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. āhōg “blemish”); guman-i “thought, opinion, suspicion, suggestion” (< NPers. gomān); mizd-i “price, payment, rent” (from Mid. Pers. mizd < Av. mižda-; NPers. mozd). However, there are also adjectives—susṭ-i “weak” (NPers. sost); m-subuk-i “light” (NPers. sabok)—as well as verbal stems: šen- “build” (from Mid. Pers. *šēn, 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 Bagraṭ (proper name, Old Pers. Bagadāta-); čˊešmariṭ-i “true, real” (Mid. Pers. čašmdīd), 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. šāh-rāh “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 speṭaḳ-i (from Mid. Pers. spēdag “white, clean”) differs from NPers. sapīd, safīd.

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

Proper names. Borrowed proper names often had a military or heroic connotation: Arsoḳ/Arsuká (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. Wałarš < wal- “strength, might”); Vardan (from Mid. Pers. Wardā; apparently, this name, so popular in the Middle Persian period, is not attested in New Persian); Pˊerozh/Pˊeroz was introduced into Georgian twice, in its Middle Iranian form (Parth. Pērōž, Mid. Pers. Pērōz) and in the New Persian form (Pīrūz, Arabicized form Fīrūz); Palavand andthe family-name Palavandišvil-i (< NPers. pahlavān; the introduction of -d after -n- is characteristic of Georgian, cf. Georgian durbind-i dūrbīn, “telescope”).

Of Iranian theophoric anthroponyms, the following are represented in Georgian: Bagrat (*Old Pers. Bagadāta- “created by god, god’s gift,” Mid. Pers. Bay/gdād, Av. Baγō.dāta-, Parth. Baγdāt; the Arm. form Bagrat and the change d > δ > 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); Vaxušṭ-i (< OIr. vahišta- [“paradise,” superlative of veh “good,” i.e., “superb, excellent”], Mid. Pers. wahišt, NPers. behešt); Trdaṭ is derived from Tīr, the name of an Iranian deity (Parth. tyrydyt, Mid. Pers. Tīrdād “created by the god Tīr”); Khudada (< NPers. ḵodādād, “given by God”). The Georgian name Ražden may be a composite: its second component, -dēn, comes from Mid. Pers. dēn “creed, religion,” while the first one is perhaps Ir. rōž/rōz “day, light, happiness,” i.e., *Rōždēn- “happy religion.” The component rōz is also present in the Georgian family name Berozashvili (< NPers. Behrūz “happy, fortunate”). Adarazan or Adrazan, is also a compound, where the first element is the noun āḏar “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. Ādurnarsēh; for the second component cf. Av. nairyō.saŋya- 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 (< rōšn, rōšan, cf. Scythian Rōksanē, Av. rauxšna- “light, glittering,” NPers. Rowšanak); Bevroz (the first component is derived from OIr. *baivar, another derivative of which is bēvar “ten thousand”; cf. Av. baēvar-, Mid. Pers. bēwar., Sc. Baiormaios [see Justi, Namenbuch, p. 60]); Navroz, as in the family-name Navrozashvili (< NPers. nowrūz, “the first day of the new year” and the proper name Nowrūz).

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, arzānīg “worthy”); Ramin (Mid. Pers. rāmēn < OPers. rām-, Av. rāman- “peace, silence”); Ramaṗan (< Ir. *rāmapāvan-, with the adjective -pāvan “protecting peace, tranquility”); Dilardukhṭ (the second component, Mid. Pers. duxt, NPers. doḵt “daughter,” is often present in women’s names; the first component is probably derived from NPers dīlār or delārā “adorning hearts.” The Georgian female name Nazi can be found in Iranian languages as a male name (Med. *Nazuka-, Mid. Pers. Nāzuk).

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. Sīāvaḵš); cf. also Saurmag (< Scythian Sawarmag “black-armed”).

