Living Pashto Words in Old Persian


Abdul Hai Habibi


A European scholar who was visiting Kabul University a while ago in a statement addressed the students: “With the help of Pashto a large number of difficulties we are facing in Avesta and former languages will be resolved.”

This is a very substantive statement and we need to acknowledge that Eastern and Oriental studies will start in earnest if linguist and philologists, who are studying Indian and Aryan languages, may also make an attempt to study Pashto and conduct research on the language.

In reality Pashto is a link between the Indian and Iranian languages. The studies of those who want to examine Sanskrit and other Indian languages, Prakrit, Avesta, old Persian, Sughdi and Khutni languges will not be complete without having a knowledge of Pashto as they will be unable to fully understand the relationship between these ancient languages and their affinities.

Pashto is the central link between these languages and it will not be inappropriate if we call it the museum of ancient words of these languages. This is because in Pashto a lot of pure and ancient Aryan words have been preserved and we come across a lot of ancient words in the language. Hence, in order to conduct linguistic research we need to study Pashto. A lot of linguistic difficulties can be resolved through Pashto and a myraid of lost words can be traced through the language.

Here I will present some old Persian words in present Pashto forms:

Kath  کت

This word existed in old Perisan and literature. In present day living Pashto the word kat کټ is used meaning a bed or throne. Pashtoon guest houses have beds and people use it to sit or sleep on them. A very ancient Persian poet, Bushukur Balkhi (circa 900 A.D.) has used this word in a couplet as such:

            Feel happy with the royal cup,

            Sit on the royal throne (کت) and drink wine.

Farukhi Seistani in praise of Sultan Mahmud says:

            The caliphate distanced the Jepalians from

            The golden thrones (کتها) and royal jewels.

From these examples we can tell that in earlier times kath was used to mean a royal throne also. Asadi Tousi has used this word together with crown and says:

            I will destroy your throne and monarchy

            And take away your headless crown.

It looks as though the instead of kath the word throne was used and the  kat (bed) remained in the mountains in Pashto vocabulary. Beds are in use in guest houses and places of gathering on which people sit.

Payl    پيل

Once when I used this word to detonate introduction of a book I was criticized and told that payl has been extracted from the English word file. But I was using a common phrase of Kandahar and I believe payl is a pure Pashto word. From this root we have the words pilaat پيلات and paylama پيلامه   This word has been used in Bushukur’s Aferen Nama as such:

            The beginning (فيال) of this story starts

            In the year three hundred and thirty.

This  فيال is the پيال of Pashto which means the beginning and introduction.


Haazh     هاژ

In another couplet Bushukur says:

            The demon has taken over you,

            While you feel sorry for the loss of your wealth.

            Constantly complaining you seek trifle

            You are worthless in all deeds and mournful (هاژ).

The author of Burhan-e Qata’, Asadi and linguists studying the ancient Fars language give the meaning of this word as awed, dim, stupefied, silent and backward. Haazho هاژو,  haazha هاژه and haazhedan هاژيدن are also derived from this word.[1]

This word is the hesh هيښ of Pashto with exactly the same meaning and heshedal هيښيدل is similar to hazhedan هاژيدن.

The Kandaharis say: that person is standing stupefied or he is holding his eyes in a dumbfound way. Shaikh Mati says:

            Here the mighty mountains turn green

            Bewildering the eye with their awe.

The old haazh is now in the form of hesh in which the letter zhe has been converted to swen.

Garm     گرم

This word is now  grom گروم in Pashto meaning lamentation and anguish. Rudaki  used this word around 921 A.D. as follows:

            He who does not listen to the king

            His joy will turn to anguish.

Firdowsi writes:

            From the fear of the cheetah

            All the desert deer are in fear and awe.

Shams-ul-Ma’ali Qabos son of Washamgir Delmi says:

            Six things made my heart vexed:

            Love, pain, affliction, anguish, calamity and sorrow.

Grang     غرنگ

In today’s Pashto granga غړانگه means the voice or sound of a camel. Grangi wahal means to shout with an irritable voice. Khushurwani, the old Farsi poet (circa 971) says:

            I cannot see from too much tears,

            I cannot talk from too much groaning.

In Lughat-e Fars, this ode of Manjik Termizi states:

            With ardor he is engulfed by clamor

            His voice just a lamentful groan.

Suk     سوک

In Pashto it is suka  سوکه or tsuka څوکه. We say the pinnacle (tsuka) of the mountain or the tip of knife. This word has been used in Dari Farsi by Shakeri Bukhari (circa 921) in a poem which Dr. Safa, the author of the History of Literature of Iran[2] conjectures its meaning as the thorn of the ear of wheat and oats. This is, however, a strange meaning because the ear of wheat does not have a thorn at all. The word means a point or tip. Shakeri says:

            From the discharge of your arrows your enemy tattered

            Like the cut tips (سوک) of the ears of oats.

Here the word the word denotes the meaning of tip of the wheat ear.

Khah     خه

This word of applause is still used in Pashto. Shahid Balkhi in eulogy of Rudaki says:

            Poets praise your work

            Rudaki your excellent penmanship.



Kabara     کباره

This word is used as kawara کواره in Kandahar which means a basket in present Persian. It is a wick basket used to transport gapes and pomegranates and is in use to this day. In Persian literature this word was kabara. Nasir Khusrao Alawi Qabadyani says:

            You deserve a dilapidated house

            Adulterated and swollen like a basket. (کباره)

A basket contains holes hence it is metaphorically called adulterated and swollen.


Kabul Mujala, p. 21-24, Vol. 10, Number 31. 1340 H (1961)














[1] Lughat-e Fars, p. 176; Burhan-e Qata’ V. 4, p. 2307.

[2] Vol. 1, p. 401.