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Persian Words Every American Is Using Casually

He's an SEO content writer who enjoys researching interesting topics and writing about them. (And he just loves Google Discover).

interrelation-of-farsi-and-english

The interrelation of Farsi and English is not a brand-new linguistics topic. Yet many Americans have no clues they’re using Persian words in their everyday dialogues.

Farsi, spoken by 1.5% of the world’s population, has contributed a lot to verbal communications all around the globe. Its influence can be observed in most Indo-European languages, especially English.

You Are Speaking Farsi Even Though You're an American

Read the following sentence: “a father loves his daughter as well as his mother and brother.” Does it sound unusual? Probably not. But what if I told you, 33.33% of this statement is in Persian?

/ˈfɑːðər/, /ˈdɔːtər/, /ˈmʌðər/, and /ˈbrʌðər/ are some examples of Persian-rooted terms that you’re using every day. What’s fascinating is that the original pronunciations have gone through little to no change. A Farsi speaker would pronounce them as /pedær/, /dokhtær/, /mɑːdær/, and /bærɑːdær/.

interrelation-of-farsi-and-english

What Are Some Persian Words in English?

Here's a list of 13 Farsi words that have found their way into English.

Lemon

Iranians literally handed a lemon to the globe 600 years ago—in the right way, though. Not only did they introduce a brand-new fruit, but they also offered a free name for it. Arabs of the time were the first foreigners to hear the Sanskrit term Limo /lɪːmʊ̈/. But they preferred to pronounce it as ‘Laimon’ /læɪmʊ̈n/, similar to the combination of the English terms ‘lay’ and ‘moon.’

Later, the European businesspeople discovered the so-called “laimon” through Arabs and helped to spread it internationally. Eventually, the Farsi root for lemon, mixed with some Arabic flavor, and European curiosity led to the current English term, lemon.

Spinach

Did Popeye the Sailor know that his power is coming from a Persian vegetable? The Chinse coined the term “Persian Vegetable” to refer to spinach.

The term’s Farsi pronunciation is ‘esfenaj’ /'əsfənɑː dʒ /. So, if you exclude the added [p] sound in the English version, it sounds pretty much the same in both languages.

Pistachio

The Italians started using ‘pistacchio’ 1,500 years ago. So, it’s one of the oldest Farsi terms that has spread around Europe. But the pronunciation has changed throughout time. Indeed, Iranians pronounce it as ‘pesteh’ /pɛstɛ/.

The first appearance of pistachio in the US English dates back to the 1880s. But they liked it so much that they turned the US into the second biggest pistachio producer. (You can already guess who’s in the first place, though).

Sugar

Persians decrypted the formula of producing honey without bees when Alexander the Great visited India. Right after his significant discovery, they began its mass production in the territory of Persia, where the term ‘shakar’ /ʃəkær/ appeared to be its name.

But when Arabs conquered Iran in 651, shakar’s secret formula got out of the box and spread all over the world. Arabs called it ‘Sokar’ /sɔk’kær/ because they couldn’t pronounce the [ʃ] sound. But they managed to sell it to the European traders of the time and make considerable money. The English term sugar, however, is derived from Middle French ‘sucre,’ and Old French ‘çucre’ /ˈt͡sy.krə/.

Caravan & Van

Back when there were no police officers around, people were in charge of their security. That’s why Persians traveled as groups called ‘Karwan’ /Kɑːɹwɑːn/. Nowadays, the word's usage has changed enormously, and even Iranians employ it to refer to a recreational vehicle.

interrelation-of-farsi-and-english

Pyjamas or Pajamas

You may invite your friends for a PJs party this weekend, not knowing the abbreviated word is rooted in Farsi. Yes, the symbols of comfort, Pyjamas were popular in Iran before Indians introduced them to the world. The word 'pa-ja-meh'/pɑːɪ- dʒ ɑːməh/ is a combination of two terms' pa'/pɑːɪ/ meaning leg, and 'ja-meh' / dʒ ɑːməh/ an equivalent for clothes.

So, Pyjamas were pieces of clothes for the legs—though the usage has changed a bit recently.

