Iran's Culture 11 Oct 2022 BY Shah Izadipour

 What is the Language of Iran?

Farsi, which is also known as Persian in the English language is the language of Iran.

However, both of them are the same and can be used interchangeably. Actually, Persia is the name of Iran, which the Greeks called it in ancient times, and the Iranians called their country Iran since then. But what is the Iranians language in general?


Language of Iran

Although, Iran official language is Farsi, there are other languages in Iran such as Kurdish, Luri, forms of Turkish and Khuzi Arabic. Moreover, there are different dialects in different parts of Iran, which some of the words as well as their pronunciation are different from official Farsi.

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Iran's Official Language

The official language of Iran is Farsi. In light of the educational language of Iran is Farsi, all Iranians know Farsi perfectly, even if it is not their mother tongue. It is worth noting that the written language in Iran, like many countries, is slightly different from the spoken language. On the other hand, there are also different types of spoken language, such as formal and colloquial. Moreover, the language of the court in Iran is different despite being Farsi, which can hardly be understood by ordinary people.

Other languages are spoken in Iran as mentioned earlier, there are other languages that are spoken by some of the Iranians. These minor languages are: Azeri, Kurdish, Luri, Arabic, Turkmen, Gilaki, Tabari (Mazandarani or Mazani), Balochi, Talysh. Although, Farsi is the official language of the state, as a polyethnic state all languages are in usage and have an official value.

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1. Azeri

Azeri which is a form of Turkish is the language of northwest Iran. This language is Turkish language from the Oghuz sub-branch.


2. Kurdish

Kurdish is spoken by Kurds in the northwest to the west of Iran and has different dialects such as Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji), Central Kurdish (Kurdi or Sorani), and Laki (Kermanshahi). Despite many Kurdish words, Kurdish cannot be an independent language and belongs to Western Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family.


3. Arabic

Arabs are one of the minorities in Iran and Arabic is their mother tongue. They live in the south of Iran, Khuzestan, and some parts near the Persian Gulf, also their Arabic language is different according to the Arab countries they are neighbors with.


4. Turkmen

Turkmen is also a form of Turkish which belongs to the northeast Iran and is spoken by the Turkmens. This language is a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkish languages.


5. Gilaki

Gilaki is spoken in Gilan province, in the north of Iran, and is belonging to the Indo-European languages family.


6. Tabari

Tabari language which is also known as Mazandarani and locally Mazani, is a language of people in Mazandaran province in the north of Iran and belongs to the Northwestern branch. As this language is related to Gilaki due to the many similar words they both have, it is also of the family of Indo-European languages.


7. Balochi

Balochi language is another Iranian language belonging to the Indo-European languages family and is spoken in the Balochistan region in the southeast of Iran.


8. Talysh

Talysh language, which is of the Indo-European languages family, is spoken in the north of the Gilan province and some parts of Ardabil province, in the north of Iran.

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Different Dialects of Iran

In Iran, in addition to different languages, there are also various dialects. The dialects that are a particular form of Farsi, and the major dialects in Iran are Turki (by Turk people), Shomali (by the people who live in the north of Iran, mainly in the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran), Mashhadi (mostly by people of Mashhad), Esfahani (by people of Isfahan province), Yazdi (by people in Yazd province, somehow similar to Isfahani), Shirazi (by the people of Shiraz), Jonoubi (by people of southern Iran, near the Persian Gulf), Kermani (by the people of Kerman, which is somehow similar to Shirazi) and etc.


Differences of Farsi and Arabic

Persian or Farsi is an Indo-European language and is similar to English, French, and Spanish. Furthermore, there are many words that are common between these languages and Farsi.

On the other hand, Arabic is a Semitic language similar to Hebrew. So, it is worth mentioning that Iranians are Persians, not Arabs. Also, just 2% of Iran’s population are Arabs, who are one of the minorities in Iran.

