Middle Persian

Last updated
Middle Persian
𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪 Pārsīk or Pārsīg
Region Sasanian Empire
Ethnicity Persian people
Eraevolved into Early New Persian by the 9th century; thereafter used only by Zoroastrian priests for exegesis and religious instruction.
Early form
Pahlavi scripts, Manichaean alphabet, Avestan alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 pal
ISO 639-3 Either:
pal   Zoroastrian Middle Persian ("Pahlavi")
xmn   Manichaean Middle Persian (Manichaean script)
Glottolog pahl1241  Pahlavi [1]
Linguasphere 58-AAC-ca

Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known as by its endonym Parsig (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪 pārsīg) or Parsik, is the Middle Iranian language or ethnolect of southwestern Iran that during the Sasanian Empire (224–654) became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions of the empire as well. Middle Persian is classified as a Western Iranian language. It descended from Old Persian, the language of Achaemenid Empire and it is the linguistic ancestor of Modern Persian.

An ethnolect is generally defined as a language variety that mark speakers as members of ethnic groups who originally used another language or distinctive variety. According to another definition, an ethnolect is any speech variety associated with a specific ethnic group. It may be a distinguishing mark of social identity, both within the group and for outsiders. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and dialect.

Sasanian Empire last Persian empire before the rise of Islam

The Sasanian Empire, or the Neo-Persian Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians, was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. Named after the House of Sasan, it ruled from 224 to 651 AD. The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognised as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.

Prestige is the level of regard normally accorded a specific language or dialect within a speech community, relative to other languages or dialects. The concept of prestige in sociolinguistics provides one explanation for the phenomenon of variation in form, among speakers of a language or languages. Prestige varieties are those varieties which are generally considered, by a society, to be the most "correct" or otherwise superior variety. The prestige variety, in many cases, is the standard form of the language though there are exceptions, particularly in situations of covert prestige where a non-standard dialect is highly valued. In addition to dialects and languages, prestige is also applied to smaller linguistic features, such as the pronunciation or usage of words or grammatical constructs, which may not be pronounced enough to constitute a separate dialect.


Traces of Middle Persian are found in remnants of Sasanian inscriptions and Egyptian papyri, coins and seals, fragments of Manichaean writings, and treatises and Zoroastrian books from the Sasanian era, as well as in the post-Sasanian Zoroastrian variant of the language sometimes known as Pahlavi, which originally referred to the Pahlavi scripts, [2] [3] and that was also the preferred writing system for several other Middle Iranian languages. Aside from the Aramaic alphabet-derived Pahlavi script, [4] Zoroastrian Middle Persian was occasionally also written in Pazend, a system derived from the Avestan alphabet that, unlike Pahlavi, indicated vowels and did not employ logograms. Manichaean Middle Persian texts were written in the Manichaean alphabet, which also derives from Aramaic but in an Eastern Iranian form via the Sogdian alphabet.

Papyrus Writing and painting implement

Papyrus is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge. Papyrus can also refer to a document written on sheets of such material, joined together side by side and rolled up into a scroll, an early form of a book.

Pahlavi or Pahlevi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are

The ancient Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinct from it by the 8th century BC. It was used to write the Aramaic language and had displaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, itself a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet, for the writing of Hebrew. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are also used as matres lectionis to indicate long vowels.


"Middle Iranian" is the name given to middle stage of development of the numerous Iranian languages and dialects. [5] :1 The middle stage of Iranian languages begins around 450 BCE and ends around 650 CE. One of those Middle Iranian languages is Middle Persian, i.e. the middle stage of the language of the Persians, an Iranian peoples of Persia proper, which lies in the south-western highlands on the border with Babylonia. The Persians called their language Parsik, meaning "Persian".

Iranian languages language family

The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Iranian peoples.

Persis Region

Persis, better known as Persia, or "Persia proper", is a region located to the southwest of modern Iran. The Persians are thought to have initially migrated either from Central Asia or, more probably, from the north through the Caucasus. They would then have migrated to the current region of Persis in the early 1st millennium BC. The country name Persia was derived directly from the Old Persian Parsa.

