A correspondent writes:

I am fascinated by the way chador has entered other languages but with different meanings, eg in Serbian it means tent (šator), in Indonesian bed-linen (cadar). Does anyone have or know of a comprehensive list?

An excellent question! The sources of all these far-flung words are Turkish çadır ‘tent’ and its etymon, Persian chādor ‘tent; chador‘; the first cousin that came to my mind was Russian шатёр [šatyor] ‘tent,’ about which Vasmer says:

шатёр, род. п. -тра́, укр. ша́тер, шатро́, др.-русск. шаторъ (Нестор, Жит. Бориса и Глеба; см. Абрамович 10), шатьръ (Ипатьевск. летоп., Георг. Амарт.; см. Истрин 3, 346), сербск.-цслав. шатьръ σκηνή, болг. ша́тър, сербохорв. ша̀тор “шатер, палатка”, ша̑тра “прилавок, лавка”, словен. šátor, слвц. šiator, польск. szatr м., szatra ж. “цыганский шатер”.
ORIGIN: Древнее заимств. из тюрк.; ср. казах. šаtуr “палатка”, тур., азерб., уйг., тат., алт. čаdуr “шатер, палатка”, шор. šаdуr, саг., койб. sаdуr (Радлов 3, 1903 и сл.; 4, 387, 969, 972). Первоисточником является перс. čаtr “заслон, палатка”, др.-инд. cháttram “заслон”; см. Мелиоранский, ИОРЯС 10, 4, 134; Мелих, ZfslPh 4, 96 и сл.; Бернекер I, 133; Мi. ТЕl. I, 270; Гомбоц 115 и сл.; UJb. 8, 271. Ввиду наличия š- Мелих (там же) предполагает венг. посредство.

What puzzles me is that he derives the Turkish word from Persian čаtr, which my dictionaries say means ‘umbrella’ but which he defines as ‘screen, tent,’ rather than from chādor, and that he derives the Persian word from Sanskrit cháttram, which he defines as ‘screen’ but which my Sanskrit dictionary says is an alternate reading of chāttram ‘spindle’—other sources say or imply that the Persian word is of unknown origin.
Other cousins I’ve turned up are Hungarian sátor ‘tent,’ Greek τσαντίρι [tsa(n)díri] “[a gipsy’s] tent” (which makes me wonder if Kalderash Romani tsera ‘tent’ is related), and Albanian çadër ‘umbrella.’ With that, I throw the floor open and welcome further variants as well as elucidation of the interrelationships of all these words.
Addendum. Earlier discussion (thanks, MMcM!).


  1. Google Translate informs me that in Hindi, umbrella is छाता (Chātā), and bed sheet is चादर (Cādara). Other Indian languages are similar – tent is generally *not* similar to “chador”, and sometimes “bed sheet” isn’t, either.

  2. Чадър (chadăr) means “umbrella” in Bulgarian, so I am pretty sure the Albanian word is coming from the same comon source.

  3. Nişanyan derives the Persian چادر from a Sanskrit verb word meaning “to cover” and further from a PIE root *sked- which he claims has the same meaning:

  4. Arabic Wikipedia has entries for burqa, hijab and niqab, but not chador. This is reasonable if not confirming evidence that the Arab world does not use the term.

  5. Russian чадра is of the same origin.

  6. Trond Engen says

    Would it be cognate with sheet? Apparently not. Sheet‘s from the shoot word and cognate with No. skaut “headcloth”. The meaning of the latter is almost irresistable, but the diphtong blocks all attempts to connect it with the Sanskrit word.

  7. xiaolongnu says

    In Buddhist art history, the chattra refers to the spire at the top of a stupa (pagoda), which is composed of a series of stacked discs. These are understood to represent the canopies held over the heads of royal figures as a marker of their exalted status (widely represented in Buddhist art across Asia). It is usually translated as “canopy” or sometimes “umbrella,” and I’ve always assumed that, like other such technical terms, it is originally Sanskrit.

