AskDefine | Define divan

Dictionary Definition



1 a long backless sofa (usually with pillows against a wall)
2 a Muslim council of state [syn: diwan]
3 a collection of Persian or Arabic poems (usually by one author) [syn: diwan]
4 a Muslim council chamber or law court [syn: diwan]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Turkish, a sofa.
  1. A council (typically of veziers of the Ottoman Empire) that discussed and recommended new laws and/or law changes to a higher authority (the sultan). The name reflects the fact that the veziers used to sit on a long traditional Turkish sofa while discussing the legal matters. No such legal entity exists in Republic of Turkey, which is the successor state of the Ottoman Empire.


a sofa
  • Hungarian: dívány, kerevet
a council
  • Hungarian: Díván

Extensive Definition

otheruses Diwan
Dīvān or dīwān (Persian دیوان) was a high governmental body in a number of Islamic states, or its chief official (see Diwan (title)).


The word is recorded in English since 1586, meaning "Oriental council of state," from Turkish divan, from Arabic diwan, is a Middle-Persian loan-word in Arabic and was borrowed also at an earlier date into Armenian dīvān "bundle of written sheets, small book, collection of poems" (as in the Divan i-Hafiz), related to debir "writer." Sense evolved through "book of accounts," to "office of accounts," "custom house," "council chamber," then to "long, cushioned seat," such as are found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers. The modern French and Spanish words "douane" and "aduana" also come from "Dewan".


The word first appears in the ninth-century descriptions of the caliphate of Omar I (A.D. 634-644). Great wealth, gained from the Muslim conquests, was pouring into Medina, and a system of business management and administration became necessary. This was copied from the Persians (whose Sassanid empire was being conquered and islamised under Umar) and given the Persian name divan. Later, as the state became more complicated, the term was extended over all the government bureaus. The divan of the Sublime Porte was for long the council of the empire, a sort of cabinet of the Ottoman Empire. It consisted of the Grand Vizier (usually presiding except in the Sultan's presence) and other viziers, and occasionally the Janissary Ağa.
In Javanese and related languages the cognate Dewan is the standard word for council, as in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or Council of People's Representatives.

Ministerial departments

In the sultanate of Morocco, several portfolio Ministries had a title based on Diwan:
  • Diwan al-Alaf: ministry of War.
  • Diwan al-Bar: 'ministry of the Sea', i.e. (overseas=) Foreign ministry.
  • Diwan al-Shikayat (or - Chikayat): ministry of Complaints.


Two types of palatial buildings in Indian courts are called divan. They tend to occur in pairs, as in several of the Mughal imperial capitals, especially Delhi where they are the most famous ones, but also in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, and certain other princely capitals, e.g. Amber and also in Lahore Pakistan.


A court's Hall of Public Audience, where the ruler can hold a mass audience. He would sit on his throne, facing the audience. His minister would assemble the petitions and handed them over to the Emperor and then he would dispense Justice.


A court's Hall of Private Audience, smaller than the Diwan-i-Am. Here envoys and other honored guests are granted a personal audience with the ruler.
divan in French: Divan
divan in Latvian: Divāns (institūcija)
divan in Hungarian: Diván
divan in Dutch: Divan
divan in Polish: Divan
divan in Swedish: Divan (riksråd)
divan in Turkish: Divan (politika)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

British Cabinet, Sanhedrin, US Cabinet, advisory body, advisory council, assembly, association, bench, board, body of advisers, borough council, brain trust, cabinet, camarilla, chamber, city council, common council, conference, congress, consultative assembly, council, council fire, council of ministers, council of state, council of war, county council, court, deliberative assembly, diet, directory, junta, kitchen cabinet, legislature, ministry, parish council, privy council, shadow cabinet, soviet, staff, syndicate, synod, tribunal
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