Etymology of the word FERDOUS (paradise) in Persian

Apr 28, 2020 in Persian Language

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Today we are going to talk about a very interesting Persian word, فردوس [ferdous] (garden, Paradise), which should also be familiar to the speakers of the modern European languages (in the form of ‘paradise’).

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The word فردوس [ferdous] has the following two meanings in modern Persian:

- a garden or orchard;

- Paradise, the heavenly garden.

This word, in its current form, has been borrowed from the Arabic word فردوس [firdaws], the plural form of which is فرادیس [farādis]. 

Despite this, we also have two other forms of this word in New Persian, which haven’t been reintroduced into Persian via Arabic (unlike فردوس), but have preserved their original Iranian forms:

- پردیس [pardis] - garden; campus;

- پالیز [pāliz] - kitchen-garden; a seed field; melon-ground.

Here you can read a verse from the famous Persian poet Hafiz, in which the word فردوس has been used:

زلف مشکین تو در گلشن فردوس عذار

چیست طاووس که در باغ نعیم افتادست

[zolf-e meškin-e to dar golšan-e ferdous-e ’ezār

čist tāvus ke dar bāγ-e na’im oftāde ast]

What is your dark ringlet in the flower-garden of the cheek’s paradise?

It is a peacock in the orchard of delights.


Now let’s discuss the etymology of the word itself.

As I mentioned above, New Persian has borrowed the word فردوس [ferdous] from Arabic. However, Arabic itself has borrowed this word from Greek, where it had the form παράδεισος (‘a park, garden’). The Greek word itself owes its origin to the Middle Persian word *pardēz, which is not attested in Middle Persian written sources and has been reconstructed on the basis of available linguistic evidence.

The Middle Persian form *pardēz in turn goes back to the Old Iranian *pari-daiza- (cf. Avestan pairi-daēza), from *pari-, ‘around’, and daiza-, ‘wall’.

The word ‘paradise’ was apparently also popular among ancient peoples along with the gardens of the Persian kings. Thus, there are similar borrowings in old languages like Hebrew (padēs), Aramaic (paradaysā) and Armenian (partēz).

In Europe, the Greek word παράδεισος penetrated into Latin (paradīsus) and from there into the modern European languages, like French ‘paradis’, English ‘paradise’, and German ‘Paradies’.

Etymology of the word FERDOUS (paradise) in Persian
Paradise from Middle Iranian Pardez
Paradise borrowing from Old Persian in European languages