Bey/Begum

Definition: a Muslim of higher rank or social status

“Bey” is the male form of this word, “begum” the female. It’s the equivalent of the English “Lady” or “Dame.”

Spellings are all over the map here. The male form can be spelled any which way: Beigh, Beg, Bek, Bey, Baeg or Begh.

Informally, Muslim men will sometimes use “begum” to refer to their own wives.

Why I Looked It Up

I ran into the word “Dey” in Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates. It’s an honorific for “uncle” that was bestowed on the rulers of the barbary coast “The Dey of Algiers.”

This is not “bey,” but I saw that immediately after in some context I don’t remember.

And, in Cutting for Stone a nurse talks to a man who has far too many children:

“I’ll ask Dr. Ghosh to give you a special rate on a vasectomy, two for one. It will be cheaper than doing a tubal ligation on all the begums.”

This is item #30 in a sequence of 244 items.

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