In the Arabic language the word sīra or sīrat (Arabic: سيرة) comes from the verb sāra, which means to travel or to be on a journey. A person's sīra is that person’s journey through life, or biography, encompassing their birth, events in their life, manners and characteristics, and their death. In modern usage it may also refer to a person's resume. It is sometimes written as "seera", "sirah" or "sirat", all meaning "life" or "journey". In Islamic literature, the plural form, siyar, could also refer to the rules of war and dealing with non-Muslims.
The phrase sīrat rasūl allāh, or as-sīra al-nabawiyya, refers to the study of the life of Muhammad. The term sīra was first linked to the biography of Muhammad by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, and later popularized by the work of Ibn Hisham. In the first two centuries of Islamic history, sīra was more commonly known as maghāzī (literally, stories of military expeditions), which is now considered to be only a subset of sīra -- one that concerns the military campaigns of Muhammad.
Early works of sīra consist of multiple historical reports, or akhbār, and each report is called a khabar. Sometimes the word tradition or hadith is used instead.