Ходжа Н. (hojja_nusreddin) wrote,
Ходжа Н.


Words from all stages of Persian and from many fields have found their way into English, but almost always through the medium of one or more other languages. The earliest were literary words, quoted from Old Persian by classical Greek and Latin authors, which were then carried down to later European languages.

The best known is probably Gk. paradeisos [OPers. *paridaiza-, (from which came NPers. pardaz "a kitchen garden")], used by Xenophon for an "enclosed park" of the Persian kings, whence later a "garden, orchard" generally and specifically by the authors of the Septuagint for the "garden of Eden" and in the New Testament for the "abode of the blessed," in which sense "paradise" first appeared, through Lat. paradisus, in the Anglo-Saxon Gospels of about 1000 C.E.

Xenophon also brought the Achaemenian title for a viceregal governor, in its Median form *xæaƒrapawan- (OPers. xæapawan-, lit., "kingdom-protector"), as satrapeos: through Lat. satrapa, this first appeared in Wyclif's Bible of 1382 (anachronistically, for governors of the Babylonian empire) as "satrap".

Of local products, Pers. nafta- "moist" and "petroleum" (NPers. naft), in the latter meaning assimilated from Akkadian naptáu, reached English in the Gk. form "naphtha";

OPers. *pistaka- (NPers. pesta) gave Gk. pistakion, Lat. pistacium, and so French pistache and "pistachio".

OPers. si(n)kabru- (NPers. æangarf, Arabic zenjafr), a red mineral, appeared in Greek much modified as kinnabari, whence Lat. cinnabaris "cinnabar".

Ancient Persia also gave its name to a fruit, actually originating from China, as Gk. melon persikon "Persian apple," Lat. (malum) persicum, later persica, Italian pesca, French pêche, whence "peach."

Words of this early generation could also produce unexpected offspring.
The Old Persian royal treasury *ganza- (cf. NPers. ganj), and then "treasure" in general, became known in Greek and Latin as "ganza". This gave its name to a small coin in 16th-century Venice, the "gazzetta", by which, as the price asked for them, the first news-sheets of that time became known, whence "gazette".

Other developments were more complicated. 10th-century Greek had pamba‚ kion "cotton," evidently < NPers. pamba(g). Possibly by confusion of this with bombyx "silk-worm, silk" the form bambax, bambaki- "cotton" arose. From this late Latin developed bombax, bombacem, found in Old French as bombace and in English as "bombage" (1553), "bombast" (1568) and "bombasie" (1576), all synonyms of "cotton, cotton-wool." From these came "bombast" in the sense of "padding" and "inflated speech," and "bombasine" for a fabric first silken, then of cotton.

Middle and early New Persian words reached Europe through Arabic, having undergone some inevitable phonetic changes (g > j or q, p > b or f). Most also passed through mediaeval Latin. A few belonged to the learned realm of astrology, like "hyleg," the ruling planet of a nativity, < Arabic hailaj < Mid.Pers. hilag ("one who lets loose"), this a translation of the Greek term aphe‚teos.

More are the names of characteristic features of Persian life, or of products. Here belong "bezoar" < Ar. bazahr < NPers. padzahr "counter-poison"; "fistic", an obsolete name for "pistachio," < Ar. festoq < Mid.Pers. pistag; "julep" < Ar. jolla@b < NPers. golab "rose-water"; "jasmine, jessamine" < Ar. yasamin < NPers. yasaman;
"azure", first the precious stone lapis lazuli, then its bright blue colour, < Ar. (al)-lazoward (with loss of the initial l- in late Latin azura, etc., along with the Ar. article) < NPers. lazjavard;
"musk" < Ar. mesk < NPers. moæk;
"orange", from a form like Spanish naranja, < Ar. naranj < NPers. narang (probably from a north Indian language; cf. late Sanskrit naranµga-).
Two other products of India, the once-prized "zedoary" and "zerumbet," owe their names to the Persian forms zadwar (Ar. jadwar) and zoronbad, respectively.
The link between NPers. tafta, silk cloth, and mediaeval Lat. taffata "taffeta," is missing.

Another crop of Persian words owes its introduction to European contacts with the Turkish empire: "bazaar" < bazar; "dervish" < darvish; "firman" < Turk. ferman < NPers. farman; "divan" < divan; "kiosk" < Turk. köæk < early NPers. kosk; "caravan" < Turk. kervan < NPers. karvan; "caravanserai" < kervansaray and "serai, saray" (palace, or harem) < NPers. saray (the latter largely replaced by "seraglio," from confusion with the similar-sounding Italian serraglio < popular Lat. *serraculum "a place of confinement"); "pasha", earlier "bashaw" < Turk. pasha, ultimately < padiæah; "seraskier" (Turkish Minister of War) < serasker < sar-askar; "spahi" (cavalryman, originally Turkish, later French Algerian) < sipahi (NPers. sepa@h^). Both "turban" and "tulip" (earlier "tulipan," a description of the flower by Europeans) derive from the Turkish pronunciation tülbend of NPers. dolband. The "narghile" tobacco-pipe, with water originally contained in a coconut, NPers. nargil (< Sanskrit narikela), was first described in 1839.
Only a few words have come directly from Persia, through the writings of travellers or of scholars. Thus "shah" first occurs (as "shaugh") in 1566, later than "sophy" (< sáaf) 1539, as the designation of the king of Persia. Other ranks or offices appearing in this way were "mehtar" (1662, groom of the chamber) < mehtar and "mirza". The supernatural "peri" (pari) and "div" were first mentioned in the earliest Persian-English dictionary of 1777-80, the former to appear not long after in literature.
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