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By: Thea Chkeidze



Due to many centuries of close contacts between Georgia and Persia, a large number of Iranian loanwords came into the Georgian language. These belonged to various spheres of vocabulary and were borrowed at different periods and from different dialects: from Eastern Iranian Scytho-Alan-Ossetic, and from Western Iranian Median, Parthian and, to an even greater extent, from the Middle Persian of the Sasanian period (3rd-7th cent.) and New Persian. Only a brief survey of these loanwords can be given here, but analysis of the borrowed vocabulary reveals its versatile semantic character: technical terms, basic vocabulary pertaining to all aspects of everyday life, and expressive vocabulary.


Among the loanwords, nouns are most common: e.g., aug-i "shame" (from Mid. Pers. âhôg "blemish"); guman-i "thought, opinion, suspicion, suggestion" (< NPers. gomân); mizd-i "price, payment, rent" (from Mid. Pers. mizd < Av. mižda-; NPers. mozd). However, there are also adjectives—sust-i "weak" (NPers. sost); m-subuk-i "light" (NPers. sabok)—as well as verbal stems: šen- "build" (from Mid. Pers. *šên, cf. Av. šayana- "home"; šen in Georgian is present like a component in toponyms such as Axalšen-i, lit. "New city"); *tr-, treva "pull, drag" was introduced from Scythian as early as the Kartvelian period. Most of the loanwords came directly from the original language, but some were transmitted through other languages: thus, via Armenian, the proper name Bagrat (proper name, Old Pers. Bagadâta-); chešmarit-i "true, real" (Mid. Pers. chašmdîd), etc.


Many loanwords became organic parts of the Georgian language and subject to its grammatical rules. Often a compound word is treated as a single stem: šara "avenue" (from NPers. šâh-râh "straight and wide road," lit. "royal road"). As can be expected, loanwords are not subject to the phonetic changes taking place in the original language. For example, Georgian spetak-i (from Mid. Pers. spêdag "white, clean") differs from NPers. sapîd, safîd.


The following are significant categories of Georgian vocabulary affected by Iranian languages.


Proper names

Borrowed proper names often had a military or heroic connotation: Arsok/Arsuk (from OP/Av. aršan- "man, male, hero," is equivalent to the OP/Av. proper name Aršak, where -ok/-uk is a polysemantic suffix); Varaš (from Walaš, late form of the Parth. Walagaš, cf. Arm. Wa¬arš < wal- "strength, might"); Vardan (from Mid. Pers. Wardâ; apparently, this name, so popular in the Middle Persian period, is not attested in New Persian); Perozh/Peroz was introduced into Georgian twice, in its Middle Iranian form (Parth. Pêrôž, Mid. Pers. Pêrôz) and in the New Persian form (Pîrûz, Arabicized form Fîrûz); Palavand and the family-name Palavandišvil-i (< NPers. pahlavân; the introduction of -d after -n- is characteristic of Georgian, cf. Georgian durbind-i < Pers. dûrbîn, "telescope").


Of Iranian theophoric anthroponyms, the following are represented in Georgian: Bagrat (*Old Pers. Bagadâta- "created by god, god's gift," Mid. Pers. Bay/gdâd, Av. Ba©ô.dâta-, Parth. Ba©dât; the Arm. form Bagrat and the change d > > r testifies that this name came to Georgian via Armenian); Baaman (Av. Vohu Manah, Parth. Vahmanak, Mid. Pers. Wahman, NPers. Bahman, q.v.; in intervocal position h is reduced, cf. Georgian Mirian); Vaxušt-i (< OIr. vahišta- ["paradise," superlative of veh "good," i.e., "superb, excellent"], Mid. Pers. wahišt, NPers. behešt); Trdat is derived from Tîr, the name of an Iranian deity (Parth. tyrydyt, Mid. Pers. Tîrdâd "created by the god Tîr"); Khudada (< NPers. khodâdâd, "given by God"). The Georgian name Ražden may be a composite: its second component, -dên, comes from Mid. Pers. dên "creed, religion," while the first one is perhaps Ir. rôž/rôz "day, light, happiness," i.e., *Rôždên- "happy religion." The component rôz is also present in the Georgian family name Berozashvili (< NPers. Behrûz "happy, fortunate"). Adarazan or Adrazan, is also a compound, where the first element is the noun âdhar "fire," and the second is derived from the pres. stem of the NPers. verb zadan "beat, strike," i.e., probably "striking fire." Adarnase (< Mid. Pers. Âdurnarsêh; for the second component cf. Av. nairyô.saºya- and Mid. Pers. Narseh; the latter exists also in Georgian as the name Nerse). To this group also belongs the popular name Xosro, Xuasro (Av. husravah-, Mid. Pers. Husraw, Arm. Xosrov; a compound of hu- "good, kind" and sravah- "glory, fame").


