"Carrot" in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc.

« previous post | next post »

From David Brophy:

I’ve often wondered why the Uyghur word for carrot is sewze, etc., which comes from P. sabz “green”. I know carrots range from orange to yellow, and maybe occasionally purple, but I’m pretty sure there’ve never been green carrots.

It's a good question.  

One thing I do know is that, whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I find sabzi, also spelled sabji, as a vegetable cooked in gravy

I think maybe the word originally just meant "veggies" in Persian, and then developed the specialized meaning of "carrot" in Turkic and other languages.

Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian: قورمه‌ سبزی‎) (also spelled as Qormeh Sabzi) is an Iranian herb stew. It is a very popular dish in Iran.

——

Ghormeh is derived from Turkic kavurmak and means "braised," while sabzi is the Persian word for herbs.

Looking at Wikipedia, it does say that carrots are likely originally from Persia where they were probably first cultivated for their leaves (which are green).

From James Millward:

I can only add anecdotal evidence from my kitchen Hindi again.   
 
“Sabzi” as used by my Punjabi relatives is an almost generic word for a vegetable dish, as in “it’s Tuesday [a meatless day] so we’re just having daal and a sabzi.”   
 
Since specific dishes like aloo-gobi or saag have their own names, I’ve heard the name sabzi applied sometimes to what my mother-in-law would do with peppers and onions, maybe even something like broccoli — when she was cleaning out the fridge.  
 
But in Afghan and Iranian restaurant menus I’ve seen sabzi refer to greens done in a way similar to saag:  e.g., Sabzi chalao with Lamb at my local Afghan place, is lamb cooked with spinach (which would be saag in a south Asian restaurant). 
 
The Afghan restaurant also has mantoo on the menu— but we’ve done that word before. .  .  .

[VHM:  See many of the entries in the "Selected readings".]

From Ayxem Eli:

In Qomul [VHM:  MSM Hami] dialect, carrot is zärdek, apparently from old Persian. I could be wrong but I don't think Uyghurs from outside Qomul would understand what zärdek is.
 
Persian

سبزی

Etymology

From سبز(sabz, green) + ـی(-i)

Pronunciation

Noun

سبزی (sabzi) (plural سبزیجاتor سبزی‌ها(sabzi-hâ))

    1. greenness
    2. vegetable
    3. verdure

Wiktionary

Also borrowed into Urdu just so.

Also in Uzbek.

From John Mullan:

The most common Persian word for "carrot" is havīj (هویج). In eastern dialects, which preserve older phonological features, it’d be hawīj. Other words are gazar (another eastern word) and zardak, literally ‘yellow’ plus the diminutive ending.

——–

Persian havīj (هویج) for ‘carrot’ appeared relatively late in the language, and is related to (and probably derived from) the Turkish name for ‘carrot’, havuç. The standard Persian name for ‘wild carrot’, havīj-e waḥšī, is a compound formed with the adjective for ‘wild’, itself from Arabic. Also the Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ havīj-e ṣaḥrā’ī is formed with an adjective that comes from Arabic, and literally means ‘of the desert’ (but in Persian, the compound is literally understood as ‘carrot of the field’, i.e., ‘of the wilderness’). By contrast, the third Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ is entirely Persian etymologically: havīj-e kūhī (but it literally means ‘mountain carrot’).

Nissan, Ephraim. “Etymothesis, Fallacy, and Ontologies: An Illustration from Phytonymy.” In Language, Culture, Computation: Computational Linguistics and Linguistics: Essays Dedicated to Yaacov Choueka on the Occasion of His 75 Birthday, Part III, edited by Nachum Dershowitz and Ephraim Nissan, 207-364. Berlin: Springer, 2014.  See p. 237.

Nissan, Ephraim and Nachum Dershowitz. Language, Culture, Computation: Computational Linguistics and Linguistics: Essays Dedicated to Yaacov Choueka on the Occasion of His 75 Birthday, Part III. Berlin: Springer, 2014.

A note on "vegetable" in English

N.B.:  "vegetable" (> "veggie") in English doesn't mean "green":

From Middle English vegetable, from Old French vegetable, from Latin vegetābilis (able to live and grow), derived from vegetāre (to enliven)

Wiktionary here and here.

"Carrot" presents a curious orthographical feature of the Vietnamese alphabetical script:

cà rốt (Vietnamese)

Origin & history

Borrowed French carotte.

Pronunciation

Noun

cà rốt

    1. carrot

Wordsense

This is a powerful demonstration of the dominance of the syllable over word in written Vietnamese.  Clearly, in terms of its origins and meaning, "càrốt", yet the syllables are written separately.