Another Middle Iranian language was Parthian, i.e. the language of the northwestern Iranian peoples of Parthia proper, which lies along the southern/south-eastern edge of the Caspian sea and is adjacent to the boundary between western and eastern Iranian languages. The Parthians called their language Parthawik, meaning "Parthian". Via regular sound changes Parthawik became Pahlawik, from which the word 'Pahlavi' eventually evolved. The -ik in parsik and parthawik was a regular Middle Iranian appurtenant suffix for "pertaining to". The New Persian equivalent of -ik is -i.

The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Iran. Parthian was the language of state of the Arsacid Parthian Empire, as well as of its eponymous branches of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, and the Arsacid dynasty of Caucasian Albania.

When the Arsacids (who were Parthians) came to power in the 3rd-century BCE, they inherited the use of written Greek (from the successors of Alexander the Great) as the language of government. Under the cultural influence of the Greeks (Hellenization), some Middle Iranian languages, such as Bactrian, also had begun to be written in Greek script. But yet other Middle Iranian languages began to be written in a script derived from Aramaic. This occurred primarily because written Aramaic had previously been the written language of government of the former Achaemenids, and the government scribes had carried that practice all over the empire. This practice had led to others adopting Imperial Aramaic as the language of communications, both between Iranians and non-Iranians, as well as between Iranians. [6] :1251-1253 The transition from Imperial Aramaic to Middle Iranian took place very slowly, with a slow increase of more and more Iranian words so that Aramaic with Iranian elements gradually changed into Iranian with Aramaic elements. [7] :1151 Under Arsacid hegemony, this Aramaic-derived writing system for Iranian languages came to be associated with the Parthians in particular (it may have originated in the Parthian chancellories [7] :1151), and thus the writing system came to be called pahlavi "Parthian" too. [8] :33

Parthian Empire Iranian empire ruled by Arsacids

The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, modern-day Turkmenistan and north-western Afghanistan. Then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire; Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to western Afghanistan and north-western Pakistan. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

Alexander the Great King of Macedonia

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

Hellenization historical spread of ancient Greek culture

Hellenization or Hellenism is the historical spread of ancient Greek culture, religion, and, to a lesser extent, language over foreign peoples conquered by Greeks or brought into their sphere of influence, particularly during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements, and these Greek influences spread from the Mediterranean basin as far east as modern-day Pakistan. In modern times, Hellenization has been associated with the adoption of modern Greek culture and the ethnic and cultural homogenization of Greece.

Aside from Parthian, Aramaic-derived writing was adopted for at least four other Middle Iranian languages, one of which was Middle Persian. In the 3rd-century CE, the Parthian Arsacids were overthrown by the Sassanids, who were natives of the south-west and thus spoke Middle Persian as their native language. Under Sassanid hegemony, the Middle Persian language became a prestige dialect and thus also came to be used by non-Persian Iranians. In the 7th-century, the Sassanids were overthrown by the Arabs. Under Arab influence, Iranian languages began be written in Arabic script (adapted to Iranian phonology), while Middle Persian began to rapidly evolve into New Persian and the name parsik became Arabicized farsi. Not all Iranians were comfortable with these Arabic-influenced developments, in particular, members of the literate elite, which in Sassanid times consisted primarily of Zoroastrian priests. Those former elites vigorously rejected what they perceived as 'Un-Iranian', and continued to use the "old" language (i.e. Middle Persian) and Aramaic-derived writing system. [8] :33 In time, the name of the writing system, pahlavi "Parthian", began to be applied to the "old" Middle Persian language as well, thus distinguishing it from the "new" language, farsi. [8] :32-33 Consequently, 'pahlavi' came to denote the particularly Zoroastrian, exclusively written, late form of Middle Persian. [9] Since almost all surviving Middle Persian literature is in this particular late form of exclusively written Zoroastrian Middle Persian, in popular imagination the term 'Pahlavi' became synonymous with Middle Persian itself.

