"Khalsa", according to McLeod, is derived from the Arabic or Persian word "Khalisa" which means "to be pure, to be clear, to be free from".
Sikhism emerged in the northwestern part of Indian subcontinent (now parts of Pakistan and India). During the Mughal Empire rule, according to professor Eleanor Nesbitt, khalsa originally meant the land that was possessed directly by the emperor, which was different from jagir land granted to lords in exchange for a promise of loyalty and annual tribute to the emperor. Prior to Guru Gobind Singh, the religious organization was organized through the masands or agents. The masands would collect revenue from rural regions for the Sikh cause, much like jagirs would for the Islamic emperor. The khalsa, in Sikhism, came to mean pure loyalty to the Guru, and not to the intermediary masands who were increasingly becoming corrupt, states Nesbitt.