Many Iranian names incorporate the names of celestial bodies or words indicative of light, radiance, or good fortune. Some of these can also be found in Georgian: Roshnia (< rôšn, rôšan, cf. Scythian Rôksanê, Av. rauxšna- "light, glittering," NPers. Rowšanak); Bevroz (the first component is derived from OIr. *baivar, another derivative of which is bêvar "ten thousand"; cf. Av. baêvar-, Mid. Pers. bêwar., Sc. Baiormaios [see Justi, Namenbuch, p. 60]); Navroz, as in the family-name Navrozashvili (< NPers. nowrûz, "the first day of the new year" and the proper name Nowrûz).

Other personal names derive from stems which denote qualities or characteristics: Arjevan and the family name Arjevanidze (cf. Av. arəjanhant-, arəjavan- < Av. arəjah- "price, value, worth," and the suffix -vant-; Mid. Pers. arz, arzânîg "worthy"); Ramin (Mid. Pers. râmên < OPers. râm-, Av. râman- "peace, silence"); Ramapan (< Ir. *râmapâvan-, with the adjective -pâvan "protecting peace, tranquility"); Dilardukht (the second component, Mid. Pers. duxt, NPers. dokht "daughter," is often present in women's names; the first component is probably derived from NPers dîlâr or delârâ "adorning hearts." The Georgian female name Nazi can be found in Iranian languages as a male name (Med. *Nazuka-, Mid. Pers. Nâzuk).


Of Iranian anthroponyms indicating colors, those containing the word "black" are especially popular in Georgia. There are several forms: Siaush, Shiosh, Shiaosh, Shioaosh (s > sh in Georgian). Similar names are known in Old-, Middle-, and New Iranian languages. Closest to the Iranian form is the Georgian Siyaush (< NPers. Sîâvakhš); cf. also Saurmag (< Scythian Sawarmag "black-armed").


Zoonyms include: Varaza, Varaz, Varaz-Bakur (cf. Av. varâza-, Med. *Varâzaka-, Scythian Oyadzacos, Oss. Waraz, Mid. Pers. warâz-, NPers. gorâz "wild boar"); Gorg, Gorgak, Gurgen, Gorgine (cf. Old Pers. vrka-, Mid. Pers. Gurgên < OIr. vrkaina-, NPers. gorg "wolf"). The term asp (horse) occurs in many compounds, but the family name Aspanidze is derived directly from the plural aspân. Georgian Tamaz derives from Av. Tumâspa-, patronymic Tumâspâna-, Mid. Pers. Tuxmâspân, Pâzand Tahmâspâ, NPers. Tahmâsb, Arm. Tahmaz. Its first component is OPers. taxma- "brave." It is noteworthy that asp > az does not usually occur in other Georgian names of this type, i.e., Gorjasp, Jamasp, etc. Obviously, the Georgian Tamaz and the Arm. Tahmaz derive from the same source. In the case of Luarsab (< NPers. Lohrâsb, Mid. Pers. Luhrâsp). Authors such as Eskandar Beg Monšî did not recognize the derivation of this name from the Persian Lohrâsp and transliterated it as Lûârsâb (e.g., pp. 206, 271, 818-19, 874-79, etc.) Jamasp (Av. Jâmâspa-, NPers. Jâmâsb; probably "branded horse") occurs in the family name Jamaspishvili. Names containing the element š "lion" include: Shermazan, family name Shermazanashvili (< NPers. Š "lion-killer"); Shergil, Arm. Š "lion-catcher, brave" (< NPers. š, where the second component, gîr-, is the present stem of the verb gereftan "to take, to capture"); Shervazh, (the second component, vazh, may be derived from the Ir. vâch/vâž "voice," i.e. "having the voice of a lion"); and the family name Shervashidze /Juansher (< N.Pers. Jovânšîr, where the first component is jovân "young").


