[ ah-yuh-toh-luh ]
/ ˌɑ yəˈtoʊ lə /


(among Shiʿites) a title in the religious hierarchy achieved by scholars who have demonstrated highly advanced knowledge of Islamic law and religion.

Origin of ayatollah

1975–80; < Persian < Arabic āyat allāh sign of God; cf. Allah
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for ayatollah


/ (ˌaɪəˈtɒlə) /


one of a class of Iranian Shiite religious leaders

Word Origin for ayatollah

via Persian from Arabic, from aya sign + Allah god
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

Word Origin and History for ayatollah



honorific title for an Iranian Shiite religious leader, 1950, from Persian, from Arabic ayatu-llah, literally "miraculous sign of God."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper