The word sultan comes from the Arabic language. It means "strength", "authority", or "rulership". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain Muslim rulers who claimed full sovereignty. They did not have to take orders from any higher monarch, without claiming the overall caliphate. There is no specific word for a sultan's wife in Arabic. The word, sultana began to be used (as the feminine version of the Italian word for sultano) in the 16th century in Italy, to describe the wife, mother, daughter, or concubine of a sultan. The Italian word also passed to other European languages.
The dynasty and lands ruled by the Sultan is called a sultanate, which corresponds to a kingdom. During the 20th century, several Sultans in the Arab world changed their title to "Malik", which means "king" in Arabic.