Some personal names contain the names of plants and flowers, most often the rose (NPers. gol): Gulamshar, Gulashar, and Gushar all derive from NPers. Gol-šahr, where the second component is š "city," i.e., "the land of roses"; Gulchora (< NPers. Gol-chehra, where the second component is ch "face," i.e., "rose-faced"); Gulbahar, where the second component is bahâr "spring." (Gol-bahâr "spring rose").


Two somatic anthroponyms are Sharukh (NPers. šâhrokh "having a royal face," i.e. "majestic, beautiful") and the family name Varsidze (from vars, Av. varəsa-, Mid. Pers. wars "hair").

Ethnonyms as components of anthroponyms: Eraj (Mid. Pers. ÊÚraj, NPers. Îraj); Erashahr (< Mid. Pers. Êrânšahr, "land of the Aryans"; cf. Arm. Eranšahik); Koiar (from Mid. Pers. kôhyâr < kôfdâr "the lord of the mountain").


A large number of Persian names came into Georgian from the versions of the Šâh-nâma: Givi (< Gêv); Goderdz-i (< Gôdarz); Zurab-i (< Sohrâb); Ketevan (< Katâyûn); Zaal (< Zâl; cf. the family name Zaldastanishvili), etc.


Iranian anthroponyms are represented in the epic Vepkhistqaosani (The knight in the panther skin) by Shota Rustaveli (12th/13th cent.): Pridon (Mid. Ir. Frêdôn, NPers. Fardûn/Fereydûn, < Av. ÿraêtaona- < trita‚: i.e., "of triple strength"); Nestan-Darezhan (NPers. nîst andar jahân "unlike any other in the world"), etc.


Religious terminology

Iranian religion has also had an impact on Georgian vocabulary. Borrowings include: Artošan-i/Atrošan-i "fire-temple" (< Mid. Pers. Â); Aeshma, eshmak-i "devil" (cf. Av. aêšma-; in Mid. Pers., with secondary aspiration, xꟚm "anger"); dev-i "evil spirit" (from Mid. Pers. dêw, Old Pers. daiva-, Av. daêva-); niš "miracle, sign" (from Mid. Pers. nîš- < *niyaš- < ni-aš- "to look, to watch"; with suff. â; NPers. nešân "sign," Arm. loanword nšan; Georgian nishan-i); t, t "temple" (from Old Pers. tacara-, NPers. tajar, tazar "winter pavilion"; cf. Georgian t "feast, bread"); wnas-i "sin, misfortune, loss" (< Mid. Pers. winâh "sin," OIr. *vinâsa-, NPers. gonâh); zorva "sacrificial victim, sacrifice" (from Mid. Pers. zôhr "libation, offering" < Av. zaoøra- "sacrificial victim, donation, holy water"; from the same stem, zuarak-i "animal to be sacrificed," i.e. calf); jojokhet-i "hell" (< Mid. Pers. dušox < Av. daožahva-; NPers. dûzakh). Cheshmarit-i "true, right, reliable" and cheshmarit-eba "truth" derive from Mid. Pers. ch "visible, obvious"; the change d > r proves that this word came to Georgian through Armenian. Mogv-i, Old Georgian mogu "magus, astrologer" can be traced to Mid. Pers. mogu, mogu-mart "priest" (< Old Pers. magu-; NPers. mogh; Arm. loanword mog). The related toponym mogv-ta (the suffix -ta indicates a general place and is used to form geographic names; i.e., "land inhabited by magi") may be connected to the corporation, the community of magi (magûstân) founded by Kirdêr in conquered lands, among them Georgia/Iberia.