Arabic script Writing system used for writing several languages of Asia and Africa

The Arabic script is the writing system used for writing Arabic and several other languages of Asia and Africa, such as Persian, Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Sindhi, Pashto, Lurish, Urdu, Mandinka, and others. Until the 16th century, it was also used to write some texts in Spanish. Additionally, prior to the language reform in 1928, it was the writing system of Turkish. It is the second-most widely used writing system in the world by the number of countries using it and the third by the number of users, after Latin and Chinese characters.

Anīrân or Anērān is an ethno-linguistic term that signifies "non-Iranian" or "non-Iran" (non-Aryan). Thus, in a general sense, 'Aniran' signifies lands where Iranian languages are not spoken. In a pejorative sense, it denotes "a political and religious enemy of Iran and Zoroastrianism."

Middle Persian literature

Middle Persian literature is the corpus of written works composed in Middle Persian, that is, the Middle Iranian dialect of Persia proper, the region in the south-western corner of the Iranian plateau. Middle Persian was the prestige dialect during the era of Sassanid dynasty.

The ISO 639 language code for Middle Persian is pal, which reflects the post-Sasanian era use of the term Pahlavi to refer to the language and not only the script.

Transition from Old Persian

History of the
Persian language
Proto-Indo-European (c. 3000 BCE)

Indo-Iranian languages

Proto-Indo-Iranian (c. 2000 BCE)

Iranian languages

Proto-Iranian (c. 1500 BCE)

Western Iranian languages

Old Persian (c. 525 – 300 BCE)

Old Persian cuneiform

Middle Persian (c. 300 BCE – 800 CE)

Pahlavi scripts Manichaean alphabet Avestan alphabet

Modern Persian (from 800)

Persian alphabet Tajiki Cyrillic alphabet

In the classification of the Iranian languages, the Middle Period includes those languages which were common in Iran from the fall of the Achaemenid Empire in the fourth century BCE up to the fall of the Sasanian Empire in the seventh century CE.

The most important and distinct development in the structure of Iranian languages of this period is the transformation from the synthetic form of the Old Period (Old Persian and Avestan) to an analytic form:

Transition to New Persian

The modern-day descendant of Middle Persian is New Persian. The changes between late Middle and Early New Persian were very gradual, and in the 10th-11th centuries, Middle Persian texts were still intelligible to speakers of Early New Persian. However, there are definite differences that had taken place already by the 10th century:

Surviving literature

Pahlavi Middle Persian is the language of quite a large body of literature which details the traditions and prescriptions of Zoroastrianism, which was the state religion of Sasanian Iran (224 to c. 650) before the Muslim conquest of Persia. The earliest texts in Zoroastrian Middle Persian were probably written down in late Sasanian times (6th–7th centuries), although they represent the codification of earlier oral tradition. [10] However, most texts, including the translated versions of the Zoroastrian canon, date from the ninth to the 11th century, when Middle Persian had long ceased to be a spoken language, so they reflect the state of affairs in living Middle Persian only indirectly. The surviving manuscripts are usually 14th-century copies. [2] Other, less abundantly attested varieties are Manichaean Middle Persian, used for a sizable amount of Manichaean religious writings, including many theological texts, homilies and hymns (3rd–9th, possibly 13th century), and the Middle Persian of the Church of the East, evidenced in the Pahlavi Psalter (7th century); these were used until the beginning of the second millennium in many places in Central Asia, including Turpan and even localities in South India. [11] All three differ minimally from one another and indeed the less ambiguous and archaizing scripts of the latter two have helped to elucidate some aspects of the Sasanian-era pronunciation of the former. [12]


Below is transcription and translation of the first page of the facsimile known as Book of Arda Viraf , originally written in a Pahlavi script.