Zoonyms include: Varaza, Varaz, Varaz-Baḳur (cf. Av. varāza-, Med. *Varāzaka-, Scythian Oyadzacos, Oss. Waraz, Mid. Pers. warāz-, NPers. gorāz “wild boar”); Gorg, Gorgaká, Gurgen, Gorgine (cf. Old Pers. vṛka-, Mid. Pers. Gurgēn < OIr. vṛkaina-, NPers. gorg “wolf”). The term asp (horse) occurs in many compounds, but the family name Aspanidze is derived directly from the plural aspān. Georgian Tamaz derives from Av. Tumāspa-, patronymic Tumāspāna-, Mid. Pers. Tuxmāspān, Pāzand Tahmāspā, NPers. Ṭahmāsb, 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. Lohrāsb, Mid. Pers. Luhrāsp). Authors such as Eskandar Beg Monšī did not recognize the derivation of this name from the Persian Lohrāsp and transliterated it as Lūārṣāb (e.g., pp. 206, 271, 818-19, 874-79, etc.) Jamasp (Av. Jāmāspa-, NPers. Jāmāsb; probably “branded horse”) occurs in the family name Jamaspishvili. Names containing the element šer “lion” include: Shermazan, family name Shermazanashvili (< NPers. Šermazan “lion-killer”); Shergil, Arm. Šergir “lion-catcher, brave” (< NPers. šīrgīr, where the second component, gīr-, is the present stem of the verb gereftan “to take, to capture”); Shervazh, (the second component, vazh, may be derived from the Ir. vāč/vāž “voice,” i.e. “having the voice of a lion”); and the family name Shervashidze /Juansher (< N.Pers. Jovānæ^r, where the first component is jovān “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 šahr “city,” i.e., “the land of roses”; Gulchora (< NPers. Gol-čehra, where the second component is čehra “face,” i.e., “rose-faced”); Gulbahar, where the second component is bahār “spring.” (Gol-bahār “spring rose”).

Two somatic anthroponyms are Sharukh (NPers. šāhroḵ “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. ĒÚraj, NPers. Īraj); Erashahr (< Mid. Pers. Ērānšahr, “land of the Aryans”; cf. Arm. Eranšahik); Koiar (from Mid. Pers. kōhyār < kōfdār “the lord of the mountain”).

A large number of Persian names came into Georgian from the versions of the Šāh-nāma: Givi (< Gēv); Goderdz-i (< Gōdarz); Zurab-i (< Sohrāb); Ketevan (< Katāyūn); Zaal (< Zāl; 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. Frēdōn, NPers. Farīdūn/Fereydūn, < Av. raētaona- < tritá: i.e., “of triple strength”); Nestan-Darezhan (NPers. nīst andar jahān “unlike any other in the world”), etc.

Religious terminology. Iranian religion has also had an impact on Georgian vocabulary. Borrowings include: Arṭošan-i/Aṭrošan-i “fire-temple” (< Mid. Pers. Ādurānšāh); Aeshma, eshmaḳ-i “devil” (cf. Av. aēšma-; in Mid. Pers., with secondary aspiration, xē/ĕšm “anger”); dev-i “evil spirit” (from Mid. Pers. dēw, Old Pers. daiva-, Av. daēva-); niš “miracle, sign” (from Mid. Pers. nīš- < *niyaš- < ni-aš- “to look, to watch”; with suff. ān; NPers. nešān “sign,” Arm. loanword nšan; Georgian nishan-i); ṭadzar-i, ṭazar-i “temple” (from Old Pers. tacara-, NPers. tajar, tazar “winter pavilion”; cf. Georgian ṭadzr-oba- “feast, bread”); wnas-i “sin, misfortune, loss” (< Mid. Pers. wināh “sin,” OIr. *vināsa-, NPers. gonāh); zorva “sacrificial victim, sacrifice” (from Mid. Pers. zōhr “libation, offering” < Av. zaoθra- “sacrificial victim, donation, holy water”; from the same stem, zuaraḳ-i “animal to be sacrificed,” i.e. calf); jojokhet-i “hell” (< Mid. Pers. dušox < Av. daožahva-; NPers. dūzaḵ). Cheshmariṭ-i “true, right, reliable” and cheshmariṭ-eba “truth” derive from Mid. Pers. čašm-dīd “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. moḡ; 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 (magūstān) founded by Kirdēr 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. āznāvar; corresponds semantically to Mid. Pers. āzād, Av. āzāta- “nobility”; bazh-i “tax, duty” (from Mid. Pers. bāž, Old Pers. bāji-, Av. bāji- “to give, present”; NPers. bāj); dasṭaḳ-i “license, document” (from NPers. dastak “account-book”); dasṭur-i “trustworthy person, minister, true” in Old Georgian, “agreement, consent” in New Georgian (cf. NPers. dastūr “minister” < Mid. Pers. dastwar “religious adviser, judge, member of the Zoroastrian clergy,” cf. Georgian dasṭur-xelosan-i “official, clergyman”); gumard-i “viceroy” (from Mid. Pers. gumārdag “commissioner, governor,” cf. NPers. gomārdan, “to appoint, designate”); gujar-i “book, letter, document” (from Mid. Pers. wizār “explanation”); kardag-i “estate, allotment” (from Mid. Pers. kardag < kart, *kert- “cut,” NPers. kard, kart “plot of land, estate”); roarṭag-i, hrovarṭaḳ-i, hroarṭaḳ-i, hroardag-i, hroaṭaḳ-i “book, letter, royal statute-book” (from Mid. Pers. frawardag < •var- “to turn round, roll, change,” i.e., “rolled up,” probably via Arm. hrovarṭaḳ “letter, order, edict; document testifying ownership”); šegird-i “apprentice, pupil” (< NPers. šāgerd, Mid. Pers. hašāgird < OIr. *hašā.krṭa-, Arm. ašakert, Mid. Pers. hawišt “pupil”); vachar-i “merchant, trader” (a loan through Arm. vačˊaraḳan “merchant,” vačˊar “trade, market < Mid. Pers. wāzāragān, “merchant,” wāzār “market,”); bazar-i “market” (< NPers. bāzār “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. zēnhār “guarantee, protection, oath” < *zivan-har- < *jīvana-hara- “protecting life”; NPers. zenhār); zeṗur-i “noble” (Mid. Pers. wispuhr < visō.puθra-“son of the family, of the clan; prince-royal,” cf. Georgian sa-zeṗur-o “chosen”); gund-i “army, regiment, military unit” (from Mid. Pers. gund “army,” NPers. gond, Arab. jond, Mand. gundā, Syr. guddā < gdd-, Old Hebrew g’ḏud “band, detachment”); razm-i “military unit, detachment” (from New and Mid. Pers. razm, Av. rasman- < •raz-); sardal-i “commander, general” (from NPers. sardār; r > l in Georgian); sṗa “army” (from Mid. Pers. spāh, OIr. spāδa-, NPers. sepāh); sṗasṗeṭ-i, sṗayṗeṭ-i “commander, general” (from Mid. Pers. sipāhbed,” NPers. sepahbad); marzpÂan-i “district governor” (< Mid. Pers. and NPers. marzbān); osṭaṭ- i “master, expert” (Mid. Pers. ōstāt-mart, NPers. ostād).

