  • nawab — noun Etymology: Urdu nawāb Date: 1758 nabob …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Nawab — Nawạb,   Nawwạb [von Hindi nabāb, aus arabisch nuwwāb, »Regenten«, »Fürsten«], in Indien Titel muslimischer Fürsten; auf Nawab geht der Begriff Nabob zurück …   Universal-Lexikon

  • nawab — /neuh wob , wawb /, n. 1. Also, nabob. a viceroy or deputy governor under the former Mogul empire in India. 2. an honorary title conferred upon Muslims of distinction in India and Pakistan. 3. nabob (def. 3). [1750 60; < Urdu nawwab < Ar nuwwab,… …   Universalium

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