KĀNOM (khanom, khanum), a title for highborn women in the pre-modern Turkish and Persian worlds. In early Islamic Turkish, it was used for a khan’s wife or a princess, hence as a higher title than begüm. It is attested from Timurid times onwards, and the ambassador to the Timurid court Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (early 15th century) designates the wives of Timur as cano in his Spanish text (Yule and Burnell, p. 479). From later 17th-century Safavid Persia, Sir John Chardin, speaking of the Shah’s womenfolk, states that “Celles dont le roi a des enfans, celles qui sont les maîtresses, et celles qui sont dans les hautes charges, sont traitées de kanum, qui est le féminin du mot de kan” (Doerfer III, p. 182). In older Ottoman Turkish usage, ḵānum had this exalted meaning, but over the course of time, both modern Persian and modern Turkish usage have come to use ḵānom/hanım as a general title of respect for women.
G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen III, Wiesbaden, 1963-75, pp.180-83, no. 1163.
H. Yule and A. C. Burnell, Hobson-Jobson. A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, 2nd ed., London, 1903, p. 479.
(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 2010
Last Updated: April 20, 2012
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