BARZAN, part of a town, quarter (maḥalla), street (kūča). The word is listed in the old dictionaries and is preserved in the common expression kūy o barzan “street and quarter.” Loḡat-e fors (ed. Dabīrsīāqī, p. 153) quotes Rūdakī’s verse parnīān gašt bāḡ o barzan o kūy “the garden, quarter, and street became (like) colored silk” and Šams-e Faḵrī (p. 368) defines the word as sar-e kūča o maḥallat. Under Reżā Shah barzan became the official designation of municipal divisions of a city (Barzan-e 1, 2, etc.).

Barzan is a Northwest-Iranian form in Persian, corresponding to the genuine Southwest-Iranian form seen in Old Persian vardana- or vṛdana (neut.) “town” and Pahl. vālan “community, settlement.” The corre­sponding Avestan forms are Gathic vərəzə̄nā/ă- (fem. and neut.), Young Avestan varəzāna- (neut.), “community” (a meaning Bartholomae deduced from the Pahlavi gloss hamsāyak “neighbor,” see AirWb., col. 1425, last note). Gathic vərəzə̄na- corresponds to Old Indian vṛjána- (neut.) “surroundings, place, community,” also with zero grade of the root syllable (cf. vərəzə̄nya- ­“belonging to the community,” corresponding to Rig­vedic vṛjanyà, Mayrhofer, Dictionary III, p. 243), while Young Avestan varəzāna- has the full grade of the root syllable (the long ā in -āna is found only in the YAv. form) also found in Pahlavi vālan (< *vardan), Persian barzan, and Khotanese *balysana- (see below). The Old Persian form is graphically ambiguous: vardana- or vṛdana-.

Old Persian vardana “town” (Akkadian uru) con­trasts in the inscriptions with āvahana “*settlement” (Akk. ālum, Elam. hu-ma-nu-iš, see, e.g., Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, p. 109) and didā “fortress” (Akk. bīrtum). The latter survived in Persian in the forms dez (genuine “Northwest” form <*dizā-) and dež (a pseudo­-archaic form). In Darius’s Bīsotūn inscription nine vardanas “towns” are named, situated in Persis: Kuga­nakā (DB 2.9), Raxā (3.4.), (H)uvādaičaya (3.51), Tāravā (3.22); Parthia: Patigrabanā (3.4f.), Višpahuzāt­iš (2.95f.); and Media: Kunduruš (2.65f.), Māruš (2.22).

Old Indian vardhana- (neut.) “town” must be one of the loanwords from Old Persian in Indian dating from the Achaemenid period (J. Wackernagel, Kleine Schrif­ten, Göttingen [1956], pp. 384f.; Mayrhofer, Dictionary III, p. 158; others are lipi- “script” from OPers. dipi-, mudrā- “seal”).

Further derivation of *v(a)rzanā/ă- remains prob­lematic. Connection with Av. varəz- (fem.), which according to AirWb., col. 1378, means “habitation” but according to later research should be equated with OInd. ūrj- “libation,” is doubtful (cf. Kellens, pp. 361­-64) and the root varəz- “to fend off” (AirWb., cols. 1378, 1424f., cf. Gk. wérgein, eirgein “to constrict, close off,” Pokorny, p. 1168) may be vərəz- “to work, make.” The Pahlavi translations render Av. vərəzə̄na- by varzišn or vālan and vālanīh (often written vʾlnʾ, vʾlnʾyh, which Bartholomae transcribed as vālūn-īh), glossed as ham­sāyak “neighbor” in Y. 33.4. This gloss recalls Kho­tanese balysania- (i.e., balzania-) “neighboring” (i.e., country), rendering (Buddhist) Sanskrit sāmantaka in the Suvarṇabhāsasūtra (Bailey, Dictionary, p. 272).

