Kha Khan
Latin alphabet:qaγan
Old Turkic
Latin alphabet:qağan
Old Turkic:𐰴𐰍𐰣
Latin alphabet:kağan
Latin alphabet:hakan
Cyrillic script:қаған
Latin alphabet:qaǵan
Cyrillic script:каган
Latin alphabet:kagan
Cyrillic script:хаан
Mongolian Script:ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ
Transliteration:qagan, xagan
Latin alphabet:kagán
Simplified Chinese:可汗
Hanyu Pinyin :kèhán
Persian alphabet:خاقان
Latin alphabet:Xâqân
Revised Romanization:gahan

Khagan or Qaghan (Old Turkic: 𐰴𐰍𐰣kaɣan; Mongolian: хаан, khaan, Uyghur: قاغان )[note 1] is a title of imperial rank in the Turkic, Mongolic and some other languages, equal to the status of emperor and someone who rules a khaganate (empire).[1] The female equivalent is Khatun.

It may also be translated as Khan of Khans, equivalent to King of Kings. In modern Turkic, the title became Khaan with the 'g' sound becoming almost silent or non-existent (i.e. a very light voiceless velar fricative); the ğ in modern Turkish Kağan is also silent. Since the division of the Mongol Empire, emperors of the Yuan dynasty held the title of Khagan and their successors in Mongolia continued to have the title. Kağan and Kaan are common Turkish names in Turkey.

The common western rendering as Great Khan (or Grand Khan), notably in the case of the Mongol Empire, is translation of Yekhe Khagan (Great Emperor or Их Хаан).


The term is of unknown origin and possibly a loanword from the Ruanruan language.[2] According to Vovin (2007, 2010) the term comes from qaγan (meaning "emperor" or "supreme ruler") and was later used in several languages, especially in Turkic and Mongolic.[3]

Turkic and Para-Mongolic origin has been suggested by a number of scholars including Ramstedt, Shiratori, Sinor and Doerfer, and was reportedly first used by the Xianbei. While Sinor believes qaγan or qapγan is an intensification of qan just as qap-qara is an intensification of qara "black", in Turkic (with the eventual loss of the p), Shiratori rejects a Turkic etymology, instead supporting a Mongolic origin for both qan and the female form qatun.[4][5]

According to Vovin, the word *qa-qan "great-qan" (*qa- for "great" or "supreme") is of non-Altaic origin, but instead linked to Yeniseian *qε> "big" or "great". The origin of qan itself is harder according to Vovin. He says that the origin for the word qan is not found in any reconstructed proto-language and was used widely by Turkic, Mongolic, Chinese and Korean people with variations from kan, qan, han and hwan. A relation exists possibly to the Yeniseian words *qij or *qaj meaning "ruler".

It may be impossible to prove the ultimate origin of the title, but Vovin says: "Thus, it seems to be quite likely that the ultimate source of both qaγan and qan can be traced back to Xiong-nu and Yeniseian".[3]