Sinitic

Finally, for those who wonder what the Sinitic word for "carrot" is, it presents a quite interesting case.

húluóbo 胡蘿蔔 / 胡萝卜 (lit., Iranian / Serindian luóbo 蘿蔔 / 萝卜; Middle Sinitic /lɑ  bək̚/)

So what is luóbo 蘿蔔 / 萝卜 in Sinitic?  As a binom which has numerous variant writings (e.g., 莱菔, 萝白, 芦菔) whose individual syllables do not mean anything pertinent by themselves, it has the look of a borrowing from some foreign or local language.  This is a phenomenon that we have frequently encountered on Language Log (see, for example, the third paragraph of "GA" [8/6/17).

Etymology

Unknown. This word has been attested in various forms since early Old Chinese, and is the source of many of the terms for "radish, turnip" in other languages in modern China. The basic form seems to be *rabuk.

Wiktionary

This same word has been widely borrowed into Central, Inner, Northeast, East, and Southeast Asian languages.

Sino-Xenic (蘿蔔):

Others:

In Sinitic languages, luóbo 蘿蔔 can be used to refer to carrot, radish, turnip, etc., but see below for a brief discussion of the scientific classification of these plants.

Since, in the early 70s when I began studying the popular Buddhist narrative about Mulian 目連 (Skt. Maudgalyāyana), whose nickname was "Turnip" (luóbo 蘿蔔 / 萝卜) and who rescued his mother from the underworld, I have always felt that Sinitic luóbo 蘿蔔 / 萝卜 was somehow related to Indo-European words that are cognate with Latin raphanus, raphanos (radish), from Ancient Greek ῥάφανος (rháphanos), ῥαφανίς (rhaphanís, radish).  It should be noted that the story of the popular Buddhist saint Mulian was widely known during the Tang period (618-907) and was already circulating even before that time.

Wiktionary

See, among other works:

Victor H. Mair, Tun-Huang Popular Narratives.  Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Rostislav Berezkin.  Many Faces of Mulian: The Precious Scrolls of Late Imperial China. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017.

Finally, although he does not mention the connection that I suggest above, I cannot fail to note the immensely learned essay on "The Carrot" in Berthold Laufer, Sino-Iranica: Chinese Contributions to the History of Civilization in Ancient Iran (Chicago 1919), pp. 451-454.

Addendum on "rape"

rape     kind of cruciferous plant (Brassica napus), late 14c., from Old French rape, from Latin rapa, rapum "turnip," cognate with Greek hrapys "rape," Old Church Slavonic repa, Lithuanian ropė, Middle Dutch roeve, Old High German ruoba, German Rübe "rape, turnip," perhaps a common borrowing from a non-IE word (de Vaan). Usually grown to feed sheep, an oil made from it is used in cooking (see canola).

Etymological Dictionary Online 

Note that the same group of words was used to refer both to rape and to turnips.  According to modern scientific classification, they both belong to the same family, Brassicaceae. Carrots, on the other hand, belong to the family Apiaceae, yet, as we have seen above, turnips and carrots are both referred to as types of luóbo 蘿蔔.

Photograph of carrot diversity

 

Selected reading 

[Thanks to Brian Spooner, Pardis Minuchehr, Thomas Beal, Sean Roberts, John Mullan]



23 Comments »

  1. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 4:56 am

    I cannot comment on "sabzi" other than to note that my (largeish) collection of Indian recipe books appear to consistently use the term generically, but to the best of my belief "saag" is also generic. "Saag aloo", for example, is "(spiced) green vegetables with potato", whilst "Aloo palak" is specifically "(spiced) potato with spinach". Most British Indian restaurants used the phrase "Sag aloo", most Britons interpret that as "(spiced) potato with spinach", but the more punctilious restaurants and diners use the word "palak" when it must be spinach and nothing else.

  2. Chris Button said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:08 am

    Finally, although he does not mention the connection that I suggest above, I cannot fail to note the immensely learned essay on "The Carrot" in Berthold Laufer, Sino-Iranica: Chinese Contributions to the History of Civilization in Ancient Iran (Chicago 1919), pp. 451-454.

    Laufer's discussion of rhubarb on p.547-549 might be more illuminating for the present discussion. Most notably Arabaic "rībās" on p.549, which wikipedia is putting back to Proto-Iranian *(h)rabā́š ~ *(h)rabacáh

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B3#Persian

    If that's correct, then an association with 蘿蔔 is tempting.

    It's interesting that the "barb" part of "rhubarb" in English is related to "barbarian"

  3. Marcel Erdal said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:44 am

    According to Mahmûd (Kâshgharî), the Turkic term for 'carrot' is sarig turma 'yellow radish', although the Argu and the Oghuz use terms borrowed from Persian (he says, although the ultimate source of those is, I think, Semitic).

