Technical Terminology

What's in a name??

Persian - The word in English for that language which is today usually pronounced  "farsi" in its homeland. (Note: English has a word "German" and French has a word "allemand" both of which refer to a language whose  native speakers  call  "Deutsch" or, if speaking about a certain dialect of it "allemanisch". If you say "Deutsch" when speaking English, people are going to think you're strange!)

Fars/Pars/Persis (1) - The name of a certain province in Iran.

Fars/Pars/Persis (2) - The name the ancient Greeks used to refer to the above-mentioned province and all the lands beyond which were inhabited by these same people first encountered in Fars. (Note: The Greeks did the same thing in a place farther east: Sind/Hind/Ind province which was their first stop in the lands beyond the Indus River became the name for a much larger geographical area and remains so today.)

Farsi/Parsi  (1)- (Adjectival form of Fars/Pars) The language of the above province and lands as pronounced by the inhabitants today. Don't forget Farsi-ye Tajiki  (Tajik Persian) spoken in Tajikistan and Farsi-ye Dari (Dari Persian) spoken in Afghanistan and their many, many dialects. I repeat: This is the way native speakers of this language refer to their language. It's not an English word. (Note: There are dialects of this language  where /f/ and /p/ are not distinguishable. And since Arabs lacked /p/ in their language [which is called Arabic and belongs to the very different and unrelated Semitic language family] (Arabs in America still like to bark their cars in barking lots), Arabs have preferred to say "farisi" over "parisi". (I only mention Arabs as they've had an enormous influence (the written script, for example) on the language in which we are trying to do word-processing.) 

Farsi (2) - The word for "Persian" used by some English speakers who either don't know the word "Persian" exists or who wish to make some cultural/political statement. (Or maybe it just has a nice, exotic ring to it??)

Farsi (3) - The name for Persian in Computerese.  It is abbreviated FA.  Microsoft, wherever possible in the documentation now writes "Persian (Farsi)" to cover all bases but unfortunately, you'll have to search under both "Persian" and "Farsi"  or you may miss what you're searching for.  The problem seems to be too well entrenched to fix at this point. Because it is hard enough to do any sort of  Persian computing, I have used the word "Farsi" on this website when giving instructions for setting up your Microsoft software. Please do your part to let others know Persian is the standard word in English and if everyone abides by the standard, we can get our work done with fewer headaches.

Persian (Farsi) - This is the designation for this language that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the Unicode Consortium are sometimes forced to use for backwards compatibility in their character charts.  Because there is a rigorously followed rule that once a character is named, it shall not be changed, you will see things like this: "ARABIC LETTER FARSI YEH" (i.e., the modified Arabic letter "yeh" used in Persian) where you will note that "yeh" is the Arabic colloquial name for " yaa' " and "Farsi" is used instead of "Persian".  These organizations have agreed  that in the overall scheme of things, the benefits of sticking to one name forever, (whatever deficiencies the original namers did not foresee), far outweigh the disadvantages. However, in most contexts and when not specifically quoting character names,  these organizations use only the term "Persian". For newly named characters in other languages, you'll now find things like this: SYRIAC LETTER PERSIAN BHETH.

Parsi - (with "p" only!) The term for this language used by fanatics used to show that they are of the seed of Darius and only the purest Achaemenian blood flows through their veins and that they speak only the most noble form of the language unadulterated by foreign marauders. (Although you should approach this group with caution, you may be pleasantly surprised because there are some decent, friendly and helpful ones included in their ranks who are just trying to get by like the rest of us.) Here is an example (in Persian) of Parsi-speak..

9 Feb 2006 update on above paragraph:  Since the above paragraph was written 4 years ago, the use of the word "Parsi" is much more commonly seen on the internet (and also other print media.)  This is a word whose evolution should be interesting to monitor.  In any case, it is less and less strictly the weapon of fanatics and more and more becoming a part of  the reperatory of web jargon and also spreading to other print media. 

Parsee - Member of the Zoroastrian community settled in India, mainly around Bombay.  The Parsees are the descendants of the Zoroastrian Sasanians who fled their homeland during the time of the spread of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula. The Parsees have flourished in India and have produced many an entrepreneur and scholar and some Parsees have become famous like the late Persis Khambatta (she was the bald one in Star Trek: the Motion Picture back in 1979) and Zubin Mehta,  (conductor of the Israel Philharmonic since 1991. Before that  the New York Philharmonic (1978-91). He hasn't forgotten his native tongue, Gujarati.)

Dari - Yet another synonym for Persian!  The word is believed to be related to "darbaari" meaning "courtly [language]".  It is used to connote an older, classical form of Persian.  It is also the name of the dominant dialect of Persian spoken in modern Afghanistan.  In general, the eastern dialects of Persian have preserved the classical form of the language more than those to the west, most notably that spoken in Tehran.

Afghan - (noun) A person from Afghanistan.  (adjective) [Anyone or anything] from or of Afghanistan.

Afghani - The unit of currency in Afghanistan.

Iranian - The English adjective referring to a person or thing from Iran including its languages.  The Indo-Iranian branch is a subset of the Indo-European language family. (English is also an Indo-European language.) The word "Iranian" meaning the language or language group is normally restricted to scholarly, linguistic contexts.

Iran - A word related to the English word "Aryan" [which used to imply a certain linguistic affiliation  but came to be used in racial contexts.] This is the word in Persian for the name of the geographic homeland of  the Iranian people (of which "Fars" is just a part.) This is also the modern English word for the country which used to be called Persia and is now officially "the Islamic Republic of Iran."   (Since the Sassanian period, the Persians/Iranians have called their homeland "Iran / Eranshahr" while the Achaemanids had called home "Parsaa.")  They didn't mind foreigners calling it "Persia" until around World War II when it became convenient to stress the "Aryan" connection, thus the world was asked to switch to the term "Iran". (Even in those pre-MTV-generation days, somehow, no one noticed the Iran-Aryan connection but instead saw plenty of similarity between Iran-Iraq. Thus we have lots of people out there who have no idea Persia and Iran are the same thing but who think Iran and Iraq are just spelling variants of the same thing!)

Iraq - A modern country with a name in English that sounds a lot like neighboring modern-day Iran but is QUITE unrelated.

Persia - The pre-1935 English (and Western) name for the country now called Iran.  It is the anglicized form of "fars/pars/persis" of the Greeks.  Because some people think "Persia" is synonymous with fine carpets, poetry and a great empire while "Iran" is synonymous with oil and ayatollas, they prefer to use this word instead of "Iran". (Some other people don't like the word "Persia" due to its sounding like an "orientalist" term.)

Further reading on the Persian vs. Farsi headache:

"Farsi; Recently Appread Language!" by Ehsan Yashater

"Persian or Farsi? The Debate Continues..." By Kamran Talattof

"The [English] Proper Name of Our language is Persian" By Hossein Samei

"Farsi or Persian" By Pejman Akbarzadeh

"Farsi, Is This a New Language?!" By Amir-Rostam Beigie

"Persian or Farsi?" By Ali Moslehi


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