Definition of sheikh in US English:


(also sheik, shaykh, shaikh)


  • 1An Arab leader, in particular the chief or head of an Arab tribe, family, or village.

    as title ‘Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan’
    • ‘The sheikh in that village is the leader of the local sports club.’
    • ‘Years ago, a group of us were paid to coach rugby to young Arab sheikhs in Bahrain.’
    • ‘Rather than temper their hunting, the kings, princes and sheikhs are seeking to produce their own supply of houbaras.’
    • ‘Powerful local families or sheiks took their place, setting up their own militias and spawning inter-tribal feuds.’
    • ‘An intimate group of senators and sheiks dined together at Le Cirque.’
    • ‘She lunched in the tents of both the Druze and their sworn enemies, the Beni Sakhr, and met with the sheiks of various Bedouin tribes.’
    • ‘It is not caused by trade unions, Arab oil sheikhs or even the weather.’
    • ‘But while sending in two reporters dressed as Arab sheikhs might seem underhand to some, the story garnered by these methods was firmly in the public interest.’
    • ‘Each family group is headed by a sheik (leader).’
    • ‘My mother was a princess, my father the son of the chief of the sheiks.’
    • ‘We're back with Anthony Quinn, who has played Native Americans, mafia dons, Arab sheiks, Greek peasants, tycoons, Hawaiian chieftains.’
    • ‘The shaykhs and their tribes pledge their allegiance to the ruling Al Saud royal family.’
    • ‘This report is now circulating all over the Arab world to the right people, including the Middle East Arab central bankers, the sheiks, the money manager advisors, etc.’
    • ‘On Sunday, the preparatory board met to begin planning a national congress of 1000 notables, politicians, religious leaders and tribal sheikhs to be held in July.’
    • ‘Highest racing figures on the list are two sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates.’
    • ‘Loyalties depend on personal relationships with tribal chiefs, sheiks or warlords, rather than allegiance to the nation.’
    • ‘At Wednesday's opening of the three day General Assembly special session on children, two girls got a chance to address the presidents, sheikhs and kings from over 180 nations.’
    • ‘The colonel conveyed the same message to tribal sheiks and the mayors of surrounding villages.’
    • ‘Earlier this year, Sophie was the victim of a Sunday newspaper ‘sting’ when an undercover reporter, posing as a rich Arab sheik, caught her on camera being indiscreet about other members of the Royal Family.’
    • ‘I was terrified of the operation, and went and consulted the village sheikh, who told me it wasn't necessary.’
    1. 1.1 A male member of a ruling Arab family.
  • 2A leader in a Muslim community or organization.

    • ‘Where is the outrage from all the international groups, the ICRC, the Red Crescent and all the sheikhs, imams and mullahs?’
    • ‘Writers record the deeds and virtues of Somali sheiks, or religious leaders, some with miraculous powers.’
    • ‘He is our love, he is our sheikh, he is a symbol for Muslims.’
    • ‘Who are the key leaders or sheiks in the community?’
    • ‘We have to ask our Muslim leaders, I mean the Imams, or the sheiks or whatever, but we face another problem now, because we believe that they are not completely free.’
    • ‘Back home in Sydney, Habib took up the blind sheik's cause, organising a protest to support the jailed cleric whom he described as his teacher.’
    • ‘Imams, sheiks, engineers, lawyers, educators, administrators and businessmen are among those who make up the council.’
    • ‘To his mother's amusement and modest chagrin, he took Koranic classes with the local sheikh in public school, because his Muslim neighborhood friends took them.’
    • ‘In his remarks upon receiving the award, the sheikh said, ‘The message of Islam and Muslims is modesty, fairness, security, stability, sympathy, harmony and kindness.’’
    • ‘Shi'ite sheikhs could represent their small tribal constituencies, just as Sunni sheikhs could represent their followers.’
    • ‘The service was led by a priest, a Muslim sheik and a Baptist preacher.’
    • ‘Their path is an attempt to transcend the ego and achieve unity with the divine, with the help of a sheikh (also called pir) and of prayer, meditation and, in the case of the whirling dervishes, dancing.’
    • ‘And the Sufi sheik talks about when you are chanting, I becomes we, and it's no longer the I, and that that's what it's about.’
    • ‘It boasted an advisory board of sheiks (religious leaders) from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Britain and the United States.’
    • ‘Though the domed tomb is revered by Muslims as the burial place of a medieval sheikh, it is regarded in some Jewish circles as the burial spot of the biblical patriarch Joseph.’
    ruler, sovereign, lord, overlord, dynast, leader, monarch, crowned head
    View synonyms


Late 16th century: based on Arabic šayḵ ‘old man, sheikh’, from šāḵa ‘be or grow old’.