The multifarious nature of the kiosk

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Makes your head spin.

Takes so many different shapes and serves so many different purposes:

Historically, a kiosk (from Persian kūshk) was a small garden pavilion open on some or all sides common in Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and in the Ottoman Empire from the 13th century onward. Today, several examples of this type of kiosk still exist in and around the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, and they can be seen in Balkan countries.

The word is used in English-speaking countries for small booths offering goods and services. In Australia they usually offer food service. Freestanding computer terminals dispensing information are called interactive kiosks.


Let's go back to the beginning.  It all starts with Persian:




From Middle Persian kwšk' (kōšk, pavilion, palace, kiosk). Compare Aramaic קושקא(qōšqāʾ) / ܓܘܫܩܐ(gawšāqāʾ), Iranian borrowings.



Dari کوشک
Iranian Persian
Tajik кӯшк (küšk)

کوشک (kôšk) (plural کوشک‌ها(kôšk-hâ))

    1. pavilion
    2. palace
    3. mansion
    4. villa
    5. kiosk




Earlier kiosque, from French kiosque, from Italian chiosco, from Ottoman Turkish كوشك(köşk), from Persian کوشک(kôšk, palace, portico), from Middle Persian kwšk' (kōšk).


kiosk (plural kiosks)

    1. A small enclosed structure, often freestanding, open on one side or with a window, used as a booth to sell newspapers, cigarettes, etc.
    2. A similar unattended stand for the automatic dispensing of tickets, etc.
    3. A public telephone booth.
    4. A Turkish garden pavilion.


kiosk (n.)

1620s, "kind of open pavilion" (made of light wood, etc., often supported by pillars), from French kiosque (17c.), which is (along with German and Polish kiosk) from Turkish koshk, kiöshk "pavilion, summer house," from Persian kushk "palace, villa; pavilion, portico." They were introduced in Western Europe 17c. as ornaments in gardens and parks. Later of street newsstands (1865), on some resemblance of form, a sense perhaps originally in French. Modern sense influenced by British telephone kiosk (1928).


If you want to learn more about "The kiosk in Turkey and Europe", read Stephen Jones' richly illustrated and abundantly documented blog post on that topic.

Reminds me of another Iranian word in English, "paradise":

late Old English, "the garden of Eden," from Old French paradis "paradise, garden of Eden" (11c.), from Late Latin paradisus "a park, an orchard; the garden of Eden, the abode of the blessed," from Greek paradeisos "a park; paradise, the garden of Eden," from an Iranian source similar to Avestan pairidaeza "enclosure, park" (Modern Persian and Arabic firdaus "garden, paradise"), a compound of pairi- "around" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, near, against, around") + diz "to make, to form (a wall)." The first element is cognate with Greek peri "around, about" (see per), the second is from PIE root *dheigh- "to form, build."

The Greek word was used by Xenophon and others for an orchard or royal hunting park in Persia, and it was taken in Septuagint to mean "the garden of Eden," and in New Testament translations of Luke xxiii.43 to mean "the Christian heaven, place where the souls of the righteous departed await resurrection" (a sense attested in English from c. 1200; extended from c. 1400 to the Muslim heaven). Meaning "place of extreme beauty, blissful state like or comparable to Paradise" is from c. 1300. The Gates of Paradise originally meant "the Virgin Mary" (late 14c.)


The original Iranian pairidaeza must have had many kôšk-hâ کوشک‌ها‎ ("kiosks") on its grounds.


Selected readings


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 12:28 pm

    Also worth noting that in addition to the uses outlined above (sale of newspapers, etc), kiosks exist that are designed to function as urinals and even as WCs.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 2:30 pm

    Of the many different types of smaller and larger buildings in Chinese gardens and monastery grounds, I wonder how many of them derive — architecturally and / or linguistically — from Iranian sources like the kiosk and how many from Indian sources like the stupa ("pagoda" most likely derives from some form of that Sanskrit / Prakrit / Pali word), which in Chinese is generally called tǎ 塔 (without doubt derived from "stupa").

