Some points about Persia, Persian, Iran, Iranian, Fars and Farsi
By Dr. Peyman Nasehpour
From the beginning of the history, we have called ourselves, Iran. Native English speakers have called our homeland Persia and have called us Persians for centuries. It seems this has been started by Greeks and has been continued by Romans and other Europeans. This means that the words, Persia and Persian can be found in the oldest English texts. In 1789, Sir William Jones used the word Iranian in English to explain about different branches of Persian languages in the family of Indo-European languages.
In 1930s, the Government of Iran (Reza Shah) decided to do something for the confusion between the words Persia and Iran and wanted the world to call our country Iran not Persia and after that we became The Kingdom of Iran and now we are The Islamic Republic of Iran.
Now the United Nations and all countries know us as Iran with the abbreviation, IRN (our official websites are like this: domain.ir)
But this is not the end of the story. This never ended to the use of the word, Persia in newspapers and magazines. In fact the confusion between Iran and Persia still exists.
Fortunately the meaning of Persia is clear like before. It is the land of Fine Arts! Yet people love Persian famous poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Sadi and Khayyam. But the meaning of Iran is still in dispute! Is Iran the same as Iraq? Are Iranians Arab and is their language Arabic?
Of course Iran is not Iraq! Most of Iraqi people speak in Arabic. But the formal language of Iranians is Persian, though we have Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs in Iran.
According to this background, the following suggestions are offered:
What is official or governmental should be translated to Iran and Iranian. Some examples are: The Iranian Government or Government of Iran, Iranian President or President of Iran.
What is related to culture, civilization and art should be translated to Persia or Persian. Some examples are: Persian art music, Persian carpets, Persian rugs, Persian painting, Persian calligraphy, Classical music of Persia etc
It is better not to use Iranian language. Persian language is much better. Not all Iranians speak in Persian. Almost one third of Iranians are Azerbaijani (Azeri) that they speak in Azerbaijani language that is a branch of Turkish language. Azerbaijani language has lots of Persian and Arabic words but its grammar is totally different from the grammar of Persian language. Here I would like to mention that Persian and Azerbaijani music are very similar to each other in the way that we can say they are almost the same.
Recently some medias use Arabic Gulf or even Gulf instead of Persian Gulf. This is not right! According to all historiocal/geographical documents and UN directives, the name of this waterway that separates Persia (Iran) from Saudi Arabia is the 'PERSIAN GULF'.
Recently, Americans use the word Farsi for Persian language that we do not like this. This is right that we Iranians use the word Farsi for our language, but this is quite unknown for the rest of the world and will increase the confusion. The word Farsi is arabicized of the word Parsi and Parsi means Persian.
In some cases that our text is historical, then we may use the words Persia and Persian in our translations instead of Iran and Iranian in order to show the antiquity of the text.
From this useful book:
Iran & Iranian in English, Kamran Safaeian, BAZ publications, 2001.