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[ih-mahm] /ɪˈmɑm/
noun, Islam.
the officiating priest of a mosque.
the title for a Muslim religious leader or chief.
one of a succession of seven or twelve religious leaders, believed to be divinely inspired, of the Shiʿites.
Also, imaum
[ih-mahm, ih-mawm] /ɪˈmɑm, ɪˈmɔm/ (Show IPA)
1605-15; < Arabic imām leader, guide
Related forms
imamship, noun
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for imams
  • Ministers, senior civil servants, imams and notables in embroidered robes rubbed elbows with uniformed military officers.
  • And deporting rabble-rousing imams could mean sending them to countries where they will be tortured.
  • Ministers, priests, rabbis and imams have led prayer services.
  • imams have also met with amnestied prisoners convicted of extremism upon their return to their communities.
  • imams of registered mosques continue to visit prisons, where they have met with prisoners convicted of extremism.
  • The project works with imams to increase community use of health services and products.
  • The twelve imams are viewed as harbors of the faith and as the designated interpreters of law and theology.
  • He collaborated with local imams and sheiks to obtain approval for operations.
  • There were reports that an unknown number of imams were deported throughout the year for preaching messages of intolerance.
British Dictionary definitions for imams


noun (Islam)
a leader of congregational prayer in a mosque
a caliph, as leader of a Muslim community
an honorific title applied to eminent doctors of Islam, such as the founders of the orthodox schools
any of a succession of either seven or twelve religious leaders of the Shiites, regarded by their followers as divinely inspired
Word Origin
C17: from Arabic: leader, from amma he guided
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for imams



1610s, from Arabic, literally "leader; one who precedes," from amma "to go before, precede."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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