Term initially meaning tribal council or council of tribes. After the advent of Islam, denoted a caliph's or sultan's audience chamber. Also referred to a gathering of a select group of people in the presence of a leading notable, religious dignitary, or well-known poet. In modern times, it generally refers to an institution set up to deal with matters pertaining to the public interest or domain. In the second half of the nineteenth century, it denoted an organization with clearly defined aims and precise internal regulations. In the twentieth century, it referred to a variety of official, private, and social institutions. Most frequently refers to parliamentary institutions endowed with legislative authority or deliberative functions.