Family vocab III: brothers and sisters

Family vocab I: mother and father

Family vocab II: child, son and daughter

Continuing our family vocabulary series, this time we look at siblings. The most common way to say “sibling” in Persian is actually to say “brother or sister,” بَرادَر یا خواهَر (barādar yā khwāhar, “ba-raa-dar-yaa-khaa-har”). یا means “or,” and I just realized that we haven’t done connecting words yet so there’s something to put on the to-do list. خواهَر is, I think, our first example of the “silent(ish)” vav, a word that begins with خوا where the و, which can take the “u,” “v,” or “w” sounds in Persian, is (generally) silent, or at least so lightly pronounced as to effectively be silent (so it sounds like “khaa” instead of “khwaa” or “khvaa”). The spelling may reflect an arcane pronunciation that later changed, but don’t quote me on that. People transliterate this particular eccentricity in different ways, sometimes ignoring the silent letter and sometimes writing it in superscript, so khwāhar). I just leave it as is; the point of transliteration is, I was taught, to allow the reader who knows the original language to reconstruct the word in that language from your transliteration, and that و is in there whether it makes a sound or not. Another word for “sibling” is هَمشیر (hamshīr), from هَم meaning “both” or “likewise,” and شیر meaning “milk.” You can piece that one together I assume.

So now we already know “brother,” بَرادَر (barādar, pl. بَرادَران barādarān), and “sister,” خواهَر (khwāhar, pl. خواهَران khwāharān), but you should be aware that Persian also uses the Arabic اخ (akh) to mean “brother” and can use هَمشیره (hamshīrah) to mean “sister,” which seems to me like a strange amalgamation of the Persian word for sibling and the Persian equivalent of the Arabic feminine ending.

Arabic here. Turkish here.


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