Pleiades gives scholars, students, and enthusiasts worldwide the ability to use, create, and share historical geographic information about the ancient world in digital form. At present, Pleiades has extensive coverage for the Greek and Roman world, and is beginning to expand into Ancient Near Eastern, Byzantine, Celtic, and Early Medieval geography.” Great idea; thanks for the heads-up, Paul!


  1. The Japanese name for the Pleiades is subaru – hence the car logo. (although it might look like it, this isn’t spam, just a bit of possibly-interesting related info!)

  2. Trond Engen says

    Is it also a Japanese pun on ‘super’?

  3. Both u’s are basically silent—it sounds like “S’bar”—so I’m pretty sure the answer is no. (I wrote about the Japanese and Persian names for the Pleiades briefly here.)

  4. Isn’t the Persian name a borrowing from Arabic?

  5. Sure, but the Persian form is more familiar to English-speakers because of people like Queen Soraya (wife of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) and (for NPR listeners) Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

  6. marie-lucie says

    So what is the Arabic form?

  7. Thurayya (ثريا ).

  8. marie-lucie says

    Thanks LH.

  9. marie-lucie says

    Thurraya must be analyzable in Arabic.

  10. Thurayya must be analyzable in Arabic.
    Indeed, it should be, but there are no comprehensive etymological dictionaries of Arabic. Rajiki’s simply says “[?]”.
    For that matter, there are no historical dictionaries of Arabic on the lines of the OED, the Dictionar o the Scots Leid, or the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal either. Pretty disgraceful for the fourth or fifth most widely spoken language in the world (if you count all the colloquials together).

  11. Turkish Wiki offers Ülker. The first three words of the entry are “Ülker veya Süreyya”. Google Translate tells me that veya means or. So did the Turks take their synonym from the Persians or the Arabs?
    Other than an unhelpful Azerbaijani entry, there appear to be no other Turkic Wiki entries for the Pleiades, but Kurdish Wiki gives the intriguing Komika Sêwiyan and, like the Turkish entry, notes Sureya near the top of the text.
    Peren and pervin are also given as synonyms in the Turkish entry, as is Perwin in the Kurdish entry.
    Hebrew and similar Semitic languages go another route: Hebrew for the name of the constellation is either a Hebraicized version of Pleiades with a feminine plural ending פליאדות / plee-a-dot or כימה / keema. The latter appears in the Old Testament (Strong’s 3598) and according to Klein and Brown-Driver-Briggs is related to Arabic kom, a group, heap, or herd of camels. Klein also says Aramaic כימתא / keemta and Syriac כימה /keema designate the Pleiades.

  12. It’s Өлкәр in Tatar (and Bashkir) and Үргэл in Saha/Yakut. The latter looks a case of R-L metathesis.

  13. In the Persian language Pleiades is known as “Parvin”. Parvin is also a very popular Given name in Iran and neighbouring countries (for example Parvin E’tesami).

  14. What I want is a picture of Soraya and Parvin in their Subaru, staring at the Pleiades.

  15. … and eating Ülker cookies and speaking on Thuraya mobiles.

  16. marie-lucie says

    Thanks Juha for the link with Parvin. A few lines below is this interesting bit:
    To the Vikings, the Pleiades were Freyja’s hens,… and their name in many old European languages compares them to a hen with chicks.
    This agrees with what I had read earlier on about Les Pléiades, that in some rural parts of France the star group was called la poussinière (from le poussin ‘baby chick’; the word means a kind of pen or other space used to confine a hen and her newly hatched baby chicks). I had never heard of this alternate name in France, but the TLFI entry for poussinière gives examples from earlier centuries showing that that word was once the only name for those stars, and even in the 19C there were references to les Pléiades ou la Poussinière in books on astronomy.

  17. m.-l.: The hen with chickens legend is not confined to Europe. Farther east and south – and a bit down the same page – there is this tale:
    The elderly couple who lived amidst a forest in Thailand raised a family of chickens: a mother hen and her six children. One day a monk arrived at the elderly couple’s home during his Dhutanga journey. Afraid that they have no decent meals to offer him, the elderly couple contemplated cooking the mother hen. Overheard the conversation, the mother hen rushed back to the coop to say farewell to her children. She asked them to take care of themselves before leaving to repay the kindness of the elderly couple. As the mother hen was being killed, her six children threw themselves into fire to die alongside with their mother. Deity, impressed by and in remembrance of their love, immortalized the seven chickens as the stars.