Semantically Iranian vṛzana- and Old Persian vardana- belong to an Indo-European group of words whose meaning has evolved from “town” to “fence,” cf., e.g., Germanic gard, in Norwegian “farm” (note also -gard in names of towns) and “fence” and English town (cf. Swedish -tun in names of towns, Norwegian tun “central courtyard of a farm”) but German Zaun “fence.” Correspondingly, one would expect Middle Iranian varzan, vālan to designate fortified settlements, like Persian kalāt, Arabic qaḷʿa. The semantic narrow­ing of Persian barzan maḥalla” is similar to that of Old Iranian dahyu- “land” > Persian deh “village” and Old Iranian xšaθra “realm” > Persian šahr -town.” Com­pare also Akkadian mātum > Aramaic māṯā “village,” Arabic welāya > Persian welāyat “marketplace” (see Eilers, 1977, p. 285).

In modern Iranian place names the forms Varzan and Varzana are common. We find Varzan west of Tehran (Razmārā, Farhang I, p. 230), in Rūdbār (ibid., III, p. 316), in the Dašt-e Kavīr (Adle, p. 82 n. 62); and Varzana in Dastjerd near Qom, possessing a large, abundantly irrigated estate (Tārīḵ-eQom, p. 68; Razmārā, I, p. 230), in Bandpey, Bābol (ibid., III, p. 317), 24 km southeast of Golpāyagān (ibid., VI, p. 364), in the Gāvḵānī swamp, shortly before the mouth of the Zāyandarūd (ibid., X, p. 202; Schwarz, Iran V, p. 659), in Jāst (Tārīḵ-e Qom, p.138); in the ṭassūj of Jahrūd we find both Varzan and Varzana (pp. 119, 120, 122); there were a qarya Varzan in the ṭassūj of Dwrʾḵyr (p. 142) and a “Varzana-ye bāʾera” (lit. “dilapidated V.”) in Farāhān (p. 141). Note also Varzana-ye Ayyūb in the rostāq of Sāva, ṭassūj of Fīstīn (pp. 86, 114, 140), Varzana-ye Aznāh in Sāva (p. 140), Varzana-ye Āša in Ṭabraš (i.e., Tabrīš/Tabreš, present-day Tafrīš/Tafreš; p. 139), and Arabicized Varzat al-Fāleq in Sāva (p. 140) and Varzat al-Ṣarm in Vāzakrūd (p. 137). Eilers (1954, p. 353) mentions the possibility that the place names Golnābād (a ruined town east of Isfahan near the road to Sagzī and a place between Kermān and Yazd) might contain a dialect form *Golan < *vṛdan; cf. Vardanābād in the ṭassūj of Qāsāq (Tārīḵ-e Qom, p. 114).



Ch. Adle, “Contribution à la géographie historique de Damghan,” Le monde iranien et l’Islam 1, 1971, pp. 69-104 (with illustrations and maps). Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. M. Moʿīn, I, pp. 254f.

W. Brandenstein and M. Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen, Wiesbaden, 1964.

W. Eilers, “Der Name Demawand,” Archiv Orientální 22, 1954, pp. 267-374.

Idem, “Einige Prinzipien toponymischer Übertragung,” Onoma 21, 1977, pp. 277-317.

Horn, Etymologie, p.46.

Hübschmann, Neupersische Studien, p. 26), and in Grundriss I/1, p. 91 (both wrongly separate barzan from vardana).

J. Kellens, Les noms-racines de l’Avesta,Wiesbaden, 1974.

Ḥasan b. Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Qomī, Tārīḵ-e Qom, Pers. tr. Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. Ḥasan b. ʿAbd-al-Malek Qomī, ed. J. Ṭehrānī, Tehran, 1313 Š./1934, repr. 1361 Š./1982.

Šams-e Faḵrī Eṣfahānī, Meʿyār-e jamālī, 4th pt.:Vāža-nāma-ye fārsī, ed. Ṣ. Kīā, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958.

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(W. Eilers)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: December 15, 1988

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