List of English words of Persian origin

From Academic Kids

At a deep cultural level, many Persian and English words are cognates that derive from their shared Proto-Indo-European roots. These cognates are too numerous to list here.

Many words of Persian origin have made their way into English through different circuitous routes. Some of them, like "paradise" date to the cultural contacts between the Persians and Greeks in the Hellenistic culture of Antiquity, and through Greek and then Latin found their way to English. Persian as the second important language of Islam has influenced many languages in the Muslim world, and its words have found their way beyond the Muslim world.

Persia, which was never colonised by outsiders, remained largely impenetrable to English-speaking travellers, well into the 19th century. Persia was protected from Europe by overland trade routes that passed through territory inhospitable to non-Muslims, while trade at Persian ports in the Persian Gulf was in the hands of locals. In contrast, intrepid English traders operated in Mediterranean seaports of the Levant from the 1570s, and some vocabulary describing features of Ottoman culture found their way into the English language. Thus many in the following list of English borrowings, though they were originally from Persian, arrived in English through Turkish mediaries. Compare List of English words of Etruscan origin for a similar situation.

Other words of Persian origin found their way into European languages— and eventually reached English at second-hand— through the Moorish-Christian cultural interface in the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages thus being transmitted through Arabic or, much later, through Hindi during the British Raj.


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A

absinthe 
from Latin absinthum, from ancient Greek apsinthion, perhaps from Persian aspand/spand.
Afghanistan
Persian name for that country
Ahriman
from Persian Ahriman.
Ahura Mazda 
from Old. Pers.
algorithm 
from the name of the Persian scientist Khwarazmi
Angra Mainyu 
older version of Ahriman
Armenia
from Persian Arman.
arsenic 
from zarnig
Asmodeus 
evil spirit, prince of demons, from L. Asmodaeus, from Gk. Asmodaios, from Talmudic Heb. Ashmeday, from Avestan (Old-Iranian) Aesh-ma-dva, lit. "Aeshma the deceitful."
Arya 
from Ariya
aubergine 
from Persian بادنجان Bdinjn itself maybe originally from Sanskrit.
azure 
from Medieval Latin azura, from Arabic al-lāzaward, from Persian lājaward

B

babouche 
via Ar. babush, from Pers. papush, from pa "foot" + posh "covering."
Bactrian 
from Pers. bkhtar "the west."
baksheesh 
from Pers. bakhshish, lit. "gift," from verb bakhshidan "to give."
ban 
"governor of Croatia," from Serbo-Croat. ban "lord, master, ruler," from Pers. ban "prince, lord, chief, governor,"
barbican
from Ar. bāb "gate/door" + Pers. (khāneh "house").
bazaar 
from Persian بازار bāzār (="market"), from Middle-Persian bah-zr ("The Place of Prices").
bezoar 
from pād-zahr
bombast 
from pambak "cotton".
borax 
from burah
bronze 
Perhaps ultimately from Pers. birinj "copper."
bulbul 
from bulbul (=type of migratory songbird native to Kenya)
buzkashi 
from Pers. buz "goat" + kashi "drawing."

C

calabash 
from Pers. kharabuz, Kharbuzeh
cameo 
from Pers. chumahan "agate."
carafe 
probably from Pers. qarabah "a large flagon." or Ar. ghurruf "drinking cup"
caravan 
from kārawān =("to go")
Casper 
from Persian Jasper
cassock 
probably ult. from Pers. kazhagand "padded coat," from kazh "raw silk" + agana "stuffed."
caviar 
from Khg-var ("bringer of eggs")
chador 
from chdor "tent"
check 
check (n.) from O.Fr. eschequier "a check at chess," from eschec, from V.L. *scaccus, from Ar. shah, from Pers. shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah). When the king is in check a player's choices are limited. Meaning widened from chess to general sense of "adverse event, sudden stoppage" and by c.1700 to "a token used to check against loss or theft" (surviving in hat check) and "a check against forgery or alteration," which gave the modern financial use of "bank check, money draft" (first recorded 1798), probably influenced by exchequeur. Check-up "careful examination" is 1921, Amer.Eng., on notion of a checklist of things to be examined.
checkmate 
from Middle French eschec mat, from Arabic shah mat, from Persian shh mt (="the King cannot escape/is dead")
chess 
from Russian Shach, from Persian shah ("the King"), an abbreviation of Shh-mt (Checkmate).
cinnabar 
probably from Pers. zanjifrah
Cumin 
from Kerman
cummerbund 
from Hindi kamarband, from Persian, from kamar (="waist") + band (="band")
Cyrus
from Persian Kurosh, diminutive: Cy

D

Darius Daryoosh
demi-tasse 
from Fr., lit. "half-cup," from demi- + tasse, an O.Fr. borrowing from Arabic tassah, from Pers. tasht "cup, saucer".
dervish 
from Darvish
divan 
via Turkish divan, from Persian dēvān (="place of assembly", "roster"), from Old Persian dipi (="writing, document") + vahanam (="house")

E

Esther
from Persian setareh, its diminutives are: Ess, Essie, Tess, Tessie.

