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"Aryan" (/ˈɛəriən, ˈær-/) is a term meaning "noble", which
was used as a self-designation by Indo-Iranian people. The word was
used by the Indic people of the
Vedic period in
India as an ethnic
label for themselves and to refer to the noble class as well as the
geographic region known as Āryāvarta, where Indo-
Aryan culture was
based. The closely related
Iranian people also used the term as
an ethnic label for themselves in the
Avesta scriptures, and the word
forms the etymological source of the country name Iran. It
was believed in the 19th century that
Aryan was also a
self-designation used by all Proto-Indo-Europeans, a theory that has
now been abandoned. Scholars point out that, even in ancient times,
the idea of being an "Aryan" was religious, cultural and linguistic,
Drawing on misinterpreted references in the
Rig Veda by Western
scholars in the 19th century, the term "Aryan" was adopted as a racial
category through the works of Arthur de Gobineau, whose ideology of
race was based on an idea of blonde northern European "Aryans" who had
migrated across the world and founded all major civilizations, before
being degraded through racial mixing with local populations. Through
the works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Gobineau's ideas later
influenced the Nazi racial ideology which saw "
Aryan peoples" as
innately