pad nām ī yazdān

ēdōn gōwēnd kū ēw-bār ahlaw zardušt dēn ī padīrift andar gēhān rawāg be kard. tā bawandagīh [ī] sēsad sāl dēn andar abēzagīh ud mardōm andar abē-gumānīh būd hēnd. ud pas gizistag gannāg mēnōg [ī] druwand gumān kardan ī mardōmān pad ēn dēn rāy ān gizistag *alek/sandar ī *hrōmāyīg ī muzrāyīg-mānišn wiyāb/ānēnīd *ud pad garān sezd ud *nibard ud *wišēg ō ērān-šahr *frēstīd. u-š ōy ērān dahibed ōzad ud dar ud xwadāyīh wišuft ud awērān kard. ud ēn dēn čiyōn hamāg abestāg ud zand [ī] abar gāw pōstīhā ī wirāstag pad āb ī zarr nibištag andar staxr [ī] pābagān pad diz [ī] *nibišt nihād ēstād. ōy petyārag ī wad-baxt ī ahlomōγ ī druwand ī anāg-kardār *aleksandar [ī] hrōmāyīg [ī] mu/zrāyīg-mānišn abar āwurd ud be sōxt.

In the name of God

Thus they have said that once the righteous Zoroaster accepted a religion, he established it in the world. After/Within the period of 300 years (the) religion remained in holiness and the people were in peace and without any doubt. But then, the sinful, corrupt and deceitful spirit, in order to cause people doubt this religion, illusioned/led astray that Alexander the Roman, resident of Egypt, and sent him to Iran with much anger and violence. He murdered the ruler of Iran and ruined court, and the religion, as all the Avesta and Zand (which were) written on the ox-hide and decorated with water-of-gold (gold leaves) and had been placed/kept in Stakhr of Papak in the 'citadel of the writings.' That wretched, ill-fated, heretic, evil/sinful Alexander, The Roman, who was dwelling in Egypt, and he burned them up.


A sample Middle Persian poem from manuscript of Jamasp Asana:

Original in Middle Persian:
Dārom andarz-ē az dānāgān
Az guft-ī pēšēnīgān
Ō šmāh bē wizārom
Pad rāstīh andar gēhān
Agar ēn az man padīrēd
Bavēd sūd-ī dō gēhān
Near literal translation into Modern Persian:
Dāram andarz-i az dānāyān
دارم اندرزی از دانایان
Az gofte-ye pišiniyān
از گفتهٔ پیشینیان
Be šomā be-gozāram
به شما بگزارم
Be rāstī andar jahān
به راستی اندر جهان
agar īn az man pazīrid
اگر این از من پذیرد
Bovad sūd-e dō jahān
بوَد سود دو جهان
Translation into English:
I have a counsel from the wise,
from the advises of the ancients,
I will pass it upon you
By truth in the world
If you accept this counsel
It will be your benefits for this life and the next

Other sample texts

Šābuhr šāhān šāh ī hormizdān hamāg kišwarīgān pad paykārišn yazdān āhang kard ud hamāg gōwišn ō uskār ud wizōyišn āwurd pas az bōxtan ī ādūrbād pad gōwišn ī passāxt abāg hamāg ōyšān jud-sardagān ud nask-ōšmurdān-iz ī jud-ristagān ēn-iz guft kū nūn ka-mān dēn pad stī dēn dīd kas-iz ag-dēnīh bē nē hilēm wēš abar tuxšāg tuxšēm ud ham gōnag kard.

Shapur, the king of kings, son of Hormizd, induced all countrymen to orient themselves to god by disputation, and put forth all oral traditions for consideration and examination. After the triumph of Ādurbād, through his declaration put to trial by ordeal (in disputation) with all those sectaries and heretics who recognized (studied) the Nasks, he made the following statement: ‘Now that we have gained an insight into the Religion in the worldly existence, we shall not tolerate anyone of false religion, and we shall be more zealous.

