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What is Farsi?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Farsi is the language most commonly spoken in Iran. It derives from Indo-Iranian language, and it is most commonly called Persian, or Parsi by Western European and North American English language speakers.

As a language, it is separated into several periods of language evolution. Old Farsi or Old Persian was spoken from about 500-300 BCE. Middle Persian dates from about 300 BCE to 800 CE. Modern Persian has been spoken since about 800 CE.

Modern Farsi has influenced many other languages, particularly in the geographic area close to Iran. Ties to it can be noted in Turkish and Azerbaijani, among others. As well, this language is clearly closely related to Hindi.

Farsi has six main vowels and 23 consonants, differing from English alphabets. Nouns as in modern English, lack gender. Farsi tends to structure sentences as subject, prepositional phase, object and lastly verb. This differs from the subject, verb, and object construction of English. Further, it relies most on endings to change words, rather than prefixes. English uses numerous suffixes and prefixes to change meanings, tense, or a word from noun to verb or adjective.

Modern Farsi does show influence by others languages. It may include words from French, English, Arabic and Turkish languages. Especially technical and scientific language can be considered on loan to Farsi.

Some words from Farsi have migrated to the English language. For example the words assassin, angel, lemon, and julep are all derived from this language. More such words migrate into the English language particularly with the use of Fingilish, or Penglish. This is Farsi written with the Latin alphabet. It is commonly used in applications of the Internet, like emails and chats. As well, texting may be done in Penglish.

Farsi clearly influences Arabic since it was once the main language used in trade when the Persian world was preeminent. The Ottoman Empire used Farsi, as did many others. Persian literature, often written in Old or Middle Farsi, is prized by many.

Some well-known examples of works written in this language include the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the beautiful and spiritual work of Rumi, which helped found the Sufi belief structure.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon333314 — On May 04, 2013

Farsi and Dari are the same language; you will be able to understand Dari perfectly by studying Farsi. The only thing you will have to get used to is the accent and the odd loan word from Pashto.

By burcidi — On Nov 05, 2012

@literally45-- Woah! I certainly wouldn't suggest that theory to an Iranian. Iran technically means "land of the Aryans," but this doesn't mean that Farsi has a direct connection with Germanic or other European languages.

By literally45 — On Nov 05, 2012

There is a theory called the Aryan Invasion Theory. It says that Europeans invaded India a really long time ago and taught the old Germanic language to the people there. From there, the languages of Sanskrit and Persian developed and spread back to the West. They say that this is why Germanic and Indo-Iranian languages are all in the same group of languages called Indo-European languages.

If this theory is true, then the root of Farsi also an old Germanic language that no longer exists.

By ysmina — On Nov 04, 2012

I studied Farsi in college. Farsi is similar to other languages like Hindi because they are all in the same language group like the article said.

The Indo-Iranian language group splits into Indic and Iranian. Farsi clearly belongs to the Iranian group and comes from Ancient Persian/Old Persian. The "sister language" of Farsi is Kurdish.

The other category, Indic includes all languages that came from the ancient language of Sanskrit. Like Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu and Bengali.

By fBoyle — On Sep 02, 2012

@simrin-- That's interesting.

Didn't the Moghul Empire rule most of the Indian continent for like a really long time? That's probably where the Farsi influence in Hindi comes from.

By ZipLine — On Sep 01, 2012

@alisha-- I'm not one-hundred percent sure, so don't quote me on this, but I think Dari and Farsi are basically the same, just different dialects.

The reason I came to this conclusion is because I have friends from both Iran and Afghanistan. Although I don't understand either language, I have heard both just being around my friends and they sound very similar. To me, they sound like the same language and my friends also say they can understand each other, but they have to think a little bit because it sounds a little different.

So it's just an issue of dialect. If you become fluent in either Farsi or Dari though, I suspect you will be able to figure the other one out in several months if not less.

By discographer — On Feb 21, 2011

Is Farsi similar to the Dari and Pashto languages of Afghanistan?

My best friend is heading to Afghanistan to work and I'm also considering doing the same next year.

I don't know where in Afghanistan I might head to, and they speak different languages in different regions. The two major languages spoken are Dari and Pashto but they are not being taught at any of the language centers near where I live. I can take Farsi classes, but I want to know if I will be able to understand Dari with the Farsi I learn. I'd appreciate any info on this.

By SteamLouis — On Feb 20, 2011

I'm a huge fan of Hindi films and have been watching them regularly for the past five years. I also studied Turkish in college for fun because I had many Turkish friends. I noticed that there are many common words in Hindi and Turkish. Their spelling and pronunciation varies a little bit but they have the same meanings. Ultimately I could count over one hundred common words. Being a researcher, I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I found my old Turkish dictionary and looked up the origin of these words. Farsi, in the dictionary, is noted to be the origin of all of them.

The Ottoman Turks probably borrowed Farsi words from the neighboring Persian Empire. But what about Hindi? Maybe it wasn't Hindi that was influenced by Farsi but rather Urdu (language of Pakistan). Urdu speakers are geographically closer to Iran than Hindi speakers. I also know that there are many Persian descendants in India. They are called Parsis and I think most of them fled Persia due to religious persecution and settled in the Indian subcontinent permanently.

These societies have lived, worked and traded together for such a long time, its difficult to know who influenced who. All this shows me that Farsi has older roots than other languages in the region and that the Persian Empire was very influential on the surrounding cultures and societies.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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