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Muhammad VI. al-Habib, 1922–29, Bey of Tunis, in Paris

Bey[a] also spelled as Baig, Bayg, Beigh, Beig, Bek, Baeg or Beg is a Turkic title for a chieftain, and an honorific title traditionally applied to people with special lineages to the leaders or rulers of variously sized areas in the numerous Turkic kingdoms, emirates, sultanates and empires in Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, such as the Ottomans, Timurids or the various khanates and emirates in Central Asia and the Eurasian Steppe. The feminine equivalent title was begum. The regions or provinces where "beys" ruled or which they administered were called beylik, roughly meaning "governorate" and/or "region" (the equivalent of county in other parts of Europe). However the exact scope of power handed to the beks (alternative spelling to beys) varied with each country, thus there was no clear-cut system, rigidly applied to all countries defining all the possible power and prestige that came along with the title.

In modern times, the word is still used formally as a social title for men. It is cited after the name and is used generally with first names and not with last names.

The word entered English from Turkish bey,[1] itself derived from Old Turkic beg,[2] which - in the form bäg - has been mentioned as early as in the Orkhon inscriptions (8th century AD) and is usually translated as "tribal leader".[3][4] The actual origin of the word is still disputed, though it is mostly agreed that it was a loan-word,[3] in Old Turkic.[5] This Turkic word is usually considered a borrowing from an Iranian language.[4][6] However, German Turkologist Gerhard Doerfer assessed the derivation from Iranian as superficially attractive but quite uncertain,[4] and pointed out the possibility that the word may be genuinely Turkic.[3]

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  1. Ottoman Turkish: بك, romanized: beğ, Turkish: bey, Azerbaijani: bəy, Turkmen: beg, Uzbek: бек, Kazakh: би/бек, Kyrgyz: бий/бек, Tatar: бәк, romanized: bäk, Shor: пий/пек, Albanian: beu/bej, Croatian: beg, Serbian: beg, Persian: بیگ, romanized: beyg/beig, Tajik: бек, Arabic: بيه, بك, romanized: bēh, bek


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  1. "Bey". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
  2. "Bey". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Archived from the original on 8 March 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Beg". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Baga". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  5. "Bey" in Nişanyan Dictionary
  6. Alemko Gluhak (1993), Hrvatski etimološki rječnik, August Cesarec: Zagreb, pp.123-124