Administrative, social, and military vocabulary

Terms in this category include aznaur-i "free," i. e., a member of a noble family (from Mid. Pers. â; corresponds semantically to Mid. Pers. â, Av. â "nobility"; bazh-i "tax, duty" (from Mid. Pers. bâž, Old Pers. bâji-, Av. bâji- "to give, present"; NPers. bâj); dastak-i "license, document" (from NPers. dastak "account-book"); dastur-i "trustworthy person, minister, true" in Old Georgian, "agreement, consent" in New Georgian (cf. NPers. dastûr "minister" < Mid. Pers. dastwar "religious adviser, judge, member of the Zoroastrian clergy," cf. Georgian dastur-xelosan-i "official, clergyman"); gumard-i "viceroy" (from Mid. Pers. gumârdag "commissioner, governor," cf. NPers. gomârdan, "to appoint, designate"); gujar-i "book, letter, document" (from Mid. Pers. wizâr "explanation"); kardag-i "estate, allotment" (from Mid. Pers. kardag < kart, *kert- "cut," NPers. kard, kart "plot of land, estate"); roartag-i, hrovartak-i, hroartak-i, hroardag-i, hroatak-i "book, letter, royal statute-book" (from Mid. Pers. frawardag < •var- "to turn round, roll, change," i.e., "rolled up," probably via Arm. hrovartak "letter, order, edict; document testifying ownership"); š"apprentice, pupil" (< NPers. š, Mid. Pers. hašâgird < OIr. *hašâ.krta-, Arm. ašakert, Mid. Pers. hawišt "pupil"); vachar-i "merchant, trader" (a loan through Arm. vacharakan "merchant," vachar "trade, market < Mid. Pers. wâzâragân, "merchant," wâzâr "market,"); bazar-i "market" (< NPers. bâzâr "market"); vakhsh-i "money recovered with interest," me-vakhsh-e "usurer, money-lender" (from Mid. Pers. waxš "interest on money, increase, sunrise, growing," Av. vaxša-, Arm. vašx "usurer"); zenar-i "oath, promise" (Mid. Pers. zênhâr "guarantee, protection, oath" < *zivan-har- < *jîvana-hara- "protecting life"; NPers. zenhâr); zepur-i "noble" (Mid. Pers. wispuhr < visô.puøra-"son of the family, of the clan; prince-royal," cf. Georgian sa-zepur-o "chosen"); gund-i "army, regiment, military unit" (from Mid. Pers. gund "army," NPers. gond, Arab. jond, Mand. gundâ, Syr. guddâ < gdd-, Old Hebrew g'dhud "band, detachment"); razm-i "military unit, detachment" (from New and Mid. Pers. razm, Av. rasman- < •raz-); sardal-i "commander, general" (from NPers. sardâr; r > l in Georgian); spa "army" (from Mid. Pers. spâh, OIr. spâ’a-, NPers. sepâh); spaspet-i, spaypet-i "commander, general" (from Mid. Pers. sipâhbed," NPers. sepahbad); marzpÂan-i "district governor" (< Mid. Pers. and NPers. marzbân); ostat-i "master, expert" (Mid. Pers. ôstât-mart, NPers. ostâd).


The term patiakhsh-i, pitiakhsh-i "the second after the king," the viceroy of the shah of Persia in Iberia (byty'hš) is witnessed in inscriptions of the 1st to 2nd centuries C. E. In the trilingual inscription of Šâpûr I, the bearer of this title is mentioned after the members of the royal family. The Paikuli inscription shows that towards the end of the 3rd century this office became less important and influential. Georgian sources testify that the bearer of this title held a very high office in the province. The most exact phonetic transmission of this title in Georgian, found in an inscription on a plate from Bori, is btxš, (byty`a‚xš, cf. Arm. bdeašx). In Georgian b > p due to assimilation with t. Consequently, in anlaut bi- < bitîya- "the second," Parth. bitîya- < Old Pers. dvitîya-, i.e. *bitiyaxša can be traced to the Achaemenian dvitîyaxšâya-, Parth. bidaxš, where dv > b; see BIDAXŠ).


Arms and weapons: dašna "short straight dagger" (NPers. dašna); gurz-i "club, mace" (NPers. gorz); kaman-i "bow" (NPers. kamân); kamandar-i "archer" (NPers. kamândâr); kamand-i "lasso" (NPers. kamand); xišt "bayonet" (NPers. khešt "spear, dart"); lula "gun-barrel" (NPers. lûla "tube"); šimšer-i "sharp blade" (Mid. Pers. šamšêr, NPers. šamšîr).