Andar xwadāyīh šābuhr ī ohrmazdān tāzīgān mad hēnd ušān xōrīg ī rudbār grift was sāl pad xwār tāzišn dāšt t šābuhr ō xwadāyīh mad oyšān tāzīgān spōxt ud šahr aziš stād ud was šāh tāzīgān ābaxšēnēd ud was maragīh.

During the rulership of Shapur, the son of Hormizd, the Arabs came; they took Xorig Rūdbār; for many years with contempt (they) rushed until Shapur came to rulership; he destroyed the Arabs and took the land and destroyed many Arab rulers and pulled out many number of shoulders.



There are a number of affixes in Middle Persian that did not survive into Modern Persian: [14] [15] [16]

Middle PersianEnglishOther Indo-EuropeanExample(s)
A-Privative prefix, un-, non-, not-Greek a- (e.g. atom)a-spās 'ungrateful', a-bim 'fearless', a-čār 'inevitable', a-dād 'unjust'
An-Prevocalic privative prefix, un-, non-English -un, German ant-an-ērān 'non-Iranian', an-ast 'non-existent'
-ik (-ig in Late Middle Persian)Having to do with, having the nature of, made of, caused by, similar toEnglish -ic, Latin -icus, Greek –ikos, Slavic -iskuPārsīk 'Persian', Āsōrik 'Assyrian', Pahlavik 'Parthian', Hrōmāyīk/Hrōmīk 'Byzantine, Roman', Tāzīk 'Arab'

Location suffixes

Middle PersianOther Indo-EuropeanExample(s)
-gerd Mithradatgerd "Mithridates City", Susangerd (City of Susan), Darabgerd "Darius City", Bahramjerd "Bahram City", Dastgerd, Virugerd, Borujerd
-vīl Ardabil "Holy City", Kabul and Zabol
-āpāt (later -ābād)Ashkābād > Ashgabat "Land of Arsaces"
-stān English stead 'town', Russian stan 'settlement', common root with Germanic stand Tapurstan, Sakastan

Comparison of Middle Persian and Modern Persian vocabulary

There are a number of phonological differences between Middle Persian and New Persian. The long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive in many present-day dialects. Also, initial consonant clusters were very common in Middle Persian (e.g. سپاس spās "thanks"). However, New Persian does not allow initial consonant clusters, whereas final consonant clusters are common (e.g. اسب asb "horse").

Early Middle PersianEnglishEarly New PersianNotesOther Indo-European
Drōd 𐭣𐭫𐭥𐭣Hello (lit. 'health')Dōrūd (درود)
Pad-drōt 𐭯𐭥𐭭 𐭣𐭫𐭥𐭣GoodbyeBē dōrūd (به درود), later bedrūd (بدرود)
Spās 𐭮𐭯𐭠𐭮ThanksSipās (سپاس)Spās in kurdishPIE *speḱ-
Pad 𐭯𐭥𐭭To, at, in, on (به)
Az 𐭬𐭭FromAz (از)
Šagr𐭱𐭢𐭫, Šēr1LionŠēr (شیر)From Old Persian *šagra-. Preserved as Tajiki шер šer and Kurdish (شێر) šēr
Šīr𐭱𐭩𐭫1MilkŠīr (شیر)From Old Persian **xšīra-. Tajiki шир šir and Kurdish (šīr, شیر)from PIE *swēyd-
Asēm 𐭠𐭮𐭩𐭬IronĀhan (آهن)Āsin (آسِن) in KurdishGerman Eisen
ArjatSilverseem (سیم)floodlike "silvar" ("سیل وار ")Latin argentum (French argent), Armenian arsat, Old Irish airget, PIE h₂erǵn̥t-, an n-stem
AržSilver coinageArj (ارج) 'value/worth'Same as Arg (АргЪ) 'price' in Ossetian
ĒvārakEveningExtinct in Modern PersianSurvived as ēvār (ایوار) in Kurdish and Lurish
Tābestān 𐭲𐭠𐭯𐭮𐭲𐭠𐭭‎(adjective for) summer تابستان Tābestān
Hāmīn 𐭧𐭠𐭬𐭩𐭭SummerExtinctHāmīn has survived in Balochi, and Central Kurdish.

