Definition of Sunni in US English:



  • 1The larger of the two main branches of Islam, which differs from Shia in its understanding of the Sunna, its conception of religious leadership, and its acceptance of the first three caliphs.

    as modifier ‘a Sunni Muslim’
    Compare with Shia
    ‘their shared Sunni faith’
    • ‘The modern regional divisions of Shia, Sunni, and Kurd correspond roughly to ancient Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria, different lands and peoples who over time created a common culture.’
    • ‘The Kurds in the north, the Sunni Arabs north and west of Baghdad, and the Shiite Arabs of the south and center inhabit vast swaths of territory.’
    • ‘About 50 percent of the people of Yemen now belong to the Shafai sect of Sunni Islam.’
    • ‘He tried to bring water back to the martyrs in the seventh-century battle of Karbala, the conflict that divided the Muslim religion into the Shiite and Sunni sects.’
    • ‘Until recently, guerrilla warfare against occupation forces has come almost entirely from Sunni Muslims, who make up 25 per cent of the Iraqi population.’
    • ‘For example, some countries are predominantly Roman Catholic and others predominantly Sunni.’
    • ‘We analyzed this issue using estimated breakdowns of Muslim populations into Sunni, Shiite, and other sects.’
    • ‘The British relied strongly on the Sunni elite, which grabbed power and privilege for itself, alienating the Shiite heartland.’
    • ‘The wider population of Sunni Muslims is another matter where crucial distinctions need to be made.’
    • ‘The main sects of the Islamic religion practiced in this region are Sunni and Shi'a.’
    • ‘Only five of the Islamic sects are recognised: the Alawite group, Druze, Isma'ilite, Shi'a (of which Hizbollah are a radical part), and the Sunni group.’
    • ‘Leaving aside the division of Islam into two broad communities of Shia and Sunni, there are national differences which influence the thinking of individual Muslims.’
    • ‘The turnout in the main Sunni areas was low, not above 16 per cent.’
    • ‘Clearly, there are other Sunni leaders who people can look to, and the Kurdish region is actually doing quite well.’
    • ‘There is not now, nor has there ever been, any real sense of national identity that would unify the Kurds, the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite Arabs who make up the majority of the Iraqi people.’
    • ‘Syrians tend to identify primarily with their religious group or sect; however, as the majority of the country is Sunni Muslim, this creates a strong feeling of cultural unity.’
    • ‘The idea is one which every Iraqi seems keen to endorse, though each has his own idea of what democracy means, depending on whether he is a Shia, Kurd or Sunni.’
    • ‘It is important to try to get a clearer understanding of Sunni thinking for two reasons.’
    • ‘At the beginning of the twenty-first century, 47 percent of the people profess to be Muslim (mainly Sunni branch) and 44 percent Russian Orthodox.’
    • ‘In 1920, under a League of Nations mandate, the British ruthlessly crushed a Shi'ite uprising, installing members of the Sunni minority as rulers of Iraq.’
    1. 1.1 A Muslim who adheres to the Sunni branch of Islam.
      • ‘He has put together a nonreligious list in hopes of attracting Sunnis, nationalists, and others who don't want to be ruled by Shia religious leaders.’
      • ‘The Sunnis, the 20% minority who have dominated Iraq for centuries, were never conquered.’
      • ‘In it, he revealed that his mother was a Shi'ite and his father a Sunni.’
      • ‘And without provisions to protect the rights of minority Kurds and Sunnis, the entire process could collapse.’
      • ‘I do, however, remember that there was often tension between the Shias and the Sunnis, but, never between the Hindus and the Muslims.’
      • ‘For Islam, Sunnis and Shi'as will also be considered as separate groups.’
      • ‘The Sunnis, who account for only 20 per cent of the population, now feel threatened.’
      • ‘Is it realistic to expect that these elections next Sunday and the formation of a parliament are going to somehow overcome hundreds and hundreds of years of out and out hatred among the Kurds, the Sunnis and Shia?’
      • ‘The Sunnis will find themselves marginalized and disenfranchised by this, even more so than they feel today and the Kurds are going to retreat into their shell.’
      • ‘What's the best way to bring Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds together under a cohesive democracy?’
      • ‘The Shi'as felt this issue had to basically go through the bloodlines, and the Sunnis felt (in terms of succession) it should be the best man for the job.’


Arabic sunnī (adjective), from sunna ‘custom, tradition, rule, law’ (see Sunna) + -i.