  3. Chris Button said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 2:49 pm

    pagoda" most likely derives from some form of that Sanskrit / Prakrit / Pali word), which in Chinese is generally called tǎ 塔 (without doubt derived from "stupa").

    The age of this loan doesn’t seem to be posited as far back as early/pre Old Chinese. Yet, the st- fits so nicely with the earlier s-t- via the s- prefix that gave Old Chinese aspirated tʰ- as the onset.

  4. martin schwartz said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 6:05 pm

    There is a discrepancy between the listinga "Pronunciation" and "Noun"–and the Tajik should not have -e-. The term Dari is confusing (and, I think, in context, wrong): It can mean
    variously 1)'a variety of early/Clessical Persian'; 2) the Persian of modern Afghanistan; 3) a non-Persic Central Iranian language of
    the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman. Classical kõsk > kūšk has much ceded to the shortened kušk > košk (spelled without vāv,
    i.e. kšk vs. older kwšk, and I think košk is the basis for the Turkish form with -ö-. The analysis of Old Iranian paridaiza-
    'circumvallated (orchard), spelled pairidaēza- in Avestan, is pari
    'raound' + daiza- 'fortification' (Middle Persian dēz) from √d(a)iz
    'to mold, fashiion (clay)', PIE •√deig'h (NB palatal final aspirated phoneme), whence. PIE *perHi also Eng. 'dough'. PIE *perHi
    'around' is locative of a root-stem *perH- from a verb *VperH meaning something like 'to move alongside/past something'.,
    but requires further discussion. Btw the Iranian word is reflected as
    what must have been a very early loan into Armenian partēz; it also
    gave Hebrew pardes 'orchard, park', whose consonants p-r-d-s
    in mystical usage refers acronymically to four levels of hiddenness is the exegesis of a text. MPers. kõšk possibly goes back to
    OIr. *kaužd-ka-, cf. Av. kaoždā-. a rising ornamentation on a crown.

  5. Tom Houpt said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 8:56 am

    There is also a tendency (at least for me) to call what is properly "digital signage" a kiosk — a big public monitor that dispenses information, announcements, events, rather than tickets. Digital kiosks apparently are those touch-sensitive computer screens or free standing tablets that you can interact with but I call the big monitor in the lobby of our university building a "kiosk", even though it is well out of reach. I think the usage is blurring, as with podium and lectern.

  6. Kate Bunting said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 11:18 am

    Re: Paradise –
    The 16th/17th century botanist John Parkinson wrote a book on plants punningly titled "Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris" – 'Park-in-sun's earthly paradise'.

  7. Coby said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 11:24 am

    I would guess that the i inserted into the European versions of the word reflects the palatalization of k before front vowels (such as ö in Turkish.

  8. Rodger C said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 1:21 pm

    the Tajik should not have -e-

    My screen the next afternoon has -ɵ-.

  9. Chas Belov said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 2:22 pm

    @Philip Taylor: Interesting. We have stand-alone public toilets and one open-air urinal here in San Francisco and it never would have occurred to me to refer to them as kiosks. Not saying it's wrong.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 2:32 pm

    Well, I'm not the first to use the term, Chas — it occurs, for example, in Waterless Urinals for Sustainable Resource and Environmental Management in a caption to a photograph : "View of the Public Urinal Kiosk at Holistic Food Canteen (Photo: Sakthivel R) ".

  11. martin schwartz said,

    October 13, 2022 @ 3:01 am

    @Coby: Indeed. Cf. Greek karagiozis /karagyozis/ < Turkish
    karagöz, and the Ukr. place name Izyum recently in the news
    = '(dried) grape' < Turkic üzüm vel sim.
    @Kate Bunting: Thanks for the memorable pun!

  12. Victor Mair said,

    October 14, 2022 @ 10:11 pm

    I remember Karagöz from my study of the history of the shadow play more than half a century ago. The name derives from Ottoman Turkish قره‌گوز‎ (Karagöz). kara (“black”) +‎ göz (“eye”).

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