The term paṭiakhsh-i, ṗiṭiakhsh-i “the second after the king,” the viceroy of the shah of Persia in Iberia (byṭy’hš) is witnessed in inscriptions of the 1st to 2nd centuries C. E. In the trilingual inscription of Šāpūr 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 bṭxš, (byṭyʾáxš, cf. Arm. bdeašx). In Georgian b > due to assimilation with tÂ. Consequently,in anlaut bi- < bitīya- “the second,” Parth. bitīya- < Old Pers. dvitīya-, i.e. *bitiyaxša can be traced to the Achaemenian dvitīyaxšāya-, 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. kamān); kamandar-i “archer” (NPers. kamāndār); kamand-i “lasso” (NPers. kamand); xišt “bayonet” (NPers. ḵešt “spear, dart”); lula “gun-barrel” (NPers. lūla “tube”); šimšer-i “sharp blade” (Mid. Pers. šamšēr, NPers. šamšīr).

Some Iranian loanwords present in Georgian as military terms are used in civilian life as well: asṗarez-i “arena, hippodrome, square, stadium,” in Old Georgian “distance equal to 195 steps” (from Mid. Pers. asprēs “hippodrome” < asprās, where the first component is asp “horse” and the second rās “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. ayvān “hall, portico, balcony, open gallery”); akhor-i, Old Georgian “cow-shed,” modern Georgian “stables” (NPers. āḵor; Mid. Pers. āxwarr “stables”); bag-i “garden, orchard” (from NPers. bāḡ “garden”; Pāzand bag “part, share,” Av. bāga- "God’s share,” cf. Georgian baghcha “small garden” < NPers. bāḡča); bosṭan-i, Old Georgian “garden, orchard,” modern Georgian “kitchen garden” (from NPers. būstān “garden”); cha “well” (from Mid. Pers. and NPers. čāh, Av. čāt-); chadraḳ-i “chess” (from Mid. Pers. čatrang, Skt. čatur.aṅga-, NPers. šatranj); charkh-i “lathe, wheel” (from NPers. čarḵ “circulation, circle, orbit, wheel” < Mid. Pers. čaxr < Av. čaxra-); chashniḳ-i “degustation, tasting,” Old Georgian čˊašnagir-i “taster” (NPers. čāšnī “taste, tasting”); čogan-i “polo-club, racket; small spade” (from NPers. čowgān < Mid. Pers. čōpēkān, čōβēgān < čōb “wood, stick”); dasṭa “a number of similar objects; bunch, pack, ensemble, team” (from NPers. dasta “group, team, bundle, bunch); dasṭakar-i “surgeon” (< NPers. dastkār “dexterous, expert; a person who works with his hands”); dazga “bench, carpenter’s bench, machine” (from NPers. dastgāh “apparatus, installation”); do “whey” (Mid. Pers. “refreshing drink made from milk”); dosṭakan-i “large goblet, bowl” (< NPers. dūst-kāmī “toast, wine drunk to a friends health; large vessel for wine”); dukard-i “shears” (from NPers. dokārd “scissors, shears” < do “two,” and kārd “knife”; cf. Georgian karda); durbind-i “binoculars, field-glasses” (< NPers. dūrbīn); kamar-i “belt, waist” (from NPers. kamar < Mid. Pers. kamar, Av. kamarā-); kap-i “foam” (from NPers. kaf, Mid. Pers. kaf); kapkir-i “skimmer” (NPers. kafgīr); karavan-i “caravan” (from NPers. kāravān < Mid. Pers. kārvān); karkhana “factory” (NPers. kār-ḵāna “factory, workshop”); karvasla “station, trading center” (from NPers. kāravān-sarā “caravansaray”; the reduction of the vowel and r > l are characteristic of Georgian, cf. Georgian sra “palace”); kucha “street” (from NPers. kūča “street, road”); khali, khalicha “carpet” (NPers. qālī, qālīča); kheivan-i “path, walk” (NPers. ḵīābān “avenue, boulevard, walk”); khorag-i (colloquial) “food” (from NPers. ḵorāk, Av. xᵛar-); khurda “small cash, change; rubble” (< ḵorda “bits, fragments” < Mid. Pers. xwurdag “small”); khvasṭag-i, khosṭag-i “wealth, cattle” (from Mid. Pers. xᵛāstak “wealth,” NPers. ḵᵛāsta); jam-i “vessel, bowl” (< NPers. jām “cup, goblet, bowl,” < Mid. Pers. jām, Av. yama-); marag-i “quantity, stock” (from Mid. Pers. marak “number, quantity” < Av. mar- “measure”); nav-i “ship, boat” (cf. Old Pers. nāviyā “navy,” NPers. nāv “war-ship, boat”); panjara “window” (NPers. panjara); polak-i “button” (NPers. pūlak “scales, spangles, small coin”); pul-i “money” (NPers. pūl); rochik-i “food, ration” (from Mid. Pers. rōzīk “daily ration” < rōz “day,” and suffix -īk); sardap-i “basement, cellar” (NPers. sardāb; final b > p); shusha “glass, flask” (NPers. šīša “glass, vessel, bottle, flask”); ṭakhṭ-i “seat, throne, bed” (NPers. taḵt “throne, sofa”); ṭakhṭrevan-i (obsolete) “litter, palanquin” (NPers. taḵt[-e] ravān); ṭom-i “tribe, family” (< Mid. Pers. tōm “seed, family, progeny” < Av. taoxman-, Old Pers. taumā-).

Names of plants and animals: vard-i “rose” (cf. Av. varəδa-, Arm. vard, NPers. vard “red rose”); mikhaḳ-i “carnation” (NPers. mīḵak); bamba “cotton” (NPers. panba, pamba; initial p > b); badrijan-i “eggplant” (NPers. bādenjān); gulab-i “a kind of pear” (NPers. golābī “pear”); ni-goz-i “nut-kernel” (from Mid. Pers. gōz, NPers. gowz “walnut”; cf. Georgian gozinaqˊ-i “nuts boiled in honey” < Mid. Pers. gōzēnag); vešaṗ-i “whale; monster, dragon” (from Mid. Pers. wišāp < Av. višāpa- “dragon,” an epithet of Aži Dahāka, q.v.); vigr “leopard,” cf. Arm. vagr “tiger” (from Mid. Pers. babr); siasamur-i “sable,” lit. “black sable” (from NPers. sīāh and samūr < Parth. simōr, Mid. Pers. samōr); spilo, pilo “elephant” (from Mid. Pers. pīl; initial s before p, cf. spars-i “Persian”).

Weights and measures: griv-i, a dry measure equal to 22 ksests (Arm. griv, NPers. jarīb, a square measure); ḳabich-i, equal to three grivs (from Mid. Pers. kabīz, NPers. kavīž, kavīz, Arm. kapič); charek-i, a quarter of a measure of weight or capacity, a liquid capacity measure equal approximately to one liter (from NPers. čārak “quarter, measure of weight” < čahār-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. bī-ābrū “disgraced, dishonored”); gamo-komag-eba “help, support” < komag-i “protector, patron” (NPers. komak).



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(Thea Chkeidze)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 7, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 5, pp. 486-490