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 ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.