Survived as Hāvīn in Northern Kurdish.

Stārag 𐭮𐭲𐭠𐭫𐭪, Star 𐭮𐭲𐭫StarSetāre (ستاره)Stār, Stērk in Northern KurdishLatin stella, Old English steorra, Gothic stairno, Old Norse stjarna
FradomFirstExtinctPreserved as pronin in Sangsari language First, primary, Latin primus, Greek πρίν, Sanskrit prathama
FradākTomorrowFardā (فردا)Fra- 'towards'Greek pro-, Lithuanian pra, etc.
Murd 𐭬𐭥𐭫𐭣DiedMōrd (مرد)Latin morta, English murd-er, Old Russian mirtvu, Lithuanian mirtis
Rōz 𐭩𐭥𐭬DayRūz (روز)From rōšn 'light'. Kurdish rōž (رۆژ), also preserved as rōč (رُوچ) in BalochiArmenian lois 'light', Latin lux 'light'
Sāl 𐭱𐭭𐭲YearSāl (سال)Armenian sārd 'sun', German Sonne, Russian солнце
Mātar 𐭬𐭠𐭲𐭥‎MotherMādar (مادر)Latin māter, Old Church Slavonic mater, Lithuanian motina
Pidar 𐭯𐭣𐭫FatherPēdar (پدر)Latin pater (Italian padre), Old High German fater
Brād,Brādar 𐭡𐭥𐭠𐭣𐭥‎BrotherBarādar (برادر)Old Ch. Slavonic brat(r)u, Lithuanian brolis, Latin frāter, Old Irish brathair, O. H. German bruoder
Xwāh(ar) 𐭧𐭥𐭠𐭧SisterXāhar (خواهر)Armenian khoyr
Duxtar 𐭣𐭥𐭧𐭲𐭫DaughterDōxtar (دختر)Gothic dauhtar, O. H. German tohter, Old Prussian duckti, Armenian dowstr, Lithuanian dukte
Ōhāy 𐭠𐭧𐭠𐭩Yesārī (آری)
Nē 𐭫𐭠NoNa (نه)

1 Since many long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive, a number of homophones were created in New Persian. For example, šir and šer, meaning "milk" and "lion", respectively, are now both pronounced šir. In this case, the correct pronunciation has been preserved in Kurdish and Tajiki. [17]

Middle Persian loanwords in other languages

There is a number of Persian loanwords in English, many of which can be traced to Middle Persian. The lexicon of Classical Arabic also contains many borrowings from Middle Persian. In such borrowings Iranian consonants that sound foreign to Arabic, g, č, p, and ž, have been replaced by q/k, j, š, f/b, and s/z. Here is a parallel word list of such terms: [18] [19] [20]

Middle PersianEnglishIndo-European CognatesArabic BorrowingEnglish
TargumānTranslatorBorrowed into Persian from Akkadian targumānu, borrowed later into Middle Greek as δραγομάνος. Subsequently borrowed from Middle Greek into Mediaeval Latin as dragumannus. Note that these Latin and Greek forms are not, however, Indo-European cognates of the Persian word, they are loanwords.Tarjumān (ترجمان)Translator
Burg 𐭡𐭥𐭫𐭢TowerGermanic burg 'castle' or 'fort'Burj (برج)Tower
A-sar; A- (negation prefix) + sar (end, beginning)Infinite, endlessA- prefix in Greek; Sanskrit siras, Hittite harsar 'head'Azal (أزل)Infinite
A-pad; a- (prefix of negation) + pad (end)Infinity-Abad (أبد)Infinity, forever
Dēn 𐭣𐭩𐭭 (from Avestan daena)ReligionDīn (دين)Religion
Bōstān ( 'aroma, scent' + -stan place-name element)GardenBustān (بستان)Garden
ČirāgLampSirāj (سراج)Lamp
TāgCrown, tiaraTāj (تاج)Crown
Pargār Compass Firjār (فرجار)Compass (drawing tool)
RavāgCurrentRawāj (رواج)Popularity
Ravāk (older form of ravāg; from the root rav (v. raftan) 'to go')CurrentRiwāq (رواق)Place of passage, corridor
GundArmy, troopJund (جند)Army
ŠalwārTrousersSirwāl (سروال)Trousers
RōstākVillage, district, provinceRuzdāq (رزداق)Village
Zar-parānSaffronzaʿfarān ( زعفران )Saffron

