Pontia’s Persian Idioms.

I read a rave New Yorker review by Hannah Goldfield (archived) of a Persian restaurant in Brooklyn called Eyval, and of course I wanted to know what the name meant. I checked my Persian dictionaries and couldn’t find it, but a little googling turned up 11 Simple Persian Words That Will Make You Sound More Fluent at Pontia’s site My Persian Corner, and one of the entries there was:


Eyval (or eyvallâh, as it’s sometimes said) is an informal word that means “bravo” or “well done”, much like damet garm. In fact, it’s often combined with damet garm, as in [bâbâ] eyval, damet garm!

And eyvallâh was in my Persian-English dictionary (though not the Persian-Russian one), so I added the shorter form in the margin. At any rate, Pontia’s page is delightful and a real help to anyone trying to master the language (which I’d like to make another try at someday); here’s another entry:

Khasteh nabâshid

Literally “don’t be tired,” khasteh nabâshid can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. Typically, when I sit in a taxi, I’ll say salaam, khasteh nabâshid. And between classes, us teachers are always telling each other khasteh nabâshi as we come in and out of the breakroom.

So ubiquitous is this phrase that my students can’t get over the fact that there is no English equivalent.

“So what did your students in the US say to you?” they ask.

“Nothing. At best they said, ‘Thanks, bye.’”

Now, some of my students tell me khasteh nabâshid after class while others tell me “Good job.” I’m not sure where they got that one from, but it’s cute. And who am I to pass up a compliment?

Also, I wish I could visit the restaurant — I do love Persian food.


  1. salaam, khasteh nabâshid

    Why not salâm or nabaashid? I know that I am an annoying nitpicker, but I always disturbs me seeing two distinct ways of transcribing the same thing used in one sentence.

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    an informal word that means “bravo” or “well done”

    In Kusaal you say Nfa!

    It’s a regionalism, found in lots of different local languages. I’ve no idea where it began, or what (if anything) it originally meant in the language it first came from. (Such things usually turn out to be Songhay, I find …)

    [The current SIL Gulmancema dictionary has faa “féliciter, remercier, apprécier”, but the example sentence for that very item itself actually uses a different verb altogether for “féliciter” and the alleged verb is absent from Ouaba’s dictionary. And the Moba dictionary has the verb faad “remercier, féliciter” and gives n faa as an example – but without actually giving faa as one of the flexional forms of the verb in question. I think it’s all just a Gurma conspiracy to claim the expression as their own.]

  3. I know that I am an annoying nitpicker, but I always disturbs me seeing two distinct ways of transcribing the same thing used in one sentence.

    Hey, you’re talking to a copyeditor, so I feel your pain. But it is, after all, a blog post and not a published text, so I think we are forced to cut the blogger some slack. (I note also that “damet garm” is italicized in one place but not in another.)

  4. I know nothing about Farsi. What’s the difference between nabâshid and nabâshi? In both contexts one is addressing a single person, and IIRC gender is not a category in the language.

  5. >there is no English equivalent… At best they said, ‘Thanks, bye.’”

    No one ever told her “Take care”?

    I know it’s not literally “don’t be tired,” but she seems to be saying there’s no warm, meaningful send-off, only “bye”. “Take care” is common in my experience.

    Another common send-off, “See you soon/later”, often truncated to just “later”, does seem like a different category, friendly but not warm.

    Back in the warm category, “Have a good one” is also pretty frequent in Chicagoland, the sort of thing bus drivers will say if you acknowledge them as you get off. And I say it to bus drivers, though I read online that it’s normally what “service personnel” say to “customers”. I’d describe as just a working-class send-off. A non-fossilized version of goodbye/night.

  6. What’s the difference between nabâshid and nabâshi?

    Polite (= plural) vs. informal. (The negative na- prefix is stressed.)

  7. Hmm. Interesting discussion, but if I may throw some cold water: Could “Eyval” simply be an anglicized pronunciation of transliterated Persian AVAL, “First”? (This is an Arabic loanword that seems to have been picked up by several languages in the Muslim world, incidentally). It would be an appropriate enough name for a restaurant (well, for any business, actually), and a realization of “AVAL” with initial /æj/ strikes me as quite natural for your typical English speaker.

  8. That seems like a long way around Robin Hood’s barn, considering that there is a common Persian word that is exactly the name, and has an appropriate meaning. And I doubt a Persian speaker opening a Persian restaurant would choose an imagined mispronunciation for a name.

  9. I know that I am an annoying nitpicker, …

    So am I:

    “And between classes, us teachers are always telling each other …”

  10. salaam, khasteh nabâshid
    Matches my reader experience. I see “salaam” all the time and “salâm” looks weird.
    And I see Persian words with â all the time, just not salâm:)

    English orthography is irregular, why transliterations should be any better?

  11. when people ask me why I like Iran [….] the question itself [….] bothers me – (from the site) yes, it seems Iran is a bit more popular among my friends (who mostly think it is just a cool place) than in Iran itself.

  12. “Good bye” = God be with you, right? Quite similar to the Spanish.

  13. @drasvi: I’m not convinced that “salâm” even counts as an English transliteration. The spelling “salaam” was clearly based on spelling conventions of a non-English language, but at least it sticks to the alphabetical glyphs used in English orthography.

  14. @Brett, reminded me a song in Afrikaans titled Salaam:)

    Yes, I don’t know where it came from. Native informal systems?

    In Russian teaching practice – I mean Arabic, not Persian – students often use a transliteration system similar to strict “library” transliterations (e.g. ISO) before they switch to Arabic script. -uw- and -iy- for long u and i, but (I guess) aa for long a (here they must diverge from ISO). Not only is it close to an actual transliteration (and is strict in rendering one of underlying levels identified by medieval grammar), it’s also a good way to elicite something similar to actual Arabic long vowels from a Russian student. Geminates (ii/uu/aa) would do the job as well.

    Does not work with English – and I don’t know much about Persian vowel length. I hear Persian often but keep postponing learning it.

  15. Trond Engen says

    Drasvi: @Brett, reminded me a song in Afrikaans titled Salaam:)

    Yes, I don’t know where it came from. Native informal systems?

    I may misunderstand your point, but (Perso-)Arabic loans in Afrikaans would be likely to come from the language of the Cape Malay. Indians who arrived under British rule largely became English speakers.

  16. @Trond, I mean I don’t know where “salaam” as here in this thread comes from.

  17. It doesn’t need any special explanation, it’s the usual English spelling; the OED entry is under “salaam.” Some citations:

    1835 N. P. Willis Pencillings II. xlvii. 65 We were received with a profusion of Salaams by the sultan’s perfumer.
    1849 E. E. Napier Excursions Southern Afr. I. 287 After a long chat, I made my salaam, and went to inspect a most conspicuous object on a neighbouring height.
    1850 R. Gordon-Cumming Five Years Hunter’s Life S. Afr. II. xvii. 9 A ‘salaam-like’ movement of his trunk.
    1867 ‘Ouida’ Under Two Flags II. viii. 213 The Moor rose instantly, with profound salaams, before her.
    1892 R. Kipling & W. Balestier Naulahka xv. 181 ‘Salaam, Tarvin Sahib’, he murmured.

  18. Would that we all were received with profusions of Salaams from sultans’ perfumers.

  19. PlasticPaddy says

    German maps of German East Africa show Dar-Es-Salam (or maybe Salåm), whereas English maps from the same time have Salaam. It just seems to be a habit for showing the a is long.

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