from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A member of any of various Muslim ascetic orders, some of which perform whirling dances and vigorous chanting as acts of ecstatic devotion.
  • n. One that possesses abundant, often frenzied energy: "[She] is a dervish of unfocused energy, an accident about to happen” ( Jane Gross).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A member of Dervish fraternity of Sufism, known for spinning.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A Turkish or Persian monk, especially one who professes extreme poverty and leads an austere life.
  • n. One of the fanatical followers of the Mahdi, in the Sudan, in the 1880's.
  • n. in modern times, a member of an ascetic Mohammedan sect notable for its devotional exercises, which include energetic chanting or shouting and rhythmic bodily movement, such as whirling, leading to a trance-like state or ecstasy. From these exercises the phrase whirling dervish is derived.
  • n. figuratively, a person who whirls or engages in frenzied activity reminiscent of the dervish{3} dancing.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A Mohammedan monk, professing poverty, humility, and chastity; a Mohammedan fakir.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an ascetic Muslim monk; a member of an order noted for devotional exercises involving bodily movements


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Turkish derviş, mendicant, from Persian darvēsh.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Turkish derviş, from Persian درویش (darviš).


  • Although the word dervish is itself a Perso-Arab-Turkic word, the whirling dervishes did not come into existence until the 1200s in Konya, Turkey, where Jalaluddin Rumi, a Sufi mystic who produced some of the world's most enchanting poetry and literature, came to study and teach.

    Firas Al-Atraqchi: Prince of Persia Slaughters Historical Accuracy

  • Moses accordingly prayed and departed but returning a few days afterwards he saw that the dervish was a prisoner and surrounded by a crowd of people.

    The Gulistan of Sa'di

  • One of the men attacked by the dervish was a native non-commissioned officer.

    Khartoum Campaign, 1898 or the Re-Conquest of the Soudan

  • On discovering that the dervish was a voracious eater, he pressed -- I might say forced -- him with savage hospitality to eat largely of every dish, so that, when pipes were brought after supper, the poor dervish was more than satisfied.

    In the Track of the Troops

  • By degrees they persuaded their credulous master that the dervish was a magician, who would in time possess himself of his throne, and the sultan, alarmed, resolved to put him to death.

    The Arabian Nights Entertainments - Complete

  • Dr Iqbal says that the life of a dervish is a very noble way of living but it is different from the life of a mendicant or friar who lives on begging or in seclusion. News

  • Before the warriors of the Mehdi made the term 'dervish' better known, it was commonly understood to signify a beggar.

    Persia Revisited

  • A dervish is a poor man, who is not bound by any vow of poverty to abstain from meat, and may relinquish his profession at will.] "Go, then," said Zobeide, "and bring them in, but make them read what is written over the gate."

    The Arabian Nights Entertainments

  • "Now at the sight of this miracle the gardener knew that the dervish was a holy man, beloved of Allah, and straightway offered him a melon.

    A History of the warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom

  • Of Bairam through the boundless East. ")] [156] {135} [" A kind of dervish or recluse ... regarded as a saint. "

    The Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 2


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  • The history of the whirling dervishes begins with Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi(1200-1275).

    After Rumi's death, his son, Sultan Valad, founded the Mevlevi Order, sometimes known as the Whirling Dervishes.

    The Sema dance, the sacred Sufi practice of whirling or meditative turning, has been passed down for over seven hundred years, as have the music, zikr (sacred chanting), poetry, and the etiquette of this tradition.

    Women and men alike were in the Order and whirled together for three hundred years after Rumi's death. Finally, after more than four hundred years in which were separated in worship, men and women are again participating in the Sema together.

    January 18, 2009

  • December 6, 2006