Etymology Notes: "-stan"

Benjamin Fortson fortson at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Jan 4 16:39:09 UTC 2002

Two minor etymological notes on Carl's message, for what they're worth:
the -sta- of "Avestan" is not from the root *sta:- (see AHD4 for details,
s.v. Zend Avesta), and there's really no debate about the origin of
"Pakistan", which was deliberately coined from P(unjab) + A(fghan) +
K(ashmir) + (Baluch)ISTAN by C. Rahmat Ali in 1933 and taken up by
Mohammed Ali Jinna's Muslim League in 1940.

Ben Fortson

On Tue, 1 Jan 2002, carljweber wrote:

> Etymology Notes: "-stan"
> Carl Jeffrey Weber
> "-STAN"
> I STill remember the IE "st(a)-" morpheme is among the literal handful of
> most productive in the IE languages. It's found all over the place  -- its
> general sense is "STationary," or "STanding." It's in AveSTan and HinduSTani
> cognates. It's in state, Stuttgart, constitution, staff, obstinate, stall,
> constipate, stool, understand,  post (as a back formation from Latin
> postis) - the list goes on forever.
> ///////////////
> When Afganistan was named in 1747, two hundred years before Pakistan, it was
> translated into English, "Land of the Afghans" (compare "Land of the
>  Angles"). The word, "-land," it seems, has a primal association "solid
> subSTance". I decided to do some fieldwork, and went to Dunkin' Donuts. My
> informant (notwithstanding, not a Muslim), after I asked, "what does '-stan'
> mean, like in Afganistan, Pakistan," gave his quick response: "country". Of
> note, the "-gan-" of the name chosen in 1747 looks suspiciously like the
> most common name in the area - Khan.
> One list gentleman's comment on the problem was that in 1947 at the
> Partition of India, the name Pakistan was totally named by the
> geo-ethnicities (my word) who contributed letters to the naming process.
> P(ersia), A(fgan.), K(ashmir), I(ndia). That much is good. These are the
> four, and only four, bordering countries. But the gentleman continues with
> S(ind), T(urk.). The device of the first four letters he inordinately
> applies beyond historical credibility, because  "-stan", meaning "land of"
> in English, was known to many people in the area for two centuries, as
> stated already. Pakistan at the partition seems to have been named with the
> four letters of the bordering countries, + stan. I heard something like that
> ten years ago from a Punjabi friend. Why not Pakistan, the "Land of Four
> Letters", in its way, the way the Punjab is, the "Land of Five Rivers" in
> its. (The name is derived from two Persian words: 'Panj' meaning five with
> 'Aab' meaning water - the internet reminds me.)
>  I looked on the web page for the  Pakistani student organization, to seek
> some source documentation - 1947 was not that long ago. I'd say somebody in
> 1947 thought up that letter-device in a committee, and then they put the old
> "-stan" on it.
> The Pakistani Student organization has a different etymology for the
> Pakistan-word. They say the first part of the word is Urdu for "pure".
> This gives "Land of the
> Pure". I'm skepical about use of an Urdu word here. Where are the 1947
> foundation documents? What's this Urdu root about? Maybe the Student group
> will get back to me.
> My donut man informed me with great confidence that "Paki-" doesn't mean
> anything - "it's just a name", he said, with sympathetic understanding.
> (Back to "-stan".) I said "America-stan". We laughed about it, but no extra,
> free, boston crème - like the dayshift donut lady used to give me until our
> relationship soured.
> Carl Jeffrey Weber

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