Etymology
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sheik (n.)

also sheikh, "head of an Arab family," also "head of a Muslim religious order," and later also a general title of respect, 1570s, from Arabic shaykh "chief," literally "old man," from base of shakha "to grow old." Popularized by "The Sheik," the 1919 novel in an Arabian setting by E.M. Hull, and the movie version, "The Sheikh" (1921), starring Rudolph Valentino, which gave the word its colloquial sense of "strong, romantic lover." The word gave French fits: Old French had it as seic, esceque, and later forms included scheik, cheikh.

updated on August 21, 2022

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