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A wilayah (Arabic: wil?ya; Urdu and Persian: velâyat; Turkish: vilayet) is an administrative division, usually translated as "state", "province", or occasionally as "governorate". The word comes from the Arabic "w-l-y", "to govern": a w?li--"governor"--governs a wilayah, "that which is governed". Under the Caliphate, the term referred to any constituent near-sovereign state.

Use in specific countries

In Arabic, wilayah is used to refer to the states of the United States, and the United States of America as a whole is called al-Wil?y?t al-Mutta?idah al-Amr?k?yah, literally meaning "the American United States".

North Africa and Middle East

For Morocco, which is divided into provinces and wil?yas, the translation "province" would cause the distinction to cease. For Sudan, the term state, and for Mauritania, the term region is used.

The governorates of Iraq (muhafazah) are sometimes translated as provinces, in contrast to official Iraqi documents and the general use for other Arab countries. This conflicts somehow with the general translation for muhafazah (governorate) and wil?yah (province).


In the ethnically-diverse Xinjiang region of northwest China, the seven undifferentiated prefectures proper (Chinese: ; pinyin: dìq?; that is, not prefecture-level cities, autonomous prefectures, etc.) are translated into the minority Uygur language as Vilayiti (). For the other, more numerous types of administrative divisions in Xinjiang, however, Uygur uses Russian loanwords like oblasti or rayoni, in common with other Xinjiang languages like Kazakh.

Kenya and Tanzania

In Kenya, the term wilaya is a Swahili term which refers to the administrative districts into which provinces are divided.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines

In Malay, Indonesian, and Tausug, wilayah or wil?ya is a general word meaning "territory", "area" or "region".

In Malaysia, the term

In Philippines, the term

  • Wil?ya sin Lupa' S?g refers to the province of Sulu, Philippines.

Ottoman Empire

Traditionally the provinces of the Ottoman Empire were known as eyâlets, but beginning in 1864, they were gradually restructured as smaller vilâyets--the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic word wil?yah. Most were subdivided into sanjaks.

The current provinces of Turkey are called il in Turkish.

Central Asia and Caucasus

The Persian word for province (velâyat) is still used in several similar forms in Central Asian countries:

During the Soviet period the divisions of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were called oblasts and raions, using Russian terminology.

In the Tsez language, the districts of Dagestan are also referred to as "?" (wilayat), plural "" (wilayatyobi). But the term "" (rayon), plural "" (rayonyabi) is also used.

Caucasus Emirate, a self-proclaimed successor state to the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, is divided into vilayats.

South Asia

In Urdu, the term Vilayat is used to refer to any foreign country. As an adjective Vilayati is used to indicate an imported article or good. In Bengali and Assamese, the term is bilat and bilati (archaic bilaiti), referring exclusively to Britain and British-made. The British slang term blighty derives from this word, via the fact that the foreign British were referred to using this word during the time of the British Raj.[1]


  1. ^ Stuart Thompson, Andrew (2005). The Empire Strikes Back? The Impact Of Imperialism on Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Pearson Education. p. 180. Other Indian words include blighty ('one's home country', from the Hindi word 'bilayati' meaning 'foreign', whence 'British')

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