  4. M. Paul Shore said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:50 am

    I suppose ultimately the only way we could answer the question of how the Uyghurs of the past settled on their particular word for “carrot” would be if we knew sewze like they knew sewze.

  5. David Marjanović said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:21 am

    German Rübe "rape, turnip,"

    That's odd. As a native speaker, I've never seen these meanings conflated. The oil plant is Raps, canola is Rapsöl. Rübe refers to turnips in particular and to edible bulbs in general, to the extent that yellow carrots are called gelbe Rüben.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:41 am

    I thought that "canola" could refer only to rapeseed oil derived from genetically selected cultivars, where the purpose of the selection was to significantly reduce the level of erucic acid. Is it not the case, David, that German Rapsöl refers to all types of rapeseed oil, no matter whether they be intended for culinary or industrial use and no matter what the level of erucic acid ?

  7. cameron said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:08 am

    In English the root (as it were) "nip" is also in play here. We've got turnips, and also parsnips. Scottish usage retains "neeps" in phrases like "neeps and tatties".

    A few years ago I was describing the Christmas dinner my mother had prepared to a French friend, but she had no idea what parsnips are. I didn't know the French word, so I looked it up. Apparently parsnips are largely unknown in French cuisine. If they're grown in France it's as fodder for pigs. The French word is le panais, by the way.

    The Persian terms havij-e vahshi and zardak-e vahshi, literally "wild carrot", are inclusive of what we call parsnips in English. But there is also a Persian word shaqâqol (شقاقل) which refers specifically to parsnips. I don't know the etymology of the latter, but it kinda sounds Turkish . . .

  8. Amit said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 9:11 am

    An Indian here. You have to differentiate the terms used by Indian restaurant in western countries and what people in India usually use, sometimes they overlap. Both "saag" and "sabzi" are generically used for veggies where each vegetable have an individual name. In Hindi, carrot is called "gaajar" (गाजर), and if you are cooking chopped carrot with peas etc. its called "gaajar ki sabzi".

  9. Nazila said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 10:06 am

    The reason is carrots were first planted not because of their roots but because of their fragrant leaves and seeds. A number of close relatives of carrots are parsley, coriander, fennel, dill, and cumin which they plant because of their leaves and seeds.

  10. Dave Cragin said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 11:52 am

    Apple is an English example of general food term that evolved into a specialized meaning. i.e., Apple originally meant any kind of fruit. It evolved into its specialized meaning during middle English. This older meaning is still apparent in the word "pineapple."

    (this comes from the excellent "History of English" podcast).

  11. Dara Connolly said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 3:04 pm

    Ghormeh is derived from Turkic kavurmak and means "braised,"

    And gives us the English word "korma"

  12. Jongseong Park said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 9:44 pm

    In Korean, 나복 蘿蔔 nabok (or 라복 rabok according to North Korean norms) is an obscure term for white radishes of the type sometimes known as daikon, which is normally called 무 mu in Korean. I had never seen the term before and am confident that most Koreans are not familiar with it either; from a quick search I see that it is glossed as an older term from the Joseon period (1392–1910) or as the name used in traditional Korean medicine.

    The Korean word for carrot is 당근 danggeun. Interestingly, 표준국어대사전 Pyojun Gugeo Daesajeon ("The Great Dictionary of Standard Korean") does not give any Chinese characters for this term, although the form looks obviously Sino-Korean. Other sources give the Chinese characters as 唐根, literally "Tang (as in the dynasty) root".

    The Pyojun Gugeo Daesajeon lists 호나복 胡蘿蔔 honabok ("barbarian nabok"), 홍나복 紅蘿蔔 hongnabok ("red nabok"), and 홍당무 紅唐무 hongdangmu ("red Tang mu") as synonyms, though the last term can also refer to radishes (i.e. the type familiar to most English speakers) or beetroot. Again, I had never heard the terms honabok or hongnabok before.

    Hongdangmu is often used in the metaphorical sense, to describe someone blushing, for instance. Growing up I understood it as a synonym for danggeun, the usual word for carrot, and only later found out that it could also refer to radishes or beetroot.

    The element 당 唐 dang ("Tang") points to carrots coming into Korea via China. The element 호 胡 ho ("barbarian") also appears in a lot of terms referring to what are considered Chinese imports, such as 호떡 hotteok (a type of sweet pancake that is a popular street food in Korea, literally "barbarian rice cake") or 호밀 homil (rye, literally "barbarian wheat").

