First Iranian Scholar who authored the Most
Extensive & Comprehensive Farsi Dictionary
By Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
Introduction: Hakim Ferdowsi Tusi (935-1020), the first Iranian poet of national epics, is also known to be the first Iranian who professionally introduced many Persian Words (in Persian: Vaajehaay-e Farsi) and Proverbs in his Epic Book of Shahnameh. Asadi Tusi (died in 1072), the other Iranian poet of national epics, followed the footsteps of Ferdowsi and presented a list of Persian Words and Proverbs in his epic book of Garshaspnameh and in his Dictionary of Asadi (in Persian: Farhang-e-Asadi or Loghat Nameh-e-Asadi). Mohammad Hossein Khalaf Tabrizi authored a Dictionary named as Ultimate Logic (in Persian: Borhaan-e Ghaateh), which was published in Haydar Abad (India) in 1651. A few years later, Rashid Hosseini Madani published Rashidi Dictionary in India. Ali Akbar Dehkhoda (AAD) was the first Iranian scholar (in Persian: Pajoheshgar) and an eminent philologist (in Persian: Vajeh Shenaas) who published a collection of Persian Quotes and Proverbs entitled as Proverbs and Mottos (in Persian: Amssaal-o-Hekam) in four volumes about a half-century ago (Read more on the contributors to the collection of Persian Proverbs in an article written by this author). AAD was also the first Iranian scholar who authored the most extensive and comprehensive Farsi Dictionary available so far. His Farsi Dictionary is also known as Dehkhoda Dictionary (in Persian: Loghat Nameh-e-Dehkhoda, LND). In this article the life story of AAD, his education, his works, and a short note on LND are studied and discussed.
His Early Life: AAD was born in Tehran, the capital of Iran, in 1879 (1257 Khorshidi) when Nasser-e-Din Shah (NDS), the fourth Shah of Qajar Dynasty was in power (1848-1896). The parents of AAD were from Ghazvin, also spelled as Qazvin or Kazvin, which is an agricultural city of Northwest Iran at the foot of the Elburz (in Persian: Alborz) Mountains (Ghazvin was the capital of Iran from 1514 to 1590 during some of the rulers of Safavid Dynasty). The father of AAD was Khanbaba Khan Ghazvini (KKG) who had moved along with his family from Ghazvin to Tehran not long before AAD was born. KKG sadly died in Tehran when AAD was about 9-10 years old. Most likely, AAD was raised and grown up under the supervision of his own mother.
His Education: AAD studied Persian Literature, Theology, and Arabic Language and Gholam Hossein Broujerdi and Hadi Najm Abadi (HNA) were among his mentors. HNA, aka Haaj Shaikh Hadi, was a constitutionalist and one of the active members of a group who was promoting the establishment of Parliament in Iran, and demanding continuously to control the extensive powers of NDS, the Shah of Iran at the time (It is documented that Reza Kermani who assassinated NDS in 1896 was one of the followers of Jamal Asad Abadi and HNA).
In December 1899 and at age 20, AAD enrolled in the School of Political Science or SPS (in Persian: Madreseh-e Oloom-e Siassi), which was affiliated to the educational institution of the House of Sciences and Techniques (in Persian: Darolfonoon) located in Tehran. It should be noted that Darolfonoon was founded in 1851 by Mirza Taghi Khan-e-Amir Kabir, one of the premiers of Iran during NDS.
In Darolfonoon, AAD also took some French courses which were instructed by Dr Morrel. Upon his graduation from SPS in 1903, AAD was appointed as the Secretary to Moaaven Dauleh Ghafari (MDG), the new Ambassador of Iran to the Balkan Peninsula in Europe. During the years when AAD stayed in Europe, he also continued his studied in French Language and Literature.
His Works: AAD served as the Secretary to MDG from 1903 to 1905. In 1905, AAD returned to Iran and joined a movement which was later known as the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (in Persian: Enghelab-e-Mashrooteh-e-Iran). In 1907, AAD joined the Journal of Soor-Esrafeel (JSE) which was founded by Jahangir Khan Shirazi (JKS), aka Soor-Esrafeel, and Ghasem Khan Tabrizi. The literary and commentary works of AAD actually started through his collaboration with JSE where he created a satirical political column entitled as Nonsense or Fiddle-Faddle (in Persian: Charand Parand). The Persian term of Dakho was his signature or his pen name for that column. Dakho means not only as the Administrator of a Village (in Persian: Dehkhoda or Kadkhoda), but it also refers to a Naive or an Unsophisticated Person (in Persian: Saadeh Lowh). It may be interesting to know that AAD was contemporary to the famous American writer Frank McKinney Hubbard, aka Kin Hubbard (1868-1930). Kin whose pen name was Abe Martin, like AAD was also a journalist and a humorist. From 1905 to 1930, Abe Martin was the mouthpiece for Kin’s daily jokes in the popular American journal of The Indianapolis News (Read More about Kin and Dehkhoda in an article written by this author).
