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Today's Word



Jun 12, 2017
This week’s theme
Words borrowed from Persian

This week’s words

“Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.” ~Emerson
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with Anu Garg

It’s the language of Rumi, Saadi, and Omar Khayyam. It looks and sounds very different, but it’s part of the same family as English: the Indo-European family that includes languages as diverse as French, Hindi, and Irish.

I’m talking about Persian, the language spoken in Iran (where it’s known as Farsi/Parsi), Afghanistan (where it’s called Dari), Tajikistan (where it’s called Tajik), and elsewhere.

English has borrowed words from every language it came in contact with and Persian is no exception. Some everyday words that owe their origins to Persian are check, magic, peach (literally, Persian apple), kiosk (literally, palace), pajamas (literally, leg garment), khaki (literally, dusty), van (short for caravan), azure, talc, and jasmine.

From time to time we’ve featured words that were borrowed from Persian, but never dedicated a whole week to them. This week we’ll see five words that have come to us from (or via) Persian.


(SAY-trap, SAT-rap)

1. A governor of a province in ancient Persia.
2. A subordinate ruler or official.

From Latin satrapes, from Greek satrapes, from Old Persian khshathrapavan (protector of the province), from khshathra- (province) + pava (protector). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pa- (to protect or feed), which also gave us fodder, food, pasture, pantry, companion, and Spanish pan (bread). Earliest documented use: 1380.

“The new site should obviously be decided by the islanders who must live with it, not some London-appointed satrap.”
Matthew Engel; First Flight to St Helena; Financial Times (London, UK); Jan 30, 2016.

See more usage examples of satrap in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

I don't believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again. -Anne Frank, Holocaust diarist (12 Jun 1929-1945)

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