Origins of "aakband"
January 11, 2002
Comments from scholars on the Adabiyat listserve about the origins
of the word "aakband", which was offered as a quiz
question in iranian.com:
Original question posed by Jahanshah
Some time ago there was a debate on the Adabiyat list about the origins
of the word "aakband" in Persian (meaning new/unused product).
I don't remember seeing anyone coming up with an answer.
I put this question in the form of a quiz in iranian.com and the most
interesting answer so far has come from Afshin
"The origin of the word, believe it or not, is Swedish and it comes
from the word, 'oanvänd' which means unused. Unfortunately many times
when a word is borrowed from another language in Farsi it gets a bit altered."
[Afshin Deyhim's follow-up: It was a pure guess. What I basically did
was check some online internet dictionaries of European languages and used
the English word "new" and then "unused" as the query,
and closest I could come up with was "aanvand" in Swedish. There
was a method to the madness.]
From Mohmmad Ghaed
I am only 51% percent sure the word aakband in colloquial Persian
comes from the roots of Latin aqua (and/or its Spanish, Portuguese
and Italian variants) for water, plus bind and binding (that could
end up in the Sanskrit badhnati). The word band in old and modern
Persian means rope and string as noun, and wrapping up, stopping or fastening
The combination could have been shaped in the 17th and 18th century
when the first European merchants headed east and the often delicate, hand-made
merchandise shipped from Genoa, Venice and elsewhere to Bandar Abbas in
the Persian Gulf had to be wrapped up meticulously for a long, precarious
sea voyage round the Cape of Good Hope in vessels lacking waterproof cargo
compartments. It could be taken for `water resistant.'
P.S. A footnote to the weekend lexicography could be the modern version/interpretation/distortion
of the word aakband in today's Iranian bazaaar: aak-e aak. That
means: I give you my word of honour the television, computer, vacuum cleaner,
etc. you are buying has never been opened from the bottom of the cardboard
box and replaced by a fake appliance made without the original producer's
licence. Allah ought to know better-- or at least have a reliable informed
From Mansour Hashemi
The word "aakband" in Persian does not explicitly mean 'new/unused
product'. It refers to the band around the package of the new product to
be bought. As for the 'etymology' of the word, I am almost sure it came
into 'being' when videos were illegally traded in Iran at a place called
'Poosht-e-shahdari'. There were new products but they were not considered
'auk' or 'aukeh, auk' since their package had been opened. The 'aukband'
products were more expensive. It is probably a distortion for 'outer-band'.
From Alan Godlas
What if Aak is a borrowing from Turkish, meaning "white, clean,
From John R. Perry
The various suggestions so far proposed for the etymology of Akband
'brand new; still in the bubble-pack' don't work for one reason or another.
If, for example, the "Ak" came from Turkish, it would be written
"Aq" with a qAf.
The straight dope is most probably that given in the excellent "Farhang-e
loghAt-e AmiAne va mo'Aser" of Mansur Sarvat & Reza AnzAbi-nezhAd
(1377/1998): "Ak" [actually, "Ankh"] is Hindi for 'eye',
and the compound in Hindi [and Urdu] means 'with eyes closed; sight unseen',
i.e. purchased or for sale in its original (opaque) wrapping with no doubt
that it will be found pristine and unused when opened. [cf. Hindi/Urdu
"Ankh band karnA" 'to close the eye(s)'. Probably came in via
Persian Gulf commerce].
From Jane Lewisohn
I Vullers, Lexicon Persico-Latinum, for both "alef kaf "and
"alef madd kaf " it gives the sand script derivative or a zendica
derivative aka or agha, the primary meaning of: molestia, noxa,calamits
(aafat and aasib) secondary meaning: interitus (helakat)
From Karim Emami
I am in no position to support my learned friend's inspired guess, but
I am sure of the following points:
1. The word <Akband> originated in the Persian Gulf coastal area,
so it may have come from India, from the British, from the Dutch, from
the Portuguese. It is hard to imagine that it is a Swedish loan-word.
2. The word was in common use in Shiraz, and other major southern cities,
at least 50 years before it found its way to Tehran, during the last twenty
3. The word <Akband> does not just mean "brand-new",
it means preserved in its original packaging.
4. I just searched the whole of OED2 on CD-ROM for all -band words and
found nothing that even remotely resembles <Akband>. There was no
OK-band nor any Aqua-band.
From Khodadad Rezakhani
On Mr. Karim Emami's comment. In fact, there is a brand name that resembles
the AK in Akband, and that is Akaii. But I doubt it comes from that side.
The suggestion that the word originated in the Persian Gulf region seems
acceptable enough, but there should be a research done on the approximate
time that the usage started.
My personal theory is that the usage is from a distorted meaning. It
might have been "unpacked", meaning quite opposite of what it
is. The position change of K and N is quite possible, in the southern
Iranian dialcts, the soft and hard sounds often change their place.
I would not go with Mr. Perry's Urdu/Hindi explanation, although it
sounds good enough to believe. The aspirated Hindi "b" (bh)
is usually changed into either a P or a V in Persian dialects, and there
is no reason to drop the aspirated "K", since it exists in our
dialcts. I would say that the word Ankh Band in Persian would have become
The issue is obviously open to debate at least until we have an approximate
date for the start of the usage of this word.