  18. marie-lucie says

    Thank you Juha. What a sad little story! but a typical mythological explanation for a constellation.
    Since domestic chickens are derived from wild South Asian birds, this story must have originated in Asia, and, like Aesop’s fables, transmitted to Europe in some form. A version of it may still be preserved in some European countries, since in at least some of them the name stuck with the constellation.

  19. Hang on a minute.
    In Hat’s earlier post, he says that Soraya is the Persian word for the Pleiades.
    Now Juha comes along and points to a Wiki entry stating that “in the Persian language Pleiades is known as ‘Parvin.'”
    So which is it?

  20. marie-lucie says

    Paul O, “Parvin” is supposed to be a popular female name in Pakistan. It could still be from Persian (a language related to Urdu), since “Soraya” is not of Persian ancestry but from Arabic “thurayya”.

  21. Persian was the official language of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and their successor states, as well as the cultured language of poetry and literature. Many of the Sultans and nobility in the Sultanate period were Persianised Turks from Central Asia who spoke Turkic languages as their mother tongues. The Mughals were also from Persianized Central Asia, but spoke Chagatai Turkic as their first language at the beginning, before eventually adopting Persian. Persian became the preferred language of the Muslim elite of north India. Muzaffar Alam, a noted scholar of Mughal and Indo-Persian history, suggests that Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature. The influence of these languages on Indian apabhramshas led to a vernacular that is the ancestor of today’s Urdu, Hindi, and Hindustani.
    Indo-Persian culture
    At independence, Pakistan established a highly Persianized literary standard of Urdu as it official language.
    Although there have been attempts to “purify” Urdu and Hindi by purging them of, respectively, their Sanskrit and Persian loan words, and new vocabulary draws primarily from Persian and Arabic for Urdu and from Sanskrit for Hindi, this has primarily affected academic and literary vocabulary, and both national standards remain heavily influenced by both Persian and Sanskrit.

  22. marie-lucie says

    Juha: Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature
    Non-sectarian, OK, but fluid?

  23. The folk-poetic Russian name is Стожары [Stozhary], the official name being, boringly enough, Плеяды [Pleiady].

  24. Chechen/Ingush have worh yisha ‘seven sisters’. yi- is, as far as I can tell, a class prefix (washa ‘brother’). Speaking of stars, the Ursa Major is Worhveshin worh sēda ‘seven stars of (the) seven brothers’.

    It seems basic words are never easy or straghtforward:
    washa (veshin (gen), veshina (dat), washas (erg), veshē (loc), w-class; (pl) vezharī, b-class)
    yisha (yishin (gen), yishina (dat), yishas (erg), yishē (loc), y-class; (pl) yizharī, b-class)

  25. At one point I thought I should give Chechen a try, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Sounds like a fun language, though!

  26. Besides, the most beautiful girl/woman I have ever come across was Chechen—or, maybe, Ingush—and I let her go, fool that I was!

  27. The folk-poetic Russian name is Стожары [Stozhary]

    I just discovered another one, Волосожары [Volosozhary], which may or may not have something to do with волос [volos] ‘hair.’

  28. David Marjanović says

    the most beautiful

    The US term Caucasian for pale people comes from Blumenbach‘s claim that the white race obviously comes from the Caucasus because that’s where the most beautiful people live.

    Ah, the days when science was easy…

  29. Stu Clayton says

    Now it’s difficult and expensive. This does not seem to have reduced the quantity of wild-eyed generalizations and predictions on offer, only (perhaps) its proportion. I would hazard that there are even more of them than before, with all the scientific trappings. They’re more difficult and expensive to disprove, because science. So they become current wisdom before resistance can be mounted.

    Example: Wakefield, who 20 years ago, with that article in The Lancet, launched the anti-vaccination hysteria. He didn’t do it alone.

  30. David Marjanović says

    Now it’s difficult and expensive.

    There are plenty of parts left that are cheap, if hard work. They’re not spectacular, so it’s hard to get them funded.

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