Some of the letters of the Arabic script do not represent any native Persian sounds and thus are used only for Arabic loans. Therefore, e.g., there are four "z"-sounds in the Farsi script, ز ض ظ ذ. Now some of these letters are used in native words, for example ذ in گذشتن. Is there any phonetic logic behind that? Are there other examples for this?

What about غ and ق? Is there a hard and fast rule, like (that's what I heard) only geyn being used for native Persian words? (If that be so, in connection with the following question, what about the city قم?)

A related question concerns the names of places in Iran, for example Teheran (now written تهران, earlier طهران) and Esfahan (earlier, as far as I know, اصپهان). Are these place names of Arabic origin and therefore written with the "special characters" or is there some other reason behind that?

1 Answer 1


ق occurs in Arabic and Turkish/Mongolian loanwords. غ occurs in Arabic, Turko-Mongolian and a few words of Iranian (but usually not Persian) origin.

Arabic was the official language in Islamic Iran for a long time and for this reason many place-names are used in an "official" Arabicised form, even if they are of Persian origin e.g. اصفهان for Persian spahān.

The use of ذ in a few words of Iranian etymology is a somewhat complicated matter. You can read about it here:


pages 93 sqq.

  • Thanks! Would be great to have an example for qaf in a turkish loan as well as geyn in turkish loans and a native Iranian word. As to the place names - that was exactly the solution that I had not conceived of!
    – zwiebel
    Apr 30, 2014 at 15:29
  • 1
    Example of qaf in Turkish loan words: قاچاق (smuggling), بشقاب (plate) Example of gheyn in Iranian words: باغ (garden), تیغ (blade)
    – Roozbehan
    Nov 19, 2017 at 1:10

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