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[dey] /deɪ/
the title of the governor of Algiers before the French conquest in 1830.
a title sometimes used by the former rulers of Tunis and Tripoli.
Origin of dey
1650-60; < French < Turkish dayι orig., maternal uncle Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for dey


the title given to commanders or (from 1710) governors of the Janissaries of Algiers (1671–1830)
a title applied by Western writers to various other Ottoman governors, such as the bey of Tunis
Word Origin
C17: from French, from Turkish dayi, literally: maternal uncle, hence title given to an older person
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for dey

Old English dæge "female servant, housekeeper, maid," from Proto-Germanic *daigjon (cf. Old Norse deigja "maid, female servant," Swedish deja "dairymaid"), from PIE *dheigh- "to form, build" (see dough). Now obsolete (though OED says, "Still in living use in parts of Scotland"), it forms the first element of dairy and the second of lady.

The ground sense seems to be "kneader, maker of bread;" advancing by Old Norse deigja and Middle English daie to mean "female servant, woman employed in a house or on a farm." Dæge as "servant" is the second element in many surnames ending in -day (e.g. Faraday, and perhaps Doubleday "servant of the Twin," etc.).


1650s, "title of a military commander in Muslim north Africa," from Turkish dai "maternal uncle," a friendly title used of older men, especially by the Janissaries of Algiers of their commanding officers. There were also deys in Tunis and Tripoli.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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