  8. SFReader says

    Proto-IE: *kē̆d- (kh-)
    Meaning: to cover, dress
    Old Indian: chadati, caus. chādáyati `to cover, clothe, veil; hide, conceal’, chattra- n. `parasol, umbrella’, chadís- n. `cover, roof’
    Germanic: *xēt-iz n., *xēt-a- m., *xēt-ia- n.
    Proto-Germanic: *xētiz, *xēta-z, *xētia-n
    Meaning: clothes
    Old English: pl. hǟteru n. `Kleider’
    Middle High German: hāʒ st. m., hǟʒe, hǟʒ st. n. `Kleid, Rock, Kleidung’
    Russ. meaning: покрывать, одевать
    Also in Middle English
    ~Hatere~, _sb_. clothing, HD, PP, Prompt.; ~hater~, PP; ~heater~, S;
    ~hatren~, _pl_., clothes, S2.–AS. _hA|teru_, pl. garments, see Sievers, 290.
    ~Haterynge~, _sb_. dress, PP.

  9. marie-lucie says

    I don’t know much about the languages referred to here, and cannot tell at this point which ones might have borrowed from each other or not (something which requires detailed knowledge of the evolution of sounds in the history of each language). I will confine my comments to the possible semantics.
    There are apparently two semantic fields associated with this set of resemblant words:
    tent, screen, etc: a large flat object, usually a textile, hung from posts or (for the female garment) hung over the body in a standing position; this object serves both to protect and conceal;
    – (less frequently) spindle, spire : a stick-like object held vertically, usually an integral part of a structure or set of objects that it supports.
    These two fields appear to be independent of each other, because the objects belonging to the two fields are completely different, but the point is that the two fields are always associated with each other: the practical use of one type of thing implies use of the other (and in an umbrella, the two components are indeed found together in a single object). The common meaning in the present set of words is “flexible flat object (usually a textile, but which could have been made of animal skins in the past) supported in the vertical position by a stick-like object”.
    Old representations of large nomad camps such as Genghis Khan’s show tents used as temporary dwellings as well as large vertical screens serving as temporary walls, fences and windbreakers. Since tents and screens are unusable without the supporting posts, the original word may have started as referring to the set ‘tent/screen + post(s)’. It is quite common for languages to use a single word for a set of different things that need to be used together (eg ‘camping gear’), and it is also common for a word referring to a whole to become specialized in referring to just one type of component of the whole (for instance, many languages have a single word meaning “bow + arrow”, and related languages often have the same word meaning only “bow”). Here, more specialized meanings (tent-like garment, spire of a temple, spindle used with a mass of wool to make yarn) can be derived from the original meanings.
    Qaqan: Nişanyan derives the Persian چادر from a Sanskrit verb word meaning “to cover” and further from a PIE root *sked- which he claims has the same meaning:
    From the scanty information available on Nişanyan (eg French-language Wiki article, obviously written by a non-native speaker), it does not seem that Nişanyan has any training in linguistics. I would take his derivations with a large spoonful of salt.

  10. marie-lucie says

    SFR: it looks like hat should belong to this set as well, no?
    from Etymonline:

    O.E. hæt “hat, head covering,” from P.Gmc. *hattuz “hood, cowl” (cf. Fris. hat, O.N. hattr), from PIE root *kadh- “cover, protect” (cf. Lith. kudas “tuft or crest of a bird,” L. cassis “helmet”).

  11. SFReader says

    —-it looks like hat should belong to this set as well, no?!

  12. Russian шатёр and чадра must be of the same etymology but borrowed at different time.
    This one is interesting: in Azerbaijani čаdуrа means calico (Russian “миткаль”). From here.

  13. Earlier discussion.
    Sigh. You’d think I’d remember these things…

  14. SFReader says

    I was unable to find Mongolian cognate for chador. (Shadar “assistant” is from Old Turkic “Shad” governor, Shatar “chess” is from Sanskrit “Chaturanga”, all quite unrelated)
    But there is a Mongolian word ‘Shuher’ “screen, parasol, umbrella, parachute” which has some resemblance in meaning and is even somewhat close phonetically.

