- "Not a Queen, a Khaleesi."
- ―Daenerys Targaryen
Khaleesi is a Dothraki title referring to the wife of the khal. A khaleesi's status varies greatly from khalasar to khalasar. She could be very influential, riding next to the khal, or she could be worth practically less than the khal's horse, since the khal's bloodriders would sometimes share the khaleesi, but never share the khal's horse.
It is Dothraki tradition that if a khal dies, his khaleesi must retire to join the crones that rule Vaes Dothrak, known as the dosh khaleen. Daenerys Targaryen, however refused this and instead declaring herself a Khaleesi in her own right and formed her own khalasar from what few of Drogo's people hadn't abandoned her.
The status of Daenerys formal title as Khalessi was challenged by the Dothraki and the Dosh Khaleen when she was captured and escorted to Vaes Dothrak. A judgment was conducted in the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen to decide Daenerys fate. Traditionally a Khalessi is placed with the Dosh Khaleen without issue, Daenerys defied tradition by not joining the Dosh Khaleen immediately after her Khal-husband death. Those facilitating the judgement were great Khals, they had complete discretion on what they can choose to do with her including slavery or concubine. During the judgement Daenerys declared the Khals are unfit to rule the Dothraki, so she will. Daenerys burned down the temple with her and the khals inside. She emerged from the burning temple unscathed and earned the respect of all the Dothraki witnessing the event in Vaes Dothrak, they bent before her in awe.
Daenerys not only became the first khaleesi with sovereignty, she is the first ruler (khals included) to unite the Dothraki people into one khalasar; the greatest khalasar in Dothraki history. This forever changed the role and power of a Khaleesi.
- Daenerys Targaryen, called "Daenerys Stormborn" and "Mother of Dragons", self-styled "Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea". Currently rule all of the Dothraki, a khalasar of 100,000.
In the books
According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "khaleesi" is pronounced "khal-EE-see". However, professional linguist David J. Peterson, who developed the Dothraki language for the TV series, states that the word's proper pronunciation is "KHAH-lay-see". The supports the "KHAH-lay-see" pronunciation.