FARARUD.

A correspondent wrote to ask me about the Farsi term “Farārood” which is given in Wikipedia as the Persian name for Transoxiana. When I saw the odd spelling (it should be transliterated Farārud) and the [citation needed], and especially when I was unable to locate it in any of my dictionaries or in Steingass, I was ready to delete it from the Wikipedia article, until I had the bright idea of checking the Farsi version, which to my astonishment was indeed headed فرارود (Farārud). Investigating further, I found (via Google Books) that it was used for a river in western Afghanistan, the official name of which is Farāh Rud = Farāh River. I don’t know what all this adds up to, or why the Iranians now call Transoxania that instead of the traditional name ماوَراء النَّهْر Māvarā-onnahr (from Arabic, literally ‘what is beyond the river’), so I’m throwing it out there to see what the Learned Readership might know.
Update. Ian (of Beyond the River) explains in the comments that farā “is an antiquated word meaning ‘beyond, behind’, and ‘rud’ is ‘river.’ So it’s just a Persian calque of ‘ma wara’ an-nahr.’ Fara is almost certainly derived from wara’.” Thus nothing to do with the Afghan river. He adds that “Tajiks especially like to use the word (there’s a news agency named Varorud) prob because of the general tilt away from Arabic during the Soviet period.” Thanks, Ian! So is there free variation between f- and v-?

Comments

  1. The Arabic name is still in use in that part of the world; 346 hits for it vs. two for Фароруд (alef corresponding to Cyrillic o there).

  2. Eskandar Jabbari says:

    why the Iranians now call Transoxania that instead of the traditional name ماوَراء النَّهْر Māvarā-onnahr (from Arabic, literally ‘what is beyond the river’), so I’m throwing it out there to see what the Learned Readership might know.
    Perhaps it’s because “farārud” is intelligible to Persian-speakers, whereas “Māvarā-onnahr” is only understandable by those who know Arabic. Unlike individual Arabic loanwords (which make up a large portion of Persian vocabulary) or even certain borrowed phrases (like “enshāllah” from the Arabic “in sha’ Allāh”), “Māvarā-onnahr” is completely opaque in meaning to the average Persian-speaker.
    This is just a wild guess, as I’d heard neither the Persian nor the Arabic term before seeing this post, so I obviously have no idea what their usage has been like historically.

  3. ‘fara’–sorry, no diacritics in my browser–is an antiquated word meaning “beyond, behind”, and ‘rud’ is ‘river.’ So it’s just a Persian calque of “ma wara’ an-nahr.’ Fara is almost certainly derived from wara’.
    Tajiks especially like to use the word (there’s a news agency named Varorud) prob because of the general tilt away from Arabic during the Soviet period.
    I’d never heard the “Farah River in Afghanistan” explanation–is that source trustworthy?
    BTW my blog’s name is “Beyond the River.” We write about post-Soviet Central Asia, and occasionally Xinjiang and Afghanistan.

  4. I once had the dream of making an atlas of Transoxonia and neigboring areas giving all the names of all the place in all the relevant languages. Not an impossible task, but impossible for me.
    To quote my own review, This book includes photographs of Silk Road manuscripts in fifteen or so languages and twelve or thirteen different scripts: Sogdian, Uighur, Mongol, Manichaean, Pahlavi, Tibetan, Chinese, Turkish Runic, Brahmi, Kharosthi, Judeo-Persian, early modern Persian, and possibly Greek (on Kushan coins).
    I highly recommend the book.

  5. I’d never heard the “Farah River in Afghanistan” explanation–is that source trustworthy?
    No, it’s just me: I googled Fararud and found it as the name of the Afghan river, and leapt to the conclusion that it was the same as the name for Transoxania. But clearly it’s not. Thanks for the explanation, Ian!

  6. فرا.
    Fara is almost certainly derived from wara
    With English far as an odd coincidence, since that’s पर, etc.

  7. I’m not such a hard-core linguist, so v-f alternations are beyond me, and I’m also totally willing to go along with MMcM’s IE conjecture.
    Perhaps, and I’m completely guessing here, the Varorud/Fararud alternation is due to some hypercorrection on the part of speakers who assumed that wara’/vara’ (a totally normal Arabic-Persian change) is the etymology. I can’t think of another word doing that from Persian to Tajik.
    I should also say that, having googled around a bit, there are those who say that ‘ma wara’ an-nahr’ is a calque of ‘fararud,’ rather than the other way around, and certainly “transoxiana’ shows up pretty early on as well. So who knows.

  8. Fara is almost certainly derived from wara’.
    Hm, are we sure? First, that w/v > f change does not seem like a common occurrence in neither Farsi nor Tajiki. And secondly, the form “farā-je rūd” would be much more likely, considering how Farsi treats Arabic prepositions.
    FYI, Junker-Alavi lists the following meanings for فرا: “auf, zu, vorwärts, oben, hinten, zurück, nahe, vorn, bei, herzu, fort”. So both “behind” and “in front of”, among other things :)
    This online dictionary has “forward and backward,up and down,near and far”.

  9. Er, that’s why I said ‘almost’ certainly… ;)
    No, I’m totally willing to accept fara as Indo-European, seeing the evidence that MMcM has. But, I still wonder why Tajik varies فرارود with Вароруд, and I’d be curious to hear any conjectures.

  10. No worries, Ian :)
    What if it’s the other way around and our (presumably) Indo-European [f] turned into Tajiki [v]? “Farā” could have easily been mistaken for / reinterpreted as “warā/varā”.

  11. Perhaps it should be brought into your attention that Chinese have longed had a name of the area, namely 河中 (Hézhōng), which mean Between the rivers, (lit. middle of the rivers). Someone could also spot that it has the same etymology as Mesopotamia. It’s a well trotted term in Chinese historical documents when the Silk Road was well travelled, between Han and Tang dynasties.

  12. Well, a search of that bible of Iranian nationalism, the Shahnama, turns up three occurences of Mawarannahr, and none of Fararud. Funny, why would any Iranian want to ditch Mawarannahr if it was good enough for Firdavsi?

  13. That’s what puzzles me. It’s not like Mawarannahr is some obscure imported form; as far as I can tell, it was the usual term in Persian for a long time. I’d still like to know more about the history of this particular bundle of nomenclature.

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