  15. SFReader says

    —In Buddhist art history, the chattra refers to the spire at the top of a stupa (pagoda)
    This Sanskrit word is a source of two common Mongol names – Chadraa and Chadraabal

  16. But there is a Mongolian word ‘Shuher’ “screen, parasol, umbrella, parachute” which has some resemblance in meaning and is even somewhat close phonetically.
    The meanings ‘screen’ and ‘parasol, umbrella’ are identical to meanings of the “chador” complex, and the phonetics are close enough I’d be surprised if it wasn’t related somehow.

  17. To pick up a loose thread from the 2007 chador post: What’s anticlimactic about the sequence “for God, for country, and for Yale”? Clearly it’s in descending order in the first place. We speak of anticlimax when we expect a rise but get a fall instead.
    (I suppose some people even among theists put country before God, but they aren’t likely to admit it.)

  18. how shukher and chador are close phonetically, it seems very far from each other at least to my ears
    there is a word sadar(samuun) meaning libertine, frivolous, perhaps that is close enough phonetically to be from bed sheets or tents, i guess, bc it seems a turkic borrowing, cz can’t be divided further into a meaningful shorter root word according to “my” word native origins *theory*
    tent is maikhan, hat is malgai, bow and arrow are num sum, stupa is suvraga, seems all are pretty different sounding words from other panturkic chador words

  19. marie-lucie says

    The phonetic resemblance between shuher or shukher (is one a misprint?) and the chador complex is not very great, and unless there is a lot more evidence (such as frequently documented correspondences between /kh/ and /d/, or at least between k(h)/g and d/t(h) in the languages in question (which is extremely unlikely given the usual phonetic tendencies arising from the structure and function of the parts of the human vocal apparatus), I don’t see a way to support such a hypothesis.
    On the other hand, the semantic correspondence, with about the same cluster of meanings in each series of words, is not suggestive of a genetic relationship between the languages of the two sets of words, but it is suggestive of a common cultural area in which people of different ethnic and linguistic groups shared a common way of life so that words with the same original meaning will often change or add to their meaning in the same way (eg ‘cover, tent/screen, hat, etc’) while more distant groups may later adopt one of the words with a single meaning.

  20. shukher shuher is the same, i just add k before h bc sometimes h is not pronounced in english words, in the beginning of the words i know, just so that to show it’s the same sound as in hat, not herb
    if transformation of bahadur to bully is possible, chador becoming sadar is not surprising maybe too

  21. marie-lucie says

    Shukher ~ shuher : thanks read, I see that these are different transcriptions of the same word.
    “bahadur” and “bully” : I don’t know anything about this possible link.
    chador vs sadar:
    As a general statement, a change from “chador” to “sadar’ (through intermediate changes) in the course of borrowing is not impossible from the point of view of the sounds (if the correspondence ch in one language versus s in the other was usual between the two languages), but the vast difference in meaning between sadar and all the other words resembling chador make it very unlikely that the two words are actually related.

  22. in the threads before it was mentioned that bahadur meant bully in english mughal indian, so the negative meaning the word could acquire somehow since else there are no any other similar sounding words to chador
    but it could be of course totally unrelated words

  23. Bathrobe says

    hat is malgai
    So Language Hat is helni malgai?

  24. Bathrobe says

    or khelni malgai

  25. khelnii malgai, or better khelen malgai, then it would sound almost like khilen malgai, which means a velvet hat otherwise the image is a bit disturbing, a tongue used as a hat, that resembles some strangest japanese ukiyoe, though those look almost abstract, in english bc language and tongue are different words it does not cause any imagery

  26. marie-lucie says

    “Bahadur” and “bully” both refer to men. All the “chador” words are things.

  27. khelnii sounds more like language, as if like in one would wear the hat and know all the languages, khelen has more like the meaning of made of, i guess

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