Meanings behind the Persian names

By: Bahram Badiyi



 Part 1

I am sure those who follow the historical theories have heard that a handful of people in recent months and inside Iran have put forward a series of theories that are based on the premise that Iran was not a highly advanced culture prior to Arab conquest and the entire story of Iran is nothing but the fabrication by Western historians. This idea, or theory, goes on to claim that names in advance cultures have specific meaning and since none of the Persian names have any meaning therefore the Persian history is nothing but a false story assembled by the West to separate Iran from the rest of the Middle or Near East! Additionally, this theory claims that, prior to the Arab conquest, Iran was hardly an urban state. The feudal members of the society enslaved the locals and governed Persia as a rural or peasant state!


Let us not overreact to such non-senses that are truly made to provoke people into violent reaction. Such claims are not theories but rather stains that are easily washable from the shining surfaces of the pages in which Persian history and the achievements of Iranian people have been recorded in.  So, without wasting any valuable time, I would like to get to the point to respond to the so called theory of the meaningless names of Iranian people.


We start from the Achaemenids (Hakhamaneshian) period:


1. Cyrus (Kuroush): this is the same word as Soroush in Persian or angle Gabriel in Christianity which means “the bearer of great news from God”. The name highly describes the character and persona of the founder of Iran who proclaimed the first charter of human rights and is considered the father of human rights by most historians. He was a man who declared freedom for the slaves and welcomed the practice of every religion, culture and language. I firmly believe that the winged figure in Pasargad showing an angle is in reference to this remarkable man’s achievement which brought about light into the darkness of the ancient world.

Let us not forget that above the arches that cover the statue of Khusrow II Parviz on horseback and in full armor as well as those of Anahit and Mithra at Taq-e-Bostan in Kermanshah, there are two angles which artistically are very much associated with the western form of angle Gabriel. Could this be the interpretation of Cyrus overlooking and protecting Khusrow Parviz who at the time had extended the limits of his empire to that of Cyrus and Darius? I do believe that Sasanian art was highly conscious of the revival of the ancestral glories. Unfortunately as we have lost majority of the Sasanian era’s records thanks to our Arab conquerors, as well as those who came after them, we can only speculate as to what the real truth was behind this remarkable composition.


2-Darius: This name is pronounced Dariyush In modern and Darayavahoush in ancient Persian. In modern Persian the name can be easily translated to Dara-ye-Hoosh which means person who is smart and highly clever. Smartness and cleverness in English relates directly to being charismatic. Therefore the name given to the first super administrator in history of mankind describes very well his brilliant personality and talent.


3-Khashayarshah: He was the son of Darius I Great and the third most famous king of his dynasty after Cyrus (Kuroush) and Darius. The name in Modern Persian can be translated to Khash-an-yar-e Shah which can easily be translated to two meanings, one being:” All should be envious of a man who is the great friend and aid to the king”. The second means “most revered aid to the king” (Naturally that is the crown prince which he was)


4-Ardashir: This name continues to exist both in the Parthian as well as Sasanian periods. There are two distinct meaning behind the name but both lead us to a single meaning. The first meaning suggests that Ardashir is a short version for

Abar-Tawan-Shir that means "the all mighty powerful lion." It is in fact the same as the Lion-King in our current literature or theatrical work. The second meaning is that Ardashir is the abbreviated form of Artash-Tir (which is closest to the Pahlavi spelling and pronunciation of Sasanian kings such as Ardashir I or Babakan as well as Ardashir II successor to Shapur III and Ardashir III, the 11 years old monarch who came to power after Kavad II. Artash (Army) and Tir (Arrow or Spearhead) means "the commander of the army" or "the advance guard of the army" who spearheads the effort of the his men.


5. Similar words can be found in other Persian related languages. One example is the Kurdish word "Pishmarge" that means "the one who sacrifices himself to save those who come after him." I think that the two brilliant and gifted men, Qaem Maqam-e Farahani and his father Mirza Bozorg, created the name “Sarbaz” (which means "the one who gives his head away for others") had the former Kurdish word in mind.


In the second part of this article I will discuss the Parthian as well as Sasanian names with additional analysis of some names that have their roots in the mythical history of Iran during the Pishdadians and Kianians.