Euphrates

Euphrates 
O.E. Eufrate, from Gk., from Avestan (Old-Iranian) huperethuua "good to cross over," from hu- "good" + peretu- "ford."

F

Farsi 
the local name for Persian in Persian.
Feringhee 
from Pers. Farangi: from the word French: a person from France: the first foreigners that significantly influenced the goverment under the Ghajar dynasty in Iran.
firman 
from Persian فرمان farmn ("decree", "order").

G

galingale 
from Persian خلنجان khalanjan, a plant.
Georgia
from Persian Gurjistan.
gherkin 
possibly ult. from Medieval Gk. angourion "a kind of cucumber," said to be from Pers. angarah
giaour 
from Pers. gaur, variant of gabr "fire-worshipper,"
guitar 
from ancient Greek kithara, perhaps from Persian sitaar "Three snares".

H

henna 
Zie (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=Persian&searchmode=none).
Hindu 
from Pers. Hindu "Indian"

I

India
from Persian Hind.

J

jackal 
from Persian shaghāl, Any of several doglike mammals of the genus Canis of Africa and southern Asia that are mainly foragers feeding on plants, small animals, and occasionally carrion.
jasmine 
from yasmin, the name of a climbing plant with fragrant flowers. Variant Jasmin.
Jasper (boy's name)
from Persian meaning "treasure master".
Jasper (stone)
from Persian Yashp
jujube 
from Pers. zayzafun meaning "soft candy with date-like flavor"
julep 
from gulab (rose-water).

K

kabob 
possibly from Persian kabab, also possibly from Urdu, Arabic, and Turkish
Kaftan 
from Persian خفتان khaftn.
Kazakhstan 
Uses Persian suffix -stan
khaki 
from khaki (="made from soil", "dusty" or "of the colour of soil"), from khak (= "soil"),
Khedive 
via Turkish from Pers. khidiv "prince," derivative of khuda "master, prince," from Old-Persian khvadata- "lord,"
kiosk 
from kushk (="palace, portico, pavilion") or Middle Persian gōšak "corner"
Koh-i-Noor 
from Pers. koh "mountain" + Ar. nur "light."
Kyrgyzstan 
With Persian suffix -stan

L

lacquer 
through Ar. lakk, from Pers. lak from Prakrit lakkhā from Sanskrit lākşā "red dye"
lemon 
possibly from Persian limon, also possibly from Urdu, Arabic, and Turkish
lilac 
from Pers. lilak, variant of nilak "bluish," from nil "indigo"

M

magic 
from magus from Old Persian maguš "mighty one"
  • magus 
    from Old Persian maguš "mighty one"
    • magi 
      from magus from Old Persian maguš "mighty one"
manticore 
from O. Pers. word for "man eater," cf. martiya- "man" + root of khvar- "to eat."
Mausoleum
from the name of a Persian satrap
Mihrab
from Persian Mihr (the God Mithra)
Mithra
from the name of the Persian God Mithra.
Mithraeum
from Persian Mithra
Mithraism
mogul 
from mughul (="Mongolian")
Mosque
through Arabic masjid from Middle-Persian mazgat (House of worship)
Mother
from maadar
mummy 
from Pers. mumiya "asphalt," from mum "wax."
musk 
ultimately from Middle Persian musk, from Sanskrit muska (="testicle") from diminutive of mus (="mouse")
Mussulman 
from Pers. musulman (adj.), from Arabic muslim (q.v.) + Persian adj. suffix -an.
must (n)
via Urdu mast "intoxicated, in rut," from Pers. mast, lit. "intoxicated"

N

naphtha 
via L., from Gk. naphtha "bitumen," perhaps from Pers. naft "oil", "pitch,"
narcissus 
may be from Persian nargis (may also be a Pelasgian word)

O

orange  
from Milanese narans, from Arabic nāranj, from Persian nārang, from Sanskrit nāraṅga, from some Dravidian language, possibly Tamil or Malayalam