The old Persian language, which was the language of ancient Iran, resembled Avestan and Sanskrit, whereas, after the invasion of Islam, a great infusion of Arabic loan words, the changing of the written script as well as a simplification of grammar happened in the Persian language.  Note that, Zoroastrian Gathas which are religious texts of the Avesta, the religious book of Zoroastrians, are in the old Persian language and are similar to the Sanskrit language.

Moreover, one of the significant apparent differences between Farsi and Arabic is their letters, the letters of both languages are the same, however, Farsi has 4 more letters than Arabic, which are پ, چ, ژ, گ.

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History of Persian Language

The Persian language is divided into three stages:

  • Old or Ancient Persian
  • Middle Persian or Pahlavi
  • New Persian or a type of Dari
    Ancient Persian is the language of the Achaemenid Empire period, which was similar to the language of the Medes, who were before the Achaemenids. Also, the written script of this language was cuneiform. Then, after some developments in the Ancient Persian language, the language of the Iranian plateau was changed to Middle Persian, which was also called Pahlavi. And with the invasion of Islam, it was changed to the New Persian language and they called it Dari Farsi. Therefore, the root of the modern Iranian language is Old Persian, however, the language spoken by Iranians today is a continuation of Dari Farsi. 

As a result, the language of the country of Iran, or better to say Iran plateau was always Persian or Farsi and it is a branch of the Indo-European languages family. Also, the dialects of Farsi are Dari and Tajik. It is worthy to note that today’s official language of Iran, that is Farsi, consists of 32 letters, which has helped many writers and poets in creating great pieces of literary works, such as Ferdowsi, Hafez, Saadi, Attar, and so on.

Throughout the history of Iran, the poets were able to save the Farsi language with the help of their poems in the Persian language. Actually, Ferdowsi is known as the savior of the Persian Language, and he was indeed the greatest exponent in this way. His famous hemistich in this case is:

بسی رنج بردم در این سال سی -- عجم زنده کردم بدین پارسی

basi ranj bordam dar in sāl si -- ajam zende kardam bedin Pārsi

"I endured much pain and strife during these thirty years -- I breathed life to the Ajam with this Parsi“

Nowadays, linguists are trying to create new Farsi words for new concepts in society and also for new words that come from other languages to save this language due to the small number of speakers of the Farsi language. Also, there are two famous dictionaries for Farsi words which are written by Ali Akbar Dehkhoda and Mohammad Moin. Further, the older Iranian people may use some words which are unfamiliar to the younger generation whose meanings can be found in those dictionaries.

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Numbers in Iran

Numbers in the Farsi language are written from left to right like English, in contrast to its letters which are written from right to left.

Zero:۰ -- One:۱ -- Two:۲ -- Three:۳ -- Four:۴ -- Five:۵ -- Six:۶ -- Seven:۷ -- Eight:۸ -- Nine:۹ -- Ten:۱۰ -- Eleven:۱۱ -- Twelve:۱۲ -- Thirteen:۱۳ -- Fourteen:۱۴ 

Fifteen:۱۵ -- Sixteen:۱۶ -- Seventeen:۱۷ -- Eighteen:۱۸ -- Nineteen:۱۹ -- Tweenty:۲۰ -- Thirty:۳۰ -- Forty:۴۰ -- Fifty:۵۰ -- Sixty:۶۰ -- Seventy:۷۰ -- Eighty:۸۰ 

Ninety:۹۰ -- One-Hundred:۱۰۰ -- One-Thousand:۱۰۰۰ -- One-Million:۱۰۰۰۰۰۰ -- One-Billion:۱۰۰۰۰۰۰۰۰۰



Note that when traveling to Iran, do not worry about the language, as many Iranians know English and can help you in various situations as well as crises. It is worth mentioning that in all the hotels and airports in Iran, you won’t face any problems at all, while most of the phrases and words related to these places are common between Farsi and English. Moreover, there are many dictionaries, websites, and applications that can translate English to Iranian and vice versa, and you can find them with a quick search.

It is good to know that when you see people in the morning and for starting a conversation at that time as well, which mostly happens at your place of residence, you can use good morning in Iranian which is: “Sobh Bekheir”


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