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Paradise

Did you know that Persians created paradise? Well, technically, God built it to host his most valuable people. But the term "paradeaza"/pɑɹɑ'-dæ'əzɑː/ was first found in Median language—which is an old Iranian dialect. "para"/pɑɹɑ'/ refers to vast gardens. The term "deaza"/dæ'əzɑː/ signifies 'walls.' So, paradise actually refers to an extensive garden covered with walls.

Bulbul

"Not forever does the bulbul sing in balmy shades of bowers…" says Khushwant Singh. But Iranians believe that this bird is "hezar avaz," meaning it has thousands of songs to sing. Bulbul /bɔl-bɔl/ is a favorite bird in Farsi literature, and there are thousands of poems devoted to its sound and physical beauty. And it has made its way into other Indo-European languages as well.

An Iranian Bazaar

An Iranian Bazaar

Bazaar & Pasar

Next time you’re talking about the bazaar sale, mind that you’re speaking Persian. ‘Bazar’ /bɑːzɑːɹ/ roots in the term ‘Baha-chaar’ /bæhaː-chɑːɹ/ which means a place for getting quotes. Ancient Persia was filled with bazaars where farmers and tradespeople sold their goods.

Kiosk

French people took a Farsi word, changed it a bit, and brought it back. The root term for kiosk is the Persian ‘kushk’ /kʊ̈ʃk/, meaning a small pavilion open on some sides and placed in a public area.

The actual word was given out to the European by Turks. But the transformed version, ‘kiosk,’ came back to Farsi later. Nowadays, Persians say ‘bad-ge’ /bɑːd-dʒ/ to refer to kiosks.

Mummy

When the movie was out, lots of people changed their minds about the harmless-looking mummies. As you already guessed, mummy is a Farsi word that comes from ‘Mum’ /mʊ̈m/ meaning wax. Do you need me to remind you it's the substance used to embalm the corpses? I don’t think so.

Pashm & Pashmina

Even though some thought the name for the material is Kashmir, the actual name is ‘Pashmineh’ [pashm = wool] /pæʃmɪ̈nɛ/ [made of wool]. Europeans found this textile in Kashmir and brought it to their lands as a precious piece of cloth. And it's still a luxury fabric in most regions—thanks to its troublesome production procedure.

The List Goes on

The list of Farsi words in English is much longer. You only read about the most common ones here. If the topic interests you, check out the complete list of English words of Persian origin.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do some people in northern Iran have Russian roots?

Answer: Yes, they do. Iranian Russians are mainly the relatives of Russians who chose to live in northern Iran after the last Russo-Persian Wars (they mainly live in cities such as Talesh, Gilan).

Nowadays, however, you can see some Russian citizens living in southern Iran as well. But they are usually technicians working at oil companies.

Here's a link that will provide you with more information on the topic:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russians_in_Iran

© 2019 Mohsen Baqery

Comments

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on December 16, 2019:

Thanks for your kind words Emre. Based on your name and comment, I assume you're Turkish. And that's a good reason for me to reply with Turkish language as I spent most of my learning this beautiful Turkic language.

So... Sağul kardeşim, Allah senden'de razı olsun. Umarım diğer yazılarımı'da okuyup beğenirsin. :)

Emre on December 15, 2019:

May Allah be pleased with you. These are interesting

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on July 02, 2019:

Thank you, Alexander. Honestly, I agree that the relationship between these two languages is fascinating. I had lots of "wow" moments writing this Hub.

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on July 02, 2019:

This is fascinating.

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on July 01, 2019:

Thank you.

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on July 01, 2019:

Thank you so much. Your words warmed my heart.

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on July 01, 2019:

Thanks Hamed. I appreciate your kind words.

Mohsen Baqery (author) from Iran on July 01, 2019:

Thank you

Hamed on July 01, 2019:

Well done Mohsen!

Lilcandy on July 01, 2019:

Proud of You! You're So much good at your work. Write and Enjoy ...

Kazem on June 30, 2019:

Excellent

Dani on June 30, 2019:

Awesome article , lots of thanks

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