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ma·ha·ra·ja or ma·ha·ra·jah (mähə-räjə, -zhə)
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n.
1. A king or prince in India ranking above a raja, especially the sovereign of one of the former native states.
2. Used as a title for such a king or prince.

[Sanskrit mahārāja : mahā-, great; see meg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + rāja, king (variant of rājā, king; see reg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]

Word History: The Sanskrit word mahārāja, the source of our word maharaja, means "great king." The first element in this word, mahā- means "great," and it is related to Greek mega- and Latin magnus, both meaning the same thing as the Sanskrit. All three forms derive from Indo-European *meg-, "great." This root became *mik- in Germanic, where an adjective, *mikila-, "great," was formed from it. This became micel, pronounced (mĭchəl), in Old English. The Old English word survives today in much, shortened from Middle English muchel. In Old Norse, *mikila- became mikill, and in the north of England, the Norse word and a variant of the Old English word micel combined to give us the word mickle, nowadays most often heard in the expression (used by both William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser) mickle might, "much strength."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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