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A couple of years ago I encountered the world δυσμενής, meaning hostile, in an ancient Greek text I translated. If I recall correctly, this can be pronounced as "dusmenè". This always intrigued me, because being a speaker of Dari (which is a dialect of Farsi), I recognized the word, as in the Persian language "دشمن" (pronounced "düşman") means enemy. Coincidentally I know that in Punjabi you have the word "ਦੁਸ਼ਮਣ" ("duśamaṇa"), which means foe.

So I have already noticed that a lot of Punjabi words are borrowed from Persian, through my own experience with the language while travelling Punjab. However I am not familiar with other cases of Persian borrowing Greek words, especially a word as common as "enemy". Historically, there is a link between the regions, as Alexander the Great conquered Persia, and the (Hellenistic) Seleucid empire kept it under control for over a century.

So is there any reason to believe this word is borrowed from Greek? Or is there another, more reasonable alternative (such as Arabic perhaps)?

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  • It is possible...but do you have an etymological dictionary of Persian? That should help. – Cerberus Dec 11 '13 at 17:49
  • @Cerberus I don't know of any that could help, let's hope another user does.. – OmnipresentAbsence Dec 11 '13 at 17:52
  • Btw, Gk. δυσμενής was pronounced [dysmenɛ́ːs]. – TKR Dec 11 '13 at 23:44
  • "However I am not familiar with other cases of Persian borrowing Greek words, ..." Actually the official administrative language of Achaemenid Iran was Greek, and of course the Iranians came as far as Macedonia. Plenty of Greek words were borrowed into ancient Persian, Georgian, Armenian and Aramaic and from there later into Arabic and Turkish. I am not saying it is the case here but precisely the military lexicon was borrowed often. In this specific case they are presumably simply cognates from some stage of PIE but there could have been subtle later influence in either direction. – Adam Bittlingmayer Jan 28 '17 at 8:33
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    Adorably, if not terribly relevant, düşman has been reborrowed into Greek via Turkish as ντουσμάνος (although the word has been expunged from standard Greek, and only survives in dialect). – Nick Nicholas May 20 '17 at 9:32
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dušman and δυσμενής are Indo-European cognates. The Persian word comes from Old Iranian *duš-manyu- (cf Avestan dušmanah-), “whose mind is bad”. The Punjabi word (also Hindi, Urdu etc.) is a borrowing from Persian.

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  • The nominative form of a notion such as this is so uniform and exact across its vast common area of usage that it beats expressions of the same language dialects with its consistency in both the pronunciation and the definition or its meaning. This is a naturally impossible conservation. Meaning, there's nothing "indo-european" in it. – Bekim Bacaj Nov 29 '16 at 2:35
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But I remember coming across the Sanskrit word sumanas which is directly connected to its antonym 'εὐμενής'; I believe duḥmanas exists in Sanskrit as well.

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    The Sanskrit form is durmanas. I suppose the š of the Punjabi word cited makes it more likely to be a Persian borrowing. – TKR Dec 11 '13 at 23:43
  • Yes. Skt. durmanas- means “of bad disposition, sad” and is continued by Pali dummana-, Hindi duman, etc. (see Turner no. 6443). Urdu dušman is definitely a loan from Persian and the other New Indian forms are borrowed from Urdu. – fdb Dec 12 '13 at 23:37
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No, they are not borrowed, they are cognates. The Proto-Indo-European word was dusmenēs which meant "hostile" (from dus- "bad" and men- "think"). See Mallory & Adams.

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    Anixx, I hope you realise we are talking about two different issues. The Greek and Persian words are cognates. The Hindi and other New Indian words with š are borrowings from Persian. The regular outcome of Skt durmanas- in Hindi is duman. duman and δυσμενής are cognates. – fdb Dec 14 '13 at 13:55
  • @fdb I am answering about Persian and Greek. Mallory gives Avcestan dusmanah- and Old Indian durmanās. – Anixx Dec 14 '13 at 13:59
  • The correct spellings are dušmanah- and durmanas-, as mentioned above. – fdb Dec 14 '13 at 14:12

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