the title of the governor of Algiers before the French conquest in 1830.
a title sometimes used by the former rulers of Tunis and Tripoli.

1650–60; < French < Turkish dayι orig., maternal uncle Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
dey (deɪ)
1.  the title given to commanders or (from 1710) governors of the Janissaries of Algiers (1671--1830)
2.  a title applied by Western writers to various other Ottoman governors, such as the bey of Tunis
[C17: from French, from Turkish dayi, literally: maternal uncle, hence title given to an older person]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. dæge "female servant, housekeeper, maid," from P.Gmc. *daigjon, from PIE *dheigh- "to form, build" (see dough). Now obsolete (though OED says, "Still in living use in parts of Scotland"), it forms the first element of dairy and the second of lady. The ground sense
seems to be "kneader, maker of bread;" advancing by O.N. deigja and M.E. daie to mean "female servant, woman employed in a house or on a farm." Dæge as "servant" is the second element in many surnames ending in -day (e.g. Faraday, and perhaps Doubleday "servant of the Twin," etc.).

1659, "title of a military commander in Muslim north Africa," from Turk. dai "maternal uncle," a friendly title used of older men, especially by the Janissaries of Algiers of their commanding officers. There were also deys in Tunis and Tripoli.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in the Ottoman provinces of Algiers and Tunis, an honorary title conferred upon exceptionally able corsair leaders; also, a lower rank of officer in the Janissaries. In late 16th-century Tunis, a dey commanded the army and eventually was in sole control of the state, but by 1705 the title had disappeared from official lists. The head of the Algerian regency, elected by fellow Janissary officers (from 1689), was titled dey, and, though his family life was restricted to prevent succession claims and he was confined to Algiers, he had virtually absolute power; 30 such deys ruled Algiers in succession between 1671 and 1830

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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