ra·ja or ra·jah (räjə, -zhə)
A prince, chief, or ruler in India or the East Indies.
[Hindi rājā, from Sanskrit, king; see reg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Word History: Raja is familiar to us from the Sanskrit rājā, "king," and mahārājā, "great king." The Sanskrit root raj-, "to rule," comes from the Indo-European root *reg-, "to move in a straight line, direct, rule." The same root appears in Italic (Latin) and Celtic. Rēx means "king" in Latin, coming from *reg-s, whence our regal and, through French, royal. Two of the Gaulish kings familiar to us from Caesar, Dumnorix and Vercingetorix, incorporate the Celtic word rīx, "king," in their names. (Rīx also forms part of the name of that fictitious Gaul Asterix.) Germanic at some time borrowed the Celtic word rīx. It appears as reiks, "ruler," in Gothic, as well as in older Germanic names ending in -ric, such as Alaric and Theodoric, the latter of whom has a name that is equivalent to German Dietrich, "people's king." A derivative of Celtic rīx, *rīg-yo-, meaning "rule, domain," was also borrowed into Germanic, and is the source of German Reich, "rule, empire."
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