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March 7, 2003


Explain the Persian word "farang". What is its origins? What do you find interesting about it?

Quiz winner Houman Younessi writes: Farang is the Persianization of the word Frank. The Franks are the tribes who populated a major part of Western Europe for centuries and are the cultural and to a lesser extent genetic ancestors of the French today. In fact the word France is a distortion of the same word. So Farang is simply the land of the Franks e.g. France. The word was introduced and popularized in Iran after the crusades (Faranj in Arabic also). What I find interesting about the word is that in our language it (Farang or Farangi) is almost synonymous with all things progressive, new, better or higher quality whereas the interaction between us an the original Franks had exactly the same effects on THEM. It brought them things, technologies and ideas that were at the time greatly progressive, very new, better and higher quality than what was prevalent. Sad Afarin!

Other responses

Negar Heckscher writes: A bunch of palace 'darbaaries' were hanging around discussing their favorite fruits and vegetables (issues facing the country at the time were just not interesting enough) -- 'gojeh farangi', 'toot farangi', 'nokhod farangi' -- and noticed that all these delicious food from far away lands have the word 'farangi' in them. So from then on they decided to refer to foriegn countries as "farang".

* Mehran Azhar "A proud Esfoonni" writes: The word actually entered the Persian language during Shah Abbas' rule when Armenians moved to the Jolfa district of Esfahan. Since the Armenian women had lighter hair and their features were more European (after all, Armenia is in the Caucus region), the local Esfoonis used to call them "Fer Rangi" meaning their hair had twirls and were colorful. Since the Tehroonis and the rest mispronounce all words by putting "a" instead of "e" the the two words contracted into its current form: "farang."

* Pahlevoon Panbeh writes: "Farang" comes from "Franca" i.e. France in the Renaissance period, which was the Western European culture Iranians were most familiar with at the time. Hence Europeans in general were thought of as "Farangi", the same way less educated Americans see all Middle Easterners as "A-rabs". Might not be a witty enough answer for your "Sad Afarin", but it's actually the correct one.

* Seyed Mirmiran writes: The word "Farang" in Persian has its origin in the word "Frank," from French and German, the first group of Europeans to establish missions and institutions in Iran (i.e. Germans and French), as early as 15th century and the people who bordered teh Muslim Othoman Empire. Up to 20th century, for Muslims, the Christendom's main domain would start at France and Germany (Prussia), where it bordered the Othoman Empire domain. Thus "Frank" and "Farang" came to mean "foreigners" in our lexicon as Othomans were Muslim and thus not classified as "foreign" to us.

* A. Kardoush writes: "Frang", the classical embodiment of the West for Iranians, means basically France. It came in to Persian, I think, via Arabic after the Crusades. The Italian word for France is Francia and its German equivalent is Frankreich which basically means empire (or land) of the Franks, the Germanic speaking people who gave France its name.

* Zozo writes: "Farang" is a mispronounced version of the word "foreign". The correct term in Persian would be 'ajnabi' but 'firengi' entered the language post 'Brit' presence in Iran. In fact it was a term used by the Brits to refer to Iranians but then the Iranians turned it around and started calling the Brits 'firengi'. It did not have positive connotations either.

* Nima Ghitani writes: The Persian word farang has evolved from the word franks (the french people). This word slowly evolved to mean all foreign people and not just the french.

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