For the astronomical catalogue service, see VizieR. For the Vizier of ancient Egypt, see Vizier (Ancient Egypt).
Not to be confused with visor.
Arms of Ottoman Vizier
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A vizier (/vɪˈzɪər/, rarely /ˈvɪzjər/;[1] Arabic: وزير; wazīr, Persian: vazīr, Turkish: vezir, Urdu: وزیر, Vazeer; sometimes spelled vazir, vizir, vasir, wazir, vesir, or vezir) is a high-ranking political advisor or minister. The Abbasid caliphs gave the title wazir to a minister formerly called katib (secretary) who was at first merely a helper, but afterwards became the representative and successor of the dapir (official scribe or secretary) of the Sassanian kings.[2]

In modern usage, the term has been used for ministers in the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, East Africa ( Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia) Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

It is also specially used in the only absolute Asian monarchy, the House of Bolkiah of Brunei with the title Prime Vizier or Perdana Wazir in Brunei Malay as the head of all viziers. It is given to the current King Hassanal Bolkiah's second brother, the Prime Vizier Mohamed Bolkiah. In Brunei, an ordinary vizier is known as Pengiran Temenggong.


The word entered into English in 1562 from the Turkish vezir ("counselor"), derived from the Arabic wazir ("viceroy"). Wazir itself has two possible etymologies:

In modern Turkey, there is no usage of 'vezir' for any ministry as suggested in the description above.

Historical ministerial titles

The winter Diwan of a Mughal Vizier.

The Muslim office of vizier, which spread from the Persians, Turks, Arabs and Mongols and neighboring peoples (regardless of the style of the ruler), arose under the first Abbasid caliphs. The vizier stood between sovereign and subjects, representing the former in all matters touching the latter.[8]

The term has been used in two very different ways: either for a unique position, the prime minister at the head of the monarch's government (the term Grand Vizier always refers to such a post), or as a shared 'cabinet rank', rather like a British secretary of state. If one such vizier is the prime minister, he may hold the title of Grand Vizier or another title.

In Islamic states

See also: Grand Vizier
An Iranian Afsharid Vizier.

Modern post-monarchy use

Wazīr is the standard Arabic word for a government minister. Prime Ministers are usually termed Ra'īs al-Wuzara (literally, President of the Ministers) or al-Wazīr al-'Awwal (Prime "First" Minister). The latter term is generally found in the Maghreb, while the former is typical of usage in the Mashriq (broadly defined, including Egypt, Sudan, Levant, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula). Thus, for example, the Prime Minister of Egypt is in Arabic a wazīr.

In Brunei the vizier is known as Pengiran Bendahara.

In Iran the ministers of government are called Vazīr in Persian (e.g. foreign/health Vazīr), and prime minister of state before the removal of the post, was called as Nokhost Vazīr.

In Pakistan, the Prime Minister (de facto ruling politician, formally under the President) is called Vazīr-e Azam (Persian for Grand vizier), other Ministers are styled vazirs.

In India, Vazīr is the official translation of minister in the Urdu language, and is used in ministerial oath taking ceremonies conducted in Urdu.

In East AfricaKenya and Tanzania, ministers are referred to as Waziri in kiSwahili and Prime Ministers as Waziri Mkuu.

In the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan is sometimes given the honorific title of Wazir.

Current Viziers of Brunei

In Brunei, Viziers are divided into 5 titles, two its remains vacant since Brunei independence.

Anachronistic historical use

It is common, even among historians, to apply contemporary terms to cultures whose own authentic titles are (or were when the habit took root) insufficiently known, in this case to pre-Islamic antiquity.

Thus in modern language-translations of the Bible, in Genesis chapter 41, Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, is called Vizier to Pharaoh. In this same chapter of Genesis, Pharaoh changed his newly appointed Vizier's name to Zaphenath-paneah.

Princely title

In the rare case of the Indian princely state of Jafarabad (Jafrabad, founded c.1650), ruled by Thanadars, in 1702 a state called Janjira was founded, with rulers (six incumbents) styled wazir; when, in 1762, Jafarabad and Janjira states entered into personal union, both titles were maintained until (after 1825) the higher style of Nawab was assumed.


In contemporary literature and pantomime, the "Grand Vizier" is a character stereotype and is usually portrayed as a scheming backroom plotter and the clear power behind the throne of a usually bumbling or incompetent monarch. A well-known example of this is the sinister character of Jafar in the Disney animated film Aladdin, who plots and uses magic to take over the entire Kingdom of Agrabah under the nose of the nation's naïve sultan, just as Jaffar in the 1940 movie The Thief of Bagdad dethroned his master, caliph Ahmad. Others include Zigzag from The Thief and the Cobbler (the original inspiration for the character of Jafar in Disney's Aladdin), the comic book character Iznogoud, Prince Sinbad's advisor Yusuf in the DC Vertigo series Fables, and the villains of the video games Prince of Persia and King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Perhaps the origin of this character archetype is the biblical account of Esther. The book details the rise of a Jewish woman to Queen of Persia, and her role in stopping the plot of Haman, chief advisor to the Persian king, to wipe out all Jews living in Persia.

Throughout history the notion of the sinister Grand Vizier has often been invoked when a political leader appears to be developing a cozy relationship with a spiritual advisor of questionable scruples or talents. This stereotype is frequently mentioned in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, as for example in both Sourcery and Interesting Times.

Fictional Grand Viziers

Some famous viziers in history

Influence on chess

In Shatranj, from which modern chess developed, the piece corresponding to the modern chess "queen" (though far weaker) was often called Wazīr. Up to the present, the word for the queen piece in chess is still "vazīr" in Persian, "vezir" in Turkish, "wazir" in Arabic, and "vezér" in Hungarian (meaning "leader").

See also


  1. "Vizier | Define Vizier at". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  2. R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs, p. 257
  3. Goyṭayn, Šelomo D.. Studies in Islamic history and institutions. P.171. Compare Quran 20:29, Quran 25:35 and Quran 94:02.
  4. Goyṭayn, Šelomo D. Studies in Islamic history and institutions. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  5. Dehkhoda Dictionary
  6. Klein, Ernest, A comprehensive etymological dictionary of the English language: Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustrating the history of civilization and culture, Volume 2, Elsevier, 1966.
  7. "vizier", Encyclopædia Britannica 2010, Retrieved on 2010-06-17.


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