Comparison of Middle Persian and Modern Persian names

Middle PersianNew PersianOld PersianEnglish
AnāhidNāhidAnāhitā Anahita
ArtaxšērArdaširArtaxšatra Artaxerxes
MihrMehrMithra Mithra
RokhsānaRoksāneRokh-šwana Roxana
Āleksandar, SukandarEskandar Alexander the Great
Husraw, XusrawKhosrowHusravahChosroes
Zaratu(x)štZartōštZartušt Zoroaster
ŌhrmazdHormizdAhura Mazda Ahura Mazda, astr. Jupiter

See also

Related Research Articles

Manichaeism ancient Iranian religion founded by Mani in 3rd century AD

Manichaeism was a major religion founded by the Iranian prophet Mani in the Sasanian Empire.

Sogdian language extinct language from Central Asia

The Sogdian language was an Eastern Iranian language spoken in the Central Asian region of Sogdia, located in modern-day Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as some Sogdian immigrant communities in ancient China. Sogdian is one of the most important Middle Iranian languages, along with Bactrian, Khotanese Saka, Middle Persian, and Parthian. It possesses a large literary corpus.

Bactrian language language

Bactrian was an Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asian region of Bactria and used as the official language of the Kushan and the Hephthalite empires.

The Kār-Nāmag ī Ardašīr ī Pābagān, is a short Middle Persian prose tale written in the Sassanid period (226-651). The story narrates the story of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty. His own life story—his rise to the throne, battle against the Parthian king Ardawān, and conquest of the empire by the scion of the House of Sāsān, as well as episodes concerning his heir Šābuhr and the latter’s son, Ohrmazd

Avestan alphabet alphabet used mainly to write Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian scripture Avesta

The Avestan alphabet is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language.


Zandik is a Zoroastrian term conventionally interpreted as heretic in a narrow sense, or, in a wider sense, for a person with any belief or practice that ran contrary to Sassanid-mediated Zoroastrian orthodoxy.

Manichaean alphabet abjad-based writing system associated with the spread of Manichaean religion

Manichaean script is an abjad-based writing system rooted in the Semitic family of alphabets and associated with the spread of Manichaean religion from southwest to central Asia and beyond, beginning in the 3rd century CE. It bears a sibling relationship to early forms of the Pahlavi script, both systems having developed from the Imperial Aramaic alphabet, in which the Achaemenid court rendered its particular, official dialect of the Aramaic language. Unlike Pahlavi, Manichaean script reveals influences from Sogdian script, which in turn descends from the Syriac branch of Aramaic. Manichaean script is so named because Manichaean texts attribute its design to Mani himself. Middle Persian is written with this alphabet.

The modern Persian name of Iran (ایران) derives immediately from 3rd-century Sasanian Middle Persian ērān, where it initially meant "of the Iranians", but soon also acquired a geographical connotation in the sense of "(lands inhabited by) Iranians". In both geographic and demonymic senses, ērān is distinguished from its antonymic anērān, meaning "non-Iran(ian)".

Asoristan a satrapy of Parthian and Sasanian empires

Asoristan was the name of the Sasanian province of Babylonia from 226 to 637.