In 1910, Mohammad Ali Shah (MAS), the authoritarian Qajar King, disbanded the Parliament, executed JKS, and banished AAD and many other constitutionalists into exile in Europe. Over there, AAD continued publishing notes, articles, and poems. His elegy entitled as Remember the One who was Shining like the Light of our Candle and he is not around any Longer (in Persian: Yaad Are Zeh Sham-e Mordeh Yaad Are) refers to the execution of JKS and it is considered as one of the best elegies ever composed (Here is a link to the Persian Text of the Poem //iranian.com/main/print/73384). In 1911 when the Iranian Constitutional Revolution faced victory and MAS was disposed, AAD came back to his homeland Iran and he was elected as a member of the new Parliament which was named as the National Consultation Assembly of Iran (in Persian: Majless-e-Shoraay-e-Melli-e-Iran or MSM).
During Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925-1941), AAD served as the Dean of SPS. Upon the foundation of the University of Tehran (UT) in 1934, SPS became a part of the UT and it was renamed as the Faculty of Law (in Persian: Daneshkadeh Hoghoogh). AAD then served as the first Dean of the Faculty. After the termination of his term as the Dean of the Faculty of Law, AAD mostly focused on his literary works, which included the collection of Persian Quotes and Proverbs and also the edition of a new Farsi Dictionary as LND, the enormous undertaking. As already noted his collection of Persian Quotes and Proverbs entitled as Proverbs and Mottos (in Persian: Amssaal-o-Hekam) was later published in four volumes in 1950. AAD also translated the French Version of the Spirit of the Laws (in Persian: Rooholghavaneen) written by Montesquieu into Farsi.
A Short Note on LND: The first volume of LND was published by Tehran University Press (in Persian: Entesharaat-e Daaneshgaah-e Tehran) in 1940; this volume was in 486 pages. The project of LND became so significant that in 1945 during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a bill was proposed in the MSM and soon became as a legislation to allocate a special budget and staff to complete the project. Offices were established for the task inside the compounds of the MSM, and later on, the entire project was firstly moved to UT College of Humanities and then to Shemiran near Bagh-e-Ferdows, with additional staffing. From 1945 to 1959, AAD was helped by some prominent philologists like Mohammad Moin, Jafar Shahidi, and Mohammad Dabirsiyaghi.
LND is the largest comprehensive Farsi Dictionary ever published, in 15 volumes with 26000 pages. The complete work is an ongoing job that entails about half a century efforts carried out by AAD and a group of highly qualified experts. A note referring to LND written by AAD reads that, “What the reader of this Dictionary sees is not the result of a lifetime, but rather the result of many lifetimes”.
LND is also available online helping many Farsi-speaking people around the world (Here is a link to the Persian Version of LND //www.loghatnaameh.com/).
His End: AAD sadly passed away on 9 March 1959 in Tehran, and he was buried in Ebn-e-Babooyeh Cemetery in Shahr-e-Ray located in the south of Tehran (Shahr-e-Ray is known to be as the oldest city in Iran).
Epilogue: There were some rumors that during the critical days of 16-19 August 1953 (in Iranian Calendar: 25-28 Mordad 1332) when Dr Mohammad Mossadegh was in his final stages to run the Government of Iran and the regime change from Monarchy to Republic became an issue in the country, AAD who was an old good friend and loyal to Dr Mossadegh was chosen as a candidate to become the President of Iran at the time.
1. Dehkhoda, A. A. (1950): Proverbs and Mottos (Amssaal-o-Hekam), ed., (in Persian).
2. Dehkhoda, A. A. (1940): Dehkhoda Dictionary (Loghat Nameh-e-Dehkhoda), ed., Vol. I, (in Persian), Tehran University Press (Tehran, Iran).
3. Dehkhoda, A. A. (2009): Online Persian Dehkhoda Dictionary (Loghat Nameh-e-Dehkhoda).
4. Farhangsara Website (2009): Online Article on Ali Akbar Dehkhoda.
5. Lanjani, R. (2009): Online Poem of Yaad Are Zeh Sham-e Mordeh Yaad Are (in Persian).
6. Saadat Nouri, H. (1933): Flowers of Literature (Gollha-ye-Adab): An Anthology of the Poems Composed by 74 Iranian Poets (Including Ali Akbar Dehkhoda), ed. (in Persian), Akhgar Press (Isfahan, Iran).
7. Saadat Noury, M. (2007): Online Article on Kin Hubbard’ Quotations.
8. Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Articles on First Iranians.
9. Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Article on First Iranians who contributed to the Collection of Persian Proverbs.
10. Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Articles on Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, Dehkhoda Dictionary, and Dehkhoda Dictionary Institute.
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