    Interestingly, pepper is 후추 huchu in Korean and is from Sinitic 胡椒, which in regular Sino-Korean would be hocho. The medical treatise 諺解胎産集要 언해태산집요 Eonhae Taesan Jibyo (1608) writes it as 호쵸 hochyo. So in this latter case, the element ho is actually present in the etymon rather than being the result of the Korean naming strategy for things coming via China. The same for 호두 hodu "walnut", deriving regularly from earlier Sino-Korean 胡桃 hodo as a result of the term being nativized and no longer being felt as Sino-Korean. Since 胡蘿蔔 is already present in Sinitic, honabok would be another such case. However, while the use of the element ho in Korean and 胡 in Sinitic are obviously parallel, many of the common examples of the former seem to be native derivations rather than terms loaned from Sinitic.

  13. Xerîb said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 11:00 pm

    Encyclopedia Iranica (entry unrevised since 1990) on the etymology of Persian havīj:

    The current name havīj is a rather late designation. Dehḵodā (Loḡat-nāma, s.v. ḥavīj) and, repeating him, Moʿīn (Farhang-e-fārsī, s.vv. ḥavīj and ḥavīj) believe that havīj is a corrupt spelling for ḥavīj, itself originally from the Arabic phrase ḥawāʾej al-qedr (in Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī, quoted by Dehḵodā, ḥavīj-e dīg), lit. “the necessaries of the cooking pot” (i.e., kitchen provisions), the meaning of which has later narrowed so much as to designate one of those ḥawāʾej, namely the carrot (cf. Dozy, I, pp. 333-34, who records, from Arabic sources, ḥawāʾej as also meaning “the provisions intended for the kitchen and table of the prince,” and ḥawāʾej-ḵāna as the store where the provisions were kept).

    http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/carrot-the-taproot-of-daucus-l

  14. Jake said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 11:00 am

    Regarding green carrots, a while back I was growing yellow carrots and because of circumstances didn't harvest them, the part of the root that made it above ground turned green.

  15. Wolfgang Behr said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 12:10 pm

    For those of you who read German here's another, not terribly serious blog on the luobo ~ raphanos conspiracy.
    https://www.uzh.ch/spur/blog/zurcher-markt-wurzelgemuse-und-gemusewurzeln/

  16. Victor Mair said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 1:54 pm

    I recommend Wolfgang Behr's post on root vegetables and vegetable roots for being informative, entertaining, and edifying (which is etymologically unrelated to eating).

  17. CuConnacht said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 2:49 pm

    Cameron, the -nip in parsnip is unetymological, introduced in English to the Old French pasnaise (from Latin pastinaca) under the influence of neep and turnip. The r in the first syllable is also an innovation, maybe also because of turnip.

    A Dutch friend knew the parsnip, pastinak, only from literature. The Russian word came to be a family name, as in Boris Pasternak.

  18. Alexander Browne said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 11:30 am

    Slovak, Polish and Lithuanian recipes I've seen call for parsley root, which seems to be like a carrot grown by a parsley variety.

  19. David Marjanović said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 12:09 pm

    Parsley roots taste awesome and belong in many clear soups.

    I thought that "canola" could refer only to rapeseed oil derived from genetically selected cultivars, where the purpose of the selection was to significantly reduce the level of erucic acid.

    I seem to have over-Americanized my usage! :-) Canola was originally a brand name that stood for "Canadian oil, low acid". As brand names sometimes do, its usage has broadened to the same product by other brands, and probably even beyond, greatly helped along by the fact that rape has quite an unfortunate homonym.

    You are of course right that Rapsöl is any oil of any rapeseed.

  20. David Marjanović said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

    I recommend Wolfgang Behr's post on root vegetables and vegetable roots for being informative, entertaining, and edifying (which is etymologically unrelated to eating).

    I second this, and specify the puns and the snark!

  21. Alexander Browne said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 10:47 am

    I've never found parsley roots in the US, at least in the upper midwest. I love parsley and carrots, so I think I'll to track down some seeds next spring and grow my own.

  22. Chris Button said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 6:50 am

    With all the various "rape(seed)" words being generally acknowledged as coming from a Wanderwort, I still think Proto-Iranian *(h)rabā́š ~ *(h)rabacáh "rhubarb" might be along the right lines.

    That association is tentatively suggested here by the editor of this wikipedia page, which also includes 蘆菔:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/(s)r%C4%81%CC%81ps

    Unfortunately no sources are provided.

  23. Chris Button said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 6:55 am

    Even more speculatively, if Persian "rewend" (rhubarb) ultimately comes from *(h)rabā́š ~ *(h)rabacáh, then this comment under the English word "rhubarb" from etymonline is interesting:

    late 14c., from Old French rubarbe, from Medieval Latin rheubarbarum, from Greek rha barbaron "foreign rhubarb," from rha "rhubarb," perhaps ultimately from a source akin to Persian rewend "rhubarb"

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment