Persian - interesting facts


Persian, also known as Farsi, is one of the world’s oldest languages still in use today. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages, making it a distant cousin of English and most other European languages. The language is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, and it has a significant number of speakers in other surrounding countries and diaspora communities worldwide. The total number of Persian speakers is estimated to be over 110 million.

Persian is a significant language globally due to its cultural, historical, and geopolitical impact. It is the medium through which a rich body of literature has been transmitted, dating back over a thousand years. Its classical form, Classical Persian or Farsiye Dari, has been the vehicle for the works of prominent poets and scholars such as Rumi, Ferdowsi, Khayyam, and Hafez. These works have made significant contributions to world literature and philosophy.

Today, the modern standard form of Persian used in Iran is known as Farsi. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the language known as Dari, serves as one of the two official languages. Tajikistan, another Persian-speaking country, refers to the language as Tajik. These variations have slight differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar, yet they remain mutually intelligible.

Persian has notably influenced other languages in its vicinity, including Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Georgian, and Urdu. It also contributed to the literary and administrative lexicons of many Asian languages during the height of the Persian Empire and subsequent Islamic Golden Age.

Interestingly, Persian is renowned for its simplicity. It has no grammatical gender and relatively straightforward verb conjugations, making it arguably easier to learn for English speakers compared to some other languages. Its vocabulary has also absorbed numerous French, Russian, and English words, reflecting Iran’s historical and cultural exchanges with the West.

Another fascinating aspect of Persian is its script. It uses a modified version of the Arabic alphabet, adding four letters. It is written from right to left. However, Persian is not a Semitic language unlike Arabic, and their grammatical structures are quite different.

Overall, Persian is a language steeped in history and culture. Despite the geopolitical tensions of recent years, the language's rich literature, combined with the warmth and hospitality of Persian-speaking people, continue to draw students and scholars to its study. Understanding Persian opens doors to a vibrant culture and a critical world region.


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The richness of Persian literature

Persian literature and poetry have an illustrious history spanning over a millennium, leaving an indelible mark on the world of literature. Known for its beauty, depth, and lyrical quality, Persian literature has made profound contributions to the world's literary traditions.

One of the most celebrated Persian poets is Rumi, whose mystical and spiritual poetry has touched the hearts of readers worldwide. His works, such as the Mathnawi and Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, explore themes of love, unity, and the spiritual journey, transcending cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, or the Book of Kings, is an epic masterpiece narrating Iran's mythological and historical tales. It has become an enduring symbol of Persian identity and has influenced subsequent literary works.

Persian poetry is renowned for its intricate rhyme schemes, metaphors, and allegories. The ghazal, composed of self-contained couplets expressing love, longing, and philosophical musings, has become an integral part of poetic traditions in many languages.

The richness of Persian literature lies not only in its poetry but also in its prose. Prominent Persian authors like Saadi, Hafez, and Omar Khayyam have contributed immensely to poetry and prose, addressing themes of love, wisdom, social commentary, and the complexities of human existence.

Moreover, Persian literature has fostered a tradition of storytelling and folklore, with tales such as the adventures of Amir Arsalan, Sinbad the Sailor, and the Conference of the Birds captivating readers for generations.

Persian literature's influence extends beyond its own borders, inspiring renowned writers and poets like Goethe, Nietzsche, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The beauty and wisdom encapsulated in Persian literary works have resonated with people of diverse cultures, nurturing a cross-cultural appreciation for Persian poetry and literature.


The simplicity of Persian grammar

Although Persian may seem difficult because of its alphabet, its grammar is relatively simple, especially compared to Polish grammar. Persian has no grammatical types or cases, greatly facilitating learning for Polish speakers. In Persian, there is also a constant order of words in a sentence, making it possible to understand the principles of forming sentences quickly. 


Persian calligraphy as an art form

Persian calligraphy, known as "khattati" in Persian, is a revered and central element of Persian art and culture, illustrating the profound significance of the written word in Persian society. Originating over a millennium ago, it is considered not just a form of writing but an exquisite art form symbolising the Persian love for beauty, balance, and spirituality.

Emerging from the need to beautifully transcribe religious texts, especially the Qur'an, Persian calligraphy flourished and evolved, becoming an intricate practice rich in style and form. Numerous scripts have been developed, each with its own unique character and aesthetic. Among the most well-known are Nastaliq, Shekasteh, Kufic, and Thuluth.

Nastaliq is considered the most fluid and elegant script, often used in poetry and literary manuscripts. Short verticals characterise it with no serifs and deep curves. On the other hand, Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form and is often used for decorative purposes and architectural elements. It is known for its angular, slow, and measured script.

Calligraphy's influence extends beyond written texts and into other art forms, such as architecture, pottery, and carpets, where calligraphic inscriptions are common. It also plays a vital role in the art of bookmaking, especially in the creation of illuminated manuscripts.

Calligraphy in Persian culture is not merely about beautiful handwriting but a spiritual path, a discipline that requires years of rigorous practice. Master calligraphers are held in high esteem, and their works are treated as priceless artworks.

In conclusion, Persian calligraphy is a delicate, aesthetically pleasing art form that elegantly intertwines visual artistry with literary and spiritual profundity. It carries a sense of identity, tradition, and the rich cultural heritage of the Persian-speaking world.


Persian influences in English

The influence of Persian on English, though not as extensive as some other languages, is nonetheless significant and can be found in a surprising number of everyday English words. This cultural exchange primarily occurred through trade, political relations, and colonial experiences between the English and Persian-speaking regions.

The area where Persian influence is most evident is within our lexicon, particularly when it comes to words associated with luxury goods, exotic items, and intricate crafts that were originally imported from Persia. For example, the word "bazaar" (a type of marketplace), "shawl" (a piece of fabric worn around the shoulders), and "pashmina" (a type of cashmere wool) are all derived from Persian.

Furthermore, the English language has also borrowed several words related to administration and military from Persian due to historical reasons, such as "checkmate" from "shāh māt" (meaning 'the king is helpless'), and "caravan" from "kārwān".

In culinary terms, words like "caviar", originating from "khāviyār", and "kebab" or "kabob", have found their way into the English language, showcasing Persian cuisine's global popularity.

Several words have entered English through the influence of Persian literature and cultural references, such as "paradise", which comes from the ancient Persian "paridaiza", meaning 'enclosed garden'.

In addition, certain scientific and mathematical terms also owe their origin to Persian. The word "algorithm" is derived from the name of the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, and "zero" comes from the Persian word "sifr".

Hence, while the Persian influence on English might not be immediately apparent, it becomes clear upon closer inspection that it has played a meaningful role in shaping the English language. It has contributed to a broad range of vocabulary, enriching the language and offering insights into the historical and cultural interactions between the English and Persian-speaking worlds.


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Your Essential Farsi (Persian)



Persian - Farsi

yes  بله (baleh)
no  نه (na)
please لطفا [lotfän]
thank you متشکرم [motešäkeram]
I'm sorry ببخشید [bebakhšid]
good morning روز بخیر [ruz bexeyr]
good evening شب بخیر [šab bexeyr]
goodbye شب خوش [šab xosh]
good night خداحافظ [xodâ hâfez]
hi سلام [sälâm]
how are you?  حال شما چطور است؟ [hâl-e šomâ četor ast?]
well ممنون، خوبم. [mamnun, xobam.]
My name is... اسم من ... است [esm-e man ... ast]
I don't understand نمی‌فهمم [nemifahmam]



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