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Related to Persian: Persian Empire, Persian cat


1. of or relating to ancient Persia or modern Iran, their inhabitants, or their languages
2. a native, citizen, or inhabitant of modern Iran; an Iranian
3. a member of an Indo-European people of West Iranian speech who established a great empire in SW Asia in the 6th century bc
4. (loosely) the language of Iran or Persia in any of its ancient or modern forms, belonging to the West Iranian branch of the Indo-European family
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Farsi), the language of the Persians. The official language of Iran. Persian is also spoken in a number of Arab countries, the total number of speakers exceeding 13.5 million (1970, estimate). It belongs to the Southwestern branch of the Iranian group of the Indo-European family of languages.

Three periods are distinguished in the history of Persian: old, middle, and new. Together with Tadzhik and the Dari (Farsi-Kabuli) language of Afghanistan, modern Persian is the genetic successor of Old Persian, Middle Persian, and New Persian of the classical period. Old Persian is attested by cuneiform inscriptions made to glorify kings of the Achaemenid dynasty, the texts dating from the sixth, fifth, and fourth centuries B.C. Middle Persian is the language of texts from the third through seventh centuries A.D. New Persian of the classical period was spoken from the seventh century to approximately the 15th century; the first written records date from the ninth century. In the Middle Ages, Persian was used as a literary language in Azerbaijan and India. Persian has a number of dialects, the best known of which is the Tehran dialect.

The phonetic system of Persian contains six monophthongs, two diphthongs, and 23 consonant phonemes, with uvular and laryngeal series of consonants. Clusters of two or more consonants do not occur at the beginning of a word. Words are generally stressed on the final syllable. The morphology is characterized by a gender category and the absence of a case system for nouns. In the suffixal formation of plurals, vowel mutations are preserved for Arabic words. Analytic forms are more prevalent than inflected forms in the verb system, and there are many compound nominal verbs of the type guŝ dådän (“to listen”). There are full and enclitic forms for personal pronouns. Prepositions are more common than postpositions. The syntax is characterized by the use of the ezafeh suffix in attributive constructions: the word being defined receives the marker -e and is placed before the defining elements, as in ketåb-e xub (“good book”).

An Iranian stratum constitutes the basis of the Persian vocabulary; there are also a number of Arabisms and borrowings from Turkic. French, Russian, and English vocabulary items have entered the language since the 19th century. The Persian writing system is based on Arabic script.


Rubinchik, Iu. A. Sovremennyi persidskii iazyk. Moscow, 1960.
Peisikov, L. S. Voprosy sintaksisa persidskogo iazyka. Moscow, 1963.
Gaprindashvili, Sh. G., and Dzh. Sh. Giunashvili. Fonetika persidskogo iazyka. Tbilisi, 1964.
Persidsko-russkii slovar’, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1970.
Lambton, A. K. S. Persian Grammar. Cambridge, 1953.
Lazard, G. Grammaire du persan contemporain. Paris, 1957.
Hodge, C. T. Spoken Persian. Washington, D.C., 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A telamon, esp. one portrayed in Persian dress.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in classic literature ?
"Had I but followed your advice, beautiful Persian," he said, "all this would not have happened, but at least I have this consolation, that I have spent my fortune in the company of friends who will not desert me in an hour of need.
Overwhelmed with grief, he sought consolation from the beautiful Persian.
Finally this resource also came to an end, and again he sought counsel from the beautiful Persian.
"Charming Persian," answered Noureddin, "how could I be guilty of such baseness?
Leaving the beautiful Persian shut up in the room alone, he went ont to seek the slave merchants, announcing to them that he had found the pearl among slaves, and asking them to come and put a value upon her.
As soon as Saouy saw the Persian he was so struck by her beauty, that he immediately wished to possess her, and not knowing that she belonged to Noureddin, he desired Hagi Hassan to send for the owner and to conclude the bargain at once.
Noureddin did as Hagi Hassan advised, to the great wrath of Saouy, who riding straight at him endeavoured to take the beautiful Persian from him by force.
A doorkeeper, named Sangiar, who had been a slave of Khacan's, hearing this order given, slipped out of the king's apartment, and hastened to warn Noureddin to take flight instantly with the beautiful Persian. Then, presenting him with forty gold pieces, he disappeared before Noureddin had time to thank him.
As soon, then, as the fair Persian had put on her veil they fled together, and had the good fortune to get out of the town without being observed.
Meanwhile Noureddin and the fair Persian had safely reached Bagdad.
While he was gone Noureddin and the Persian wandered through the gardens and went up the white marble staircase of the pavilion as far as the locked door of the saloon.
Noureddin and the beautiful Persian, finding the wine excellent, drank of it freely, and while drinking they sang.