i·mam also I·mam (ĭ-mäm)
a. In law and theology, the caliph who is successor to Muhammad as the lawful temporal leader of the Islamic community.
b. The male prayer leader in a mosque.
c. The Muslim worshiper who leads the recitation of prayer when two or more worshipers are present.
2. In Twelver Shia belief, any of 12 descendants of Muhammad regarded as divinely appointed spiritual and temporal leaders.
3. A ruler claiming descent from Muhammad and exercising authority in an Islamic state.
a. Any of the founders of the four schools of law and theology.
b. An authoritative scholar who founds a school of law or theology.
5. Used as a title for an imam.
[Arabic 'imām, leader, imam, from 'amma, to go before, lead; see ʾmm in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus