FĀRESĪYĀT, a literary term used in Arabic literature to refer to poems in Arabic which contain some Persian words or even phrases in their original form, the most notable example being the Fāresīyāt of Abū Nowās (q.v.). The term has also been used in a wider sense to include all Persian words, phrases, and sentences which occur in classical Arabic poetry or prose, whether in their original state or in an Arabicized form.

The occurrence of fāresīyāt prior to Islam has been enumerated in some recent studies (Āḏarnuš). Some of the Arabic poets or scribes who were connected with the Sasanian court occasionally employed fāresīyāts, although it must be borne in mind that as in most matters dealing with Arabic pre-Islamic poetry, much of the evidence is from later anecdotal accounts. The most notable among these poets are: Laqīṭ Eyādī, perhaps a secretary at the court of Šāpūr II or, according to other sources, at the court of Ḵosrow I (Pellat, p. 639; Laqīṭ, Dīvān, Eng. intro., pp. 14-16); Maymūn b. Qays Aʿšā, who is said to have had an audience with Ḵosrow I, and to have recited his poetry at his court (Ebn Qotayba, al-Šeʿr wa’l-šoʿarāʾ I, p. 258; note also Abū Ḥātem Rāzī’s use of this anecdote for disparaging remarks on the Persian language and the boorishness of the king,I, pp. 122-24; Stern, pp 549-50); ʿAdī b. Zayd ʿEbādī, the Christian poet who frequented Ctesiphon and served as a translator and a redactor of Arabic letters to the court of Ḵosrow II (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 312 ff.); and his son Zayd b. ʿAdī, also attached to the court (Ebn Qotayba, al-Šeʿr wa’l-šoʿarāʾ I, pp. 228-29). However, Persian words and expressions occur only infrequently in their work, except in the case of Aʿšā. His poems include some eighty Persian words (Āḏarnuš, p. 124), ten of which are proper names or geographical locations. He sometimes uses Persian words in their original form, e.g. dašt “plain” (Dīvān, ed. Geyer, p. 35); yāsamīn “jasmine” (p. 121); šāhanšāh “king of kings” (p. 145); šājerd < šāgerd “novice, disciple” (p. 148); ḵandaq > kandag “trench” (p. 151); ḵosravānī (name of a melody, p. 227); joll < gol “rose, flower” (p. 151); dehqān > dehgān “landed gentry” (p. 228). In an ode depicting a scene of carousing and merriment, Aʿšā uses the Persian names of a number of flowers: banafsaj, sīsanbar, marzajuš, ās, ḵīrī, marv, sūsan, šāhasfaram, yāsamīn, narjes, and a number of musical instruments: mostaq, wann, barbatá, and sanj (pp. 200-201).

There are a number of words of Iranian origin in the Koran, mostly taken indirectly from Aramaic or Syriac, e.g: kanz:11.15, etc. “treasure” < ganz ; abābīl (pl.): 105.3 < ābela “small pox, blister”; sorādeq: 18.28 < *sar-otāq? “ante-chamber,” cf. sarā-parda “tent”; Hārūt wa Marūt: 2.96 “names of two fallen angels” < Hᵛartāt and Amortāt, two Zoroastrian aməša.spəntas (q.v.); namāreq: 85.15 “cushions” < Mid. Pers. narm, Av. namra- “soft,” plus the suffix -ak; jond: 2.250, etc. “troop” < Mid. Per. gund “troop, army”; rezq: 2.57, etc. “daily provision,” ultimately < Mid. Pers. rōč, Pers. rōz, rūz “day”; serāj: 25.62 “lamp” < čerāḡ “lamp” through Aramaic; jonāh: 5.94, etc. “sin” < Pers. gonāh “sin, wrong”; warda: 55.37 “rose” < Mid. Pers. varta “rose” through Aramaic (see Jeffery, 308 ff., and Yarshater, pp. 48 ff. for comments on Jeffery).

A few Persian words and phrases appear in the sayings attributed to the Companions of the Prophet. For instance, Anas b. Mālek is reported to have said that he saw the Prophet eat both dates and melons (al-ḵerbaz, cf. Pers. ḵarboza “melon”) at the same time (Majd-al-Dīn Ebn al-Aṯīr, 1979, p. 19). An often quoted report, particularly in Shiʿite sources, describes Salmān the Persian’s tersely belligerent response when Abū Baḵr was elected as the first Caliph: kardīd o nakardīd, “you did and [yet] you did not,” (Massignon, pp. 12-14). An example of constructing Arabic verbs from Persian words occurs in an anecdote in which ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb is quoted as having said to a group of Persian residents of Kufa who had presented him with sweetmeats on the occasion of the festivals of Nowrūz and Mehragān: Nayrezūnā kolla yawmen “make every day a Nowrūz for us” and Mahrajūnā kolla yawmen “make every day a Mehragān for us” (Tāj al-ʿarūs, s.v. n.r.z); another example is the present participle mošanbeḏ < šanbedò < Pers. čūn bovaḏī (similar to the greeting “how are you ?”) which occurs in a hemistich of Abū Mahdīya Aʿrābī who says: “I shall never say šanbedò” (šu@n bovaḏī) as Persians do (Jawālīqī, s.v. “šonboḏ,” p. 418). With the expansion of Islam, and closer contacts between Persians and Arabs, more Persian words entered Arabic, either in their original form or in an Arabicized shape. There was also an increase in the formation of Arabic words constructed from Persian elements (for examples of Persian loan words in Arabic prior to Islam see: C. E. Bosworth in Camb. Hist. Ir. III/1, p. 610; and Āḏarnuš, pp. 127-42; for a discussion of Persian loan-words in Arabic in general see Tafażżolī, in EIr. II, pp. 231-33, and Yarshater, pp. 47-54).

With the accession of the ʿAbbasids and the concomitant ascendancy of Persians in their administration, a number of Persian words and idioms mostly expressive of concepts in administration, entertainment, food, and luxury entered the Arabic language (Moḥaqqeq, pp. 46-47; Ṣūlī, p. 193). No attempt has been made yet to collect all the fāresīyāt scattered in surviving Arabic works in different fields. Among these are the works of Moslem travelers and geographers, and those of Arab litterateurs such as Ebn Qotayba (q.v.) and Jāḥeẓ (see below)áá, collections of Hadiths, more particularly works which are classified as ḡarīb al-ḥadīṯ, “rare [occurrences] in Hadith” such as the book bearing this title by Ebn Qotayba, the works of historians including Balāḏorī, Ṭabarī, Ebn al-Aṯīr, and Abu’l-Fedā, and, more rarely, philosophers like Farābī (Ketāb al-ḥorūf, pp. 111-14). Here only some samples will be offered. Ṭabarī quotes a command given in Egypt during the ʿAbbasid revolution to the soldiers pursuing the last of the Umayyad caliph: “yā jovanagān dahīḏ ” (give [it to them] O young men; III, p. 51). A later historian and geographer, Ebn al-Mojāwer, provides a rich source of citations from Persian poets in his Taʾrīḵ al-mostabṣer, written after 626/1228 and in essence more a geographical and topographical miscellany than a historical narrative (for a list of his quotations from Persian poets see Storey/de Blois, V/2, p. 243).

Jāḥeẓá’s works are a particularly good source of Persianisms. His Ketāb al-boḵalāʾ alone contains many examples including: āʾīn “customs, manners” (p. 103); fālūḏaj and lūzīnaj, two sweet dishes (p. 181); sakbāj “soup with vinegar and meat” (pp. 32, 128); taḵt-al-nard and ḵewān-al-nard “backgammon board” (p. 45). In the same book he recounts how one of the inhabitants of Marv, who were apparently notorious for their stinginess, pretended not to recognize an Iraqi to whom he owed some hospitality. Exasperated by the Iraqi’s efforts to make himself known to him, he exclaimed: Agar az pūst bārūn bīāʾī našnāsatam, “Even if you come out of your skin I shall not recognize you,”(p. 31). Another rich source is Ebn Qotayba (d. 276/889). For instance, he quotes ʿAlī b. Hešām who had cited a Persian line from a story-teller who having made people weep with his sad stories, would take out a lute from his sleeve and play on it and sing: Abā īn teymār bāyed anadakī šadīh (with this sorrow one needs a little merriment; ʿOyūn al-aḵbār IV, p. 91).

Ebn Ḵordādbeh in his Ketāb al-lahw wa’l-malāhī (p. 16) quotes a panegyrical song in Middle Persian by Bārbad (q.v.), the famous minstrel at the court of Ḵosrow II (Tafażżolī, 1974, pp. 338-39). Some lines of Persian are also cited in the Rasāʿel eḵwān al-ṣafā (I, pp. 139, 209, 335).

A number of Arab poets of the early ʿAbbasid era have quoted Persian verses, songs, or expressions. Two lines beginning with Āb ast o nabīḏ ast, etc., reviling Somayya, Zīād b. Abīh’s mother, by Yazīd b. Mofarreḡ are cited in al-Aḡānī1 (XVII, p. 56) and repeated in other sources, including Jāḥeẓ’s al-Bayān wa’l-tabyīn (I, p. 143) and the Tārīḵ-e Sīstān (p. 96). The poems of Baššār b. Bord (q.v.), who was of Persian stock, contain a number of Perisanisms. But, as it has already been pointed out, the name most closely associated with fāresīyāt is that of Abū Nowās, a contemporary of the caliph Hārūn al-Rašīd, whose mother was from Ḵūzestān. He employs a number of Persian words and phrases to parade his knowledge of Persian, add spice to his verse, and humor his audience. Mojtabā Mīnovī has published and explicated one of his qaṣīdas rhyming in -ūs in praise of a young Persian male lover named Behrūz.

Several authors have collected Persian words used in Arabic. One of the earliest is Jawālīqī (d. 1145) in his al-Moʿarrab. Another well-known compilation is Šefāʾ al-ḡalīl by Ḵafājī (d. 1359). Modern works of scholarship on the subject include those by Addī Šīr, ʿAbdul-Sattar Siddiqi, Wilhelm Eilers, Moḥammad-ʿAlī Emām-Šuštarī, and Asya Asbaghi (see bibliography).

Apart from their obvious linguistic importance, and the poetic effects for which they were used by bilingual poets, several of the Persian poems and songs which survive in some Arabic texts do not appear elsewhere and are therefore of great interest for the early history of Persian literature. Beside the already mentioned work of Ebn al-Mojāwer, the hemistich in Khorasani dialect in Asmāʾ al-moḡtālīn (p. 167) and the lines of Persian epic poetry in Maqdesī (Badʾ III, pp. 138, 173) are two other examples of these important relics.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

Abū Ḥātem Rāzī, Ketāb al-zīna, part. ed. Ḥ. Ḥamdānī, 2 vols., Cairo, 1956-57, I, pp. 122-24.

Ā. Āḏarnuš, Rāhhā-ye nofūḏ-e fārsī dar farhang wa zabān-e tāzī. Tehran, 1354 Š./1975; 2nd ed. Tehran 1374 Š./1995.

A. Asbaghi, Persische Lehnwörter im Arabischen, Wiesbaden, 1988.

Asmāʾ al-moḡtālīn in ʿA. Hārūn, ed., Nawāder al-maḵṭūṭāt II/6, Cairo, 1374/1954, pp. 106-278.

Maymūn b. Qays Aʿšā, The Diwan of al-Aʿshā, ed. R. Geyer, Gibb Mem. N.S. 6, London, l928.

C. E. Bosworth, “The Persian Impact on Arabic Literature, “ in A. F. L. Beeston et al., eds., Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period, Cambridge, U.K., 1983, pp. 483-96.

Idem, “Persian Literature, Relations with Arabic,” in J. S. Meisami and P. Starkey, eds., Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, 2 vols., London, l998, II, pp. 600-601.

Majd-al-Dīn Ebn al-Aṯīr, al-Nehāya fī ḡarīb al-ḥadīṯ, 5 vols., Cairo 1963-65; repr. Beirut, 1979, III, p. 19.

Yūsof b. Yaʿqūb Ebn al-Mojāwer, Taʾrīḵ al-mostabṣer, ed. O. Löfgren as Descriptio Arabiae Meridionalis, 2 vols., Leiden, 1951-54.

ʿAbd-Allāh b. Moslem Ebn Qotayba, Ḡarīb al-ḥadīṯ, ed. ʿA. Jabbūrī, Baghdad, 1977.

Idem, ʿOyūn al-aḵbār, ed. A. Z. ʿAdawī, 4 vols., Cairo 1343-49/1925-30.