Some Iranian loanwords present in Georgian as military terms are used in civilian life as well: asparez-i "arena, hippodrome, square, stadium," in Old Georgian "distance equal to 195 steps" (from Mid. Pers. asprês "hippodrome" < asprâs, where the first component is asp "horse" and the second râs "road, way"); droša "banner, flag," early form drauž-i (from Mid. Pers. drafš, NPers. derafš, Av. drafša-); navard-i "robbery, running," Old Georgian "bird's flight" (from NPers. navard, nabard "battle, combat," Mid. Pers. nibard "battle, fighting, quarrel").


Vocabulary of daily life

Many words borrowed from Iranian languages pertain to aspects of everyday life (work and occupations, household items, clothes, various tools, etc.): ayvan-i "balcony, porch" (NPers. ayvân "hall, portico, balcony, open gallery"); akhor-i, Old Georgian "cow-shed," modern Georgian "stables" (NPers. â; Mid. Pers. â "stables"); bag-i "garden, orchard" (from NPers. bâgh "garden"; Pâzand bag "part, share," Av. bâga- "God's share," cf. Georgian baghcha "small garden" < NPers. bâghcha); bostan-i, Old Georgian "garden, orchard," modern Georgian "kitchen garden" (from NPers. bûstân "garden"); cha "well" (from Mid. Pers. and NPers. châ, Av. châ); chadrak-i "chess" (from Mid. Pers. ch, Skt. ch, NPers. š); charkh-i "lathe, wheel" (from NPers. ch "circulation, circle, orbit, wheel" < Mid. Pers. ch < Av. ch); chashnik-i "degustation, tasting," Old Georgian ch "taster" (NPers. châš "taste, tasting"); ch "polo-club, racket; small spade" (from NPers. ch < Mid. Pers. chô, chôß < chô "wood, stick"); dasta "a number of similar objects; bunch, pack, ensemble, team" (from NPers. dasta "group, team, bundle, bunch); dastakar-i "surgeon" (< NPers. dastkâr "dexterous, expert; a person who works with his hands"); dazga "bench, carpenter's bench, machine" (from NPers. dastgâh "apparatus, installation"); do "whey" (Mid. Pers. "refreshing drink made from milk"); dostakan-i "large goblet, bowl" (< NPers. dûst-kâmî "toast, wine drunk to a friends health; large vessel for wine"); dukard-i "shears" (from NPers. dokârd "scissors, shears" < do "two," and kârd "knife"; cf. Georgian karda); durbind-i "binoculars, field-glasses" (< NPers. dûrbîn); kamar-i "belt, waist" (from NPers. kamar < Mid. Pers. kamar, Av. kamarâ-); kap-i "foam" (from NPers. kaf, Mid. Pers. kaf); kapkir-i "skimmer" (NPers. kafgîr); karavan-i "caravan" (from NPers. kâravân < Mid. Pers. kârvân); karkhana "factory" (NPers. kâr-khâna "factory, workshop"); karvasla "station, trading center" (from NPers. kâravân-sarâ "caravansaray"; the reduction of the vowel and r > l are characteristic of Georgian, cf. Georgian sra "palace"); kucha "street" (from NPers. kûcha "street, road"); khali, khalicha "carpet" (NPers. qâlî, qâlîcha); kheivan-i "path, walk" (NPers. khîâbân "avenue, boulevard, walk"); khorag-i (colloquial) "food" (from NPers. khorâk, Av. xúar-); khurda "small cash, change; rubble" (< khorda "bits, fragments" < Mid. Pers. xwurdag "small"); khvastag-i, khostag-i "wealth, cattle" (from Mid. Pers. xúâstak "wealth," NPers. khúâsta); jam-i "vessel, bowl" (< NPers. jâm "cup, goblet, bowl," < Mid. Pers. jâm, Av. yama-); marag-i "quantity, stock" (from Mid. Pers. marak "number, quantity" < Av. mar- "measure"); nav-i "ship, boat" (cf. Old Pers. nâviyâ "navy," NPers. nâv "war-ship, boat"); panjara "window" (NPers. panjara); polak-i "button" (NPers. pûlak "scales, spangles, small coin"); pul-i "money" (NPers. pûl); rochik-i "food, ration" (from Mid. Pers. rôzîk "daily ration" < rôz "day," and suffix -îk); sardap-i "basement, cellar" (NPers. sardâb; final b > p); shusha "glass, flask" (NPers. šîša "glass, vessel, bottle, flask"); t "seat, throne, bed" (NPers. takht "throne, sofa"); t (obsolete) "litter, palanquin" (NPers. takht[-e] ravân); tom-i "tribe, family" (< Mid. Pers. tôm "seed, family, progeny" < Av. taoxman-, Old Pers. taumâ-).