Khvarenah or khwarenah is an Avestan word for a Zoroastrian concept literally denoting "glory" or "splendour" but understood as a divine mystical force or power projected upon and aiding the appointed. The neuter noun thus also connotes "(divine) royal glory," reflecting the perceived divine empowerment of kings. The term also carries a secondary meaning of "(good) fortune"; those who possess it are able to complete their mission or function.

Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language, considered to give way to Middle Aramaic by the 3rd century.

The Letter of Tansar was a 6th-century Sassanid propaganda instrument that portrayed the preceding Arsacid period as morally corrupt and heretical, and presented the first Sassanid dynast Ardashir I as having "restored" the faith to a "firm foundation." The letter was simultaneously a declaration of the unity of Zoroastrian church and Iranian state, "for church and state were born of the one womb, joined together and never to be sundered."

Ayadgar-i Zariran

Ayadgar-i Zareran, meaning "Memorial of Zarer", is a Zoroastrian Middle Persian heroic poem that, in its surviving manuscript form, represents one of the earliest surviving examples of Iranian epic poetry.

Frataraka Ancient noble rank of Persia

Frataraka is an ancient Persian title, interpreted variously as “leader, governor, forerunner”. It is an epithet or title of a series of rulers in Persis from 3rd to mid 2nd century BC, or alternatively between 295 and 220 BC, at the time of the Seleucid Empire, prior to the Parthian conquest of West Asia and Iran. Studies of frataraka coins are important to historians of this period.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pahlavi". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. 1 2 "Linguist List - Description of Pehlevi". Detroit: Eastern Michigan University. 2007.
  3. See also Omniglot.com's page on Middle Persian scripts
  4. Spooner, Brian; Hanaway, William L. (2012). Literacy in the Persianate World: Writing and the Social Order. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   1-934536-56-3., p. 14.
  5. Henning, Walter Bruno (1958), Mitteliranisch, Handbuch der Orientalistik I, IV, I, Leiden: Brill.
  6. Gershevitch, Ilya (1983), "Bactrian Literature", in Yarshatar, Ehsan (ed.), The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Periods, Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(2), Cambridge University Press, pp. 1250–1260, ISBN   0-521-24693-8 .
  7. 1 2 Boyce, Mary (1983), "Parthian Writings and Literature", in Yarshatar, Ehsan (ed.), The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Periods, Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(2), Cambridge University Press, pp. 1151–1165, ISBN   0-521-24693-8 .
  8. 1 2 3 Boyce, Mary (1968), Middle Persian Literature, Handbuch der Orientalistik 1, IV, 2, Leiden: Brill, pp. 31–66.
  9. Cereti, Carlo (2009), "Pahlavi Literature", Encyclopedia Iranica, (online edition).
  10. Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 141. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
  11. Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 138. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
  12. Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 143. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
  13. R. Mehri's Parsik/Pahlavi Web page (archived copy) at the Internet Archive
  14. Joneidi, F. (1966). Pahlavi Script and Language (Arsacid and Sassanid) نامه پهلوانی: آموزش خط و زبان پهلوی اشکانی و ساسانی (p. 54). Balkh (نشر بلخ).
  15. David Neil MacKenzie (1971). A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.
  16. Joneidi, F. (1972). The Story of Iran. First Book: Beginning of Time to Dormancy of Mount Damavand (داستان ایران بر بنیاد گفتارهای ایرانی، دفتر نخست: از آغاز تا خاموشی دماوند).
  17. Strazny, P. (2005). Encyclopedia of linguistics (p. 325). New York: Fitzroy Dearborn.
  18. Mackenzie, D. N. (2014). A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary. Routledge. ISBN   978-1-136-61396-8.
  19. "ARABIC LANGUAGE ii. Iranian loanwords in Arabic". Encyclopædia Iranica. 15 December 1986. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  20. Joneidi, F. (1965). Dictionary of Pahlavi Ideograms (فرهنگ هزوارش هاي دبيره پهلوي) (p. 8). Balkh (نشر بلخ).