Idem, al-Šeʿr wa’l šoʿarāʾ, ed. A. M. Šāker, 2nd. ed., Cairo, 1386/1966.

Eḵwān-al-Ṣafāʾ, Rasāʾel I, Beirut, 1957, pp. 139, 209, 235.

W. Eilers, “Das iranische Lehngut im arabischen Lexikon: Über einige Berufsnamen und Titel,” Indo-Iranian Journal 5, 1962, pp. 203-32, 308-9.

Idem, “Iranische Lehngut im Arabischen,” in Actas do IV Congresso de Estudos Arabes e Islâmicos, Coimbra-Lisboa 1 a 8 Setembro de l968, Leiden, 1971, pp. 581-660.

M.-ʿA. Emām Šuštarī, Farhang-e vāžahā-ye fārsī dar zabān-e ʿarabī, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968.

Laqīṭ Eyādī, Dīwān, ed. and tr. into English A. Mu’id Khan as A Critical Edition of Diwān of Laqīt ibn Yaʿmur, Beirut, 1391/1971 (only two poems survive).

Abū Naṣr Fārabī, Ketāb al-ḥorūf, ed. M. Mahdī, repr. Beirut, 1990.

Jāḥeẓá, al-Bayān wa’l tabyīn, ed. ʿA. M. Harūn, 4 vols. in 2, Cairo, 1367-69/1948-50, I, pp. 141-45.

Idem, Ketāb al-boḵalāʾ, ed. Y. Šāmī, Beirut, l995.

Abū Manṣūr Jawālīqī, al-Moʿarrab men al-kalām al-ʿajamī ʿalā ḥorūf al-moʿjam, ed. F. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm, Damascus, l990.

A. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʿan, Baroda, India, l938.

L. Massignon, Salmān Pāk et les prémices spirituelles de l’Islam, Paris, l938, tr. J. M. Unvala as Salmān Pāk and the Spiritual Beginnings of Iranian Islām, Bombay, l955.

M. Mīnovī, “Yak-ī az fāresīyat-e Abū Nowās,” MDAT 1/3, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 62-77.

M. Moḥammadī Malāyerī, Farhang-e īrānī pīš az Eslām wa aṯār-e ān dar tamaddon-e eslāmī wa adabīyāt-e ʿarabī, 2nd impression with a new preface, Tehran, 2536=1356 Š./1977.

Idem, Tārīḵ wa farhang-e Īrān dar dawrān-e enteqāl az ʿaṣr-e sāsānī ba ʿaṣr-e eslāmī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1372-75 Š./1993-96.

M. Moḥaqqeq, “Taʾṯīr-e zabān-e fārsī dar zabān-e ʿarabī,” MDAT 7/3, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 38-56; 7/4, pp. 91-110.

Ch. Pellat, “Laḳīṭ al-Iyādī,” in EI2 V, pp. 630-31.

A. Siddiqi, Studien über die Persischen Fremdwörter im klassischen Arabisch, Göttingen, l919.

A. Šīr, al-Alfāẓ al-fāresīya al-moʿarraba, Beirut, l908.

S. M. Stern, “Yaʿqūb the Coppersmith and Persian National Sentiment,” in C. E. Bosworth, ed., Iran and Islam: Studies in Memory of the Late Vladimir Minorsky, Edinburgh, 1971, pp. 535-55.

Abū Bakr Moḥammad b. Yaḥyā Ṣūlī, Adab-al-kottāb, ed. M. Bahjat, Cairo, 1341/1922, p. 193.

A. Tafażżolī, “Arabic. ii. Iranian Loanwords in Arabic,” in EIr. II, pp. 231-33.

Idem, “Some Middle-Persian Quotations in Classical Arabic and Persian Texts,” in Ph. Gignoux and A. Tafazzoli, eds., Mémorial Jean de Menasce, Louvain, l974, pp. 337-49.

Tārīḵ-e Sīstān, pp. 95-96.

E. Yarshater, “Persian Presence in the Islamic World,” in R. Hovanissian and G. Sabagh, eds., Persian Presence in the Islamic World, Cambridge, U.K., and New York, l998, pp. 1-125.

(Aḥmad Mahdawī Dāmḡānī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999