P

pagoda 
via Portugeese pagode, from a corruption of Pers. butkada, from but "idol" + kada "dwelling."
pajamas
from Hindi paajaama, from Persian pā (pā) jāmah, from pAy (="leg") + jAma (="garment")
Pahlavi 
from Pahlavi.
paradise 
from Greek paradeisos (=enclosed park"), from Old Persian pairidaeza (="enclosure, park"), from pairi (="around") + diz (="mold, form")
parasang 
from Old-Persian parasang
pard 
Zie (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=Iranian&searchmode=none)
Parsee 
from Prsi
Pasha 
from Pdshh
Pashmina 
from Pashmineh, made from pashm; pashm (= "wool")
peach 
a corruption of the Latin word "Persicum." Peaches are called in Latin malum Persicum (Persian apple) prunum persicum (Persian plum), or simply persicum (pl. persici). This should not be confused with the more modern Linnaean classification Prunus persica, a neologism describing the peach tree itself (from the Latin prunus, -i which signifies "plum tree").
Peri 
from pari
Persepolis 
from Prsa+ Greek polis.
Persis 
from Prs
pilaf 
from pilav (modern Persian speakers say pillaw or polo)
pistachio 
from Latin pistācium, from Greek πιστάκιον, from Persian pistah
popinjay 
from O.Fr. papegai (12c.), from Sp. papagayo, from Ar. babagha', from Pers. babgha "parrot,"
Punjab 
via Hindi Panjab, from Pers. panj "five" + ab "water."

R

roc 
from Persian rukh (name of a legendary bird)
rook 
from Middle English rok, from Middle French roc, from Arabic rukhkh, from Persian رخ rukh (=chess piece)
Rose 
from Latin rosa, probably from ancient Greek rhodon, possibly ult. from Pers. *varda-. Zie (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=Persia&searchmode=none)
Roxana
from Persian: روشنك Roshanak, meaning "little star" its variants in English are meaning "dawn." Variants include, Roxane and Roxanne. Diminutives are Roxie and Roxy.

S

saffron 
Zaferoon
Satrap
from Persian Shatrap and Shahrab.
scarlet 
from Pers. saqirlat "a type of red cloth"
scimitar 
from Pers. shimshir (Shamshir)
seersucker 
from Hindi sirsakar, E. Indian corruption of Pers. shir o shakkar "striped cloth," lit. "milk and sugar".
Sepoy
from Persian Sipahi via Urdu
seraglio 
from sary "inn"
serendipity 
from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, from Persian Sarandip (="Sri Lanka"),
shah 
from shāh, from Old Persian χšāyaþiya (="king"), from an Old Persian verb meaning "to rule"
Shamshir 
from shamshir
shawl 
from shāl
simurgh 
from simurgh
Sipahis
from Persian Sipahi via Turkish
sitar 
via Hindi sitar, from Pers. sitar "three-stringed," from si "three" (O.Pers. thri-) + tar "string"
sowar
from Persian Savr.
spinach 
from French espinache, from Arabic isfānākh, from Persian from isfānāj, ispānāk, or aspanākh
-stan 
from -istn "place" or "where one stands"
Sumac 
possibly from Persian Sumak.

T

tabor 
probably from Middle Pers. tambūr "lute"
taffeta 
from Pers. taftah "silk or linen cloth,"
Tajikistan 
With Persian suffix -stan
Taj Mahal 
from Pers., lit. "the best of buildings;" or "the Crown's Place", second element related to Arabic halla "to lodge."
talc 
from Pers. talk "talc."
tambourine 
from Middle French tambour (="drum"), possibly from Middle Pers. tambūr "lute"
tandoori 
from Pers. tannur "oven, portable furnace,"
tapestry 
from tfteh
Tartar 
from M.L. Tartarus, from Pers. Tatar
tiger 
via Greek tigris from an Iranian source
toque 
from O. Pers. taq "veil, shawl."
tulip 
from French tulipe, from Turkish tlbend, from Persian dulband
Turan 
from Persian توران
turban 
via Turkish tlbend, from Persian dulband
Turkmenistan 
With Persian suffix -stan
Turkoman 
from M.L. Turcomannus, from Pers. Turkman, lit. "Turk-like," from Turk + Persian suffix -man "like."
typhoon 
طوفان from Persian Tufn or Greek Typhon; also affected by Cantonese taai-fung

U

Uzbekistan 
With Persian suffix -stan

V

vizier 
وزير from persian Vizier "minister" from Middle-Persian Vichir. cf. also Arabic Wazir.

X

Xerxes 
Gk. form of O. Pers. Kshayarshan-, lit. "male (i.e. 'hero') among kings," from Kshaya- "king" (cf. shah) + arshan "male, man."

Z

Zarathushtra or Zarathustra 
the Persian prophet
Zena 
girl's name from Persian Zan (woman).
zircon 
from zargn (="gold colour")
zirconium 
from zargn (="gold colour")
Zoroaster 
from Persian Zarathushtra
Zoroastrianism

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Sources

Online etymology dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=pers.&searchmode=none&p=0)

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