Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the Star Trek character see Khan Noonien Singh. For a list of people named Khan, see List of people by name: Kh#Khan-Khay.
Khan (sometimes spelled as xan, han) is a title meaning ruler in Mongolian and Turkish. A khan controls a khanate. Whenever appropriate, it is also translated as king. A Khagan ("Khan of Khans") is a title for a more powerful ruler; roughly translated, it means emperor.
The title "Khagan" was first used by Rouran or Xianbei. Among Turkic peoples, it became associated with the Ashina rulers of the Gokturks and their dynastic successors among such peoples as the Khazars. Other rulers were relegated to the title of Khan. The gh sound in "Khagan" later weakened and disappeared becoming Khaan in Modern Mongolian. The Secret History of the Mongols clearly distinguishes Khaghan and Khan: only Genghis and his descendants are called Khaghan; other rulers are referred to as Khan. Over time, though, the distinction was weakened by the large number of rulers who claimed it.
The title Khan was among numerous titles used by the sultans of the Ottoman empire as well as the rulers of the Golden Horde and its descendant states. The title Khan was also used in the Seljuk Turk dynasties of the near-east to designate a head of multiple tribes, clans or nations, who was below an Atabeg in rank. Jurchen and Manchu rulers also used the title Khan (Han in Manchu); for example, Nurhaci was called Genggiyen Han. Rulers of the Gokturks, Avars and Khazars used the title Kaghan.
The titles Khan and Khan Bahadur were also bestowed by the British Raj as an honor akin to the ranks of nobility, often for loyalty to the crown.
Modern family name
Often used a family name, Khan can have one of several connotations, all related to some extent to the same root as described above:
- The term is used almost universally as a surname, or almost a suffix by people of Pashthoon (Pathans) ethnicity living in Afghanistan, India and bordering areas of Pakistan. In this way, it is often a synonym for Pashthoon/Pathan.
- It is also a family name for people that were bestowed the title of Khan or Khan Bahadur by the British Raj.
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