Names of plants and animals: vard-i "rose" (cf. Av. varə’a-, Arm. vard, NPers. vard "red rose"); mikhak-i "carnation" (NPers. mîkhak); bamba "cotton" (NPers. panba, pamba; initial p > b); badrijan-i "eggplant" (NPers. bâdenjân); gulab-i "a kind of pear" (NPers. golâbî "pear"); ni-goz-i "nut-kernel" (from Mid. Pers. gôz, NPers. gowz "walnut"; cf. Georgian gozinaq-i "nuts boiled in honey" < Mid. Pers. gôzênag); vešap-i "whale; monster, dragon" (from Mid. Pers. wišâp < Av. višâpa- "dragon," an epithet of Aži Dahâka, q.v.); vigr "leopard," cf. Arm. vagr "tiger" (from Mid. Pers. babr); siasamur-i "sable," lit. "black sable" (from NPers. sîâh and samûr < Parth. simôr, Mid. Pers. samôr); spilo, pilo "elephant" (from Mid. Pers. pîl; initial s before p, cf. spars-i "Persian").


Weights and measures: griv-i, a dry measure equal to 22 ksests (Arm. griv, NPers. jarîb, a square measure); kabich-i, equal to three grivs (from Mid. Pers. kabîz, NPers. kavîž, kavîz, Arm. kapich); charek-i, a quarter of a measure of weight or capacity, a liquid capacity measure equal approximately to one liter (from NPers. chârak "quarter, measure of weight" < chahâr-yak).

As might be expected, there are many formations in Georgian deriving from Iranian stems which are so well established that they are not regarded as an alien borrowing: i.e., ga-biabru-eba "humiliate,d disgraced" (from NPers. bî-âbrû "disgraced, dishonored"); gamo-komag-eba "help, support" < komag-i "protector, patron" (NPers. komak).





V. Abaev, Istoriko-etimologicheskiy slovar' osetinskogo yazyka (Historical-etymological dictionary of the Ossetic language), 4 vols., Moscow and Leningrad, 1958-89. 

I. Abuladze, Zveli kartuli enis leksikoni: masalebi (Dictionary of the Old Georgian language), Tbilisi, 1973. 

M. Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi iranul-kartul enobrivi urtiertobidan (Essays on Iranian-Georgian linguistic contacts), Tbilisi, 1966 (summary in English pp. 547-71). 

C. Bartholomae, Altiranisches Wörterbuch, Strassburg, 1904. 

A. Chikobava, ed., Kartuli enis ganmartebiti leksikoni (Explanatory dictionary of the Georgian language), 8 vols., Tbilisi, 1950-64. 

T. Chkheidze, Ocherki po iranskoy onomastike (Studies in Iranian onomastics), Tbilisi, 1984 (in Georgian). 

J. Gippert, Iranica Armeno-Iberica: Studien zu den iranischen Lehnwortern im Armenischen und Georgischen, 2 vols., Bamberg, 1990. 

H. Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik I: Armenische Etymologie, Hildesheim, and New York, 1972. 

M. Mayrhofer, ed., Iranisches Personennamenbuch, 5 vols., Vienna, 1977-79. 

O. Tedeevi, Narkvevebi osur-kartuli enobrivi urtiertobidan (Essays on Ossetic-Georgian linguistic contacts), Tbilisi, 1988.



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