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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. 2014.
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Examples from the web for imam
  • Two months earlier, it had been the turn of the former imam at the mosque.
  • The imam was round and jolly and sat cross-legged under a whirring ceiling fan.
  • When the sun set an imam came out to chant the evening prayer.
  • Nothing brings the imam more joy than guiding them to marriage.
  • The imam cried while praying for the dead and wounded.
  • He moves from artifact to structure to event, from king to president to imam, with a relentless horizontality.
  • His pandit, his imam and his priest are less than pleased.
  • He also had imam malik, the founder of another school of law, flogged.
British Dictionary definitions for imam


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 imam

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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