BĀLANG, citron, the fruit of a species of citrus tree (Citrus medica cedrata). The candied unripe fruit is an article of commerce under various names; in Europe it is used as a flavoring in cakes, particularly Christmas cakes. In modern Iran, chiefly in Gīlān and Māzandarān, a tasty jam called morabbā-ye bālang is made from the ripe fruit.
The word bālang (also, in vulgar speech, incorrectly pālang) appears to be derived, through a putative metathesis bārdang, from bādrang which in turn is derived from Middle Persian vātrang. No explanation has yet been found for the Aramaic ideogram BYLBWŠYʾ (or something similar) given as the lexigraphic symbol for vātrang in the Frahang ī Pahlavīk.
This plainly Iranian word passed by way of Aramaic into Arabic as toronj, otronj, otrojj (Pers. toranj, otroj). It is found in the Talmud as eṯrōḡ (Hebrew) and eṯrōḡā or eṯrūgā (Aramaic), and likewise in Syriac, perhaps reflecting a putative vaθrāng/vaθrāγ with change of the v to ʾ. For the Jews, the eṯrōḡ or “apple of paradise” is one of the four plants of the festive bunch of flowers in the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth).
The same word bālang/bādrang is also a name of the sweet basil (usually called rayḥān) and appears to have been wrongly applied to some other plants. It enters into compounds such as bādrangbū(ya), bālengū, palangmešk or palangmūš (varieties of calamint) and probably also bādrū, bādrūj, bādrūz, bādrūča, and the like (a variety of basil).
As regards the etymology of the Middle Persian vātrang, the word is probably to be explained as a compound of vāt (New Persian bād) “wind” with the connotation of “scent” plus rang “color” or “variety,” thus meaning scented (cf. rayḥān, the Arabic word for sweet basil, from rīḥ “wind” with the connotation of scent). Another possibility, however, is that it might be a popular adaptation of a foreign, perhaps Eastern loanword; the ending ang could be derived from an old form an-(a)k.
Unrelated to the above are the homonymous words pālang (oxhide shoe worn by peasants), pālang/pālank or palang/palank (bed), peleng, pelengak (filliping, snapping of finger) in the dialect of Shiraz, also pālang (small window) and palang/palank = peleng (width of a gate), which may be from pā(y) (foot) plus leng (leg, also step as a measure of length).
See also citrus fruits.
Immanuel Low, Aramäische Pflanzennamen, Leipzig, 1881, p. 46, nos. 17, 18.
Siegmund Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen, Leiden, 1886, p. 139.
Victor Hehn, Kulturpflanzen und Haustiere in ihrem Übergang aus Asien . . . , 8th ed., Berlin, 1911, pp. 450f.
Esmāʿīl Zāhedī, Vāža-nāma-ye gīāhī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1959, p. 62, no. 335.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988