View Full Version : Retrieved: Non-European Titles for Nobility

07-06-2006, 02:44 AM
Hi all,

I'm trying to find non-European equivalents for titles like Duke/Count/Baron that will fit better with my novel's setting, which is more mediterranean/ancient middle eastern.

This is a fantasy novel, so historical accuracy isn't needed. (I'm sure Medievalist has started twitching :D ) I'm just looking for titles that have a more appropriate flavor than the standard fantasy/European ones, and that will (hopefully) be recognizable as nobility without explanation. I don't want to misuse any historical titles (for instance, satrap is a great title, but I don't have an empire with governor kings over various areas, so there really isn't a position for a satrap, if that makes sense.) The world of my story is divided up into autonomous kingdoms where the nobility and the crown own much of the land.

I've tried to do some research online, but I haven't come up with much.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be tremendously grateful.



hi there Valerie

There are a few - Shah, Caliph,Cor & maharaj spring to mind immediately.

Most of the stuff on the net seems to concentrate on the Eurocentric side of things though.

What might give an interesting twist for a fantasy setting is using mythological beings as titles - Djinn; Afreet etc - there are hundreds of these, and associate creatures or familiars to ancient gods that had their own names eg Fenrir, Hati & Garm. The last three are from Norse mythology, but still work quite nicely as something exotic. You could also have a look at ancient Egypt mythology, since there is a huge pantheon aside from the usual suspects everyone knows.


You might go better, historically speaking, with Sheikh. That title dates back to God knows when, and could mean anything from nobility to a king.

Hi again,

Thank you everyone for the suggestions.

I will probably just use "king" for the king (maybe not, but that's what I'm using thusfar). And I've got "warlord" for the commander-in-chief/field general of the army (there is no navy). Now what I need is three or four names that correspond to the hierarchy of nobles that are beholden to the king, so replacements for duke, count, baron, etc. Those names are just so intrinsically European that they conjure the wrong image. I want my readers to be envisioning Byzantine or Saracen-like nobles, not Medieval or European Renaissance nobles.


You know, you could pretty easily dig these up; just pick a language/culture and time period. German has a lot of peculiar ones; look before the fifteenth century. Also look for Slavic and Finnish titles, or Persian titles. Indian titles too will work for you. Often a good place for titles is to find discussions of court procedures and law codes.

Vassal = 1. (in the feudal system) a person granted the use of land in return for homage and fealty to a lord. 2. a person subject or subordinate to another. (Webster)

Kings could appoint vassals.

Some Swedish noble titles;

Greve, Friherre, Furste, Frlse, Borgare

Thanks for the suggestion, Medivalist. I tried looking with various culture names and things like "nobility", "aristocracy", "titles" and the like, but didn't find much (except a really nice article about Byzantine military titles). Anyway, I never thought to look for court procedures.


Another fairly flexible title is "Amir" or "Emir", which is Arabic and used in several different countries. I think it's more military, though.

Or what about something from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_nobility (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_nobility)? (I just glanced through, so no guarantees on the accuracy! It is Wiki, after all.) There are some titles in the section entitled the institutions and structure of the Armenian nobility. I think for most people these titles are going to be less imagery-burdened even than even terms like Shah and Caliph. Then again, maybe they're too culture-specific. Anyway, good luck!

Spice Islands:
There's loads of Malay titles like Dato, Datuk, Raja, and many others

Cat Scratch:
I've always loved Emperor myself, though some may accuse of stealing from Star Wars. (I think? Haven't seen it.)

Chinese, Qin Dynasty:
Wang = king
Huangdi = Emperor, Additional titles for the Empeor include Son of Heaven

Society was divided into five classes:
Zhuhou (Nobles)
Qing (gentry),
Daifu (gentlemen)
sh (yeoman)
Shumin (commoners) Fengjian (Honours and Awards) divided the noble class into five ranks. :
gong (duke or prince)
hu (marquis)
b, (count)
zǐ, (vicount)
nn (baron) Also - having spent 8 consecutive years living in the Middle East, I can tell you that an Amir or Emir is a prince or chieftain or governor. This title is still used in places like Saudi Arabia and is derived from the Arab word, "to order." The title has also been used as the designation for a military commander - but that job generally falls to a blood royal anyway.

Other Arabic titles:

Ameer-ul-Momineen or Commander of the Faithful (Caliph)

Amir al-Wasir (Chief Minister)

In Lebanon, the ruler had the title: al-Amir al-Hakim

Amirzada (Persian - Prince)

amir al-bahr, general at sea (Admiral)

Amir-i-Nuyan Lieutenant-General.
Amir Panj 'commander of 5,000', i.e. Brigadier-General.
Amir-i-Tuman 'commander of 10,000', i.e. Major-General.
Amir ul-Umara 'Amir of Amirs' (cfr. supra) or 'Commander of Commanders', i.e. Supreme commander ________________________________________________

In Putonghua, the pinyin for 'commoners' should be 'shimin'.

(Re, 'shumin' -- Not sure which dialect's pinyin you've chosen, though (China has loads, heh).)

Pinyin is the standard for the People's Republic ... or those godless commie SOBs as my grandfather used to call them. It's not used in Taiwan nor is it commonly used by American born Chinese such as myself.

Phonetic spelling all depends upon how your ear hears the spoken word. My last name is Chin which immigration and naturalization have managed to spell as Chin, Ch'in, or Chen.

I have a relative with the family name of Chu. Variations of spelling include Chew and Choo.

Pinyin is an effort to standardize the translation of ideographs to roman letters but there's a tremendous schism between main landers of the People's Republic and the Nationalist in Taiwain and ABCs (American born Chinese.)

Speaking for my family, we absolutely hate the communists because they appropriated our house, our land, and our businesses. My grandfather came to the U.S. to work as an illegal alien (in much the same way that Mexicans do today.) The money he earned over many years enabled him to buy a house, expand his farmland, and acquire some businesses. He had returned to China and was on the verge of settling into the "good life" when the communists confiscated everything "in the name of the people."

He was nearly arrested when he asked where the "people" were when he was a starving peasant who couldn't feed his family.

Everything he owned, he earned by the dint of his labor and the sweat of his brow ... and everything disappeared when the communists came to the village of Fou-Shek (Floating Stone.)

My grandfather became a refugee and eventually emigrated to the United States as a legal citizen. He had to start all over again and work hard to support his family.

His hard work paid off and my father became a doctor. My father used his income to help put my uncle through medical school and the two of them then helped my grandfather lead "the good life."

Grandfather never forgave the communists for taking everything he had earned in the name of the "people." To this day, nobody in my family cares about pinyin because we have nothing to do with the People's Republic.

Ouch, Innkeeper! I can understand the fury.

For me, though, I have to know the pinyin system for work. And it's also the accepted romanisation for those wishing to learn Putonghua. But, that's all I'm saying. Back to topic. (^_^)

Bej (Bey) and Hetman are two I can recall, of Ottoman and Polish origins respectively.

Wikipedia, as someone linked to, has some good categories to start with for titles.

Sorry to vent. Please don't take it personally.

Pinyin is a good idea. I think the translation of Chinese should be standardized. I'm just sorry this concept originated in the People's Republic.

Peace ...

Heh, no worries. As I said, understandable. (^_^)

'sall I got.