1550s, from Middle French sultan "ruler of Turkey" (16c.), ultimately from Arabic (Semitic) sultan "ruler, prince, monarch, king, queen," originally "power, dominion." According to Klein's sources, this is from Aramaic shultana "power," from shelet "have power." Earlier English word was soldan, soudan (c. 1300), used indiscriminately of Muslim rulers and sovereigns, from Old French souldan, soudan, from Medieval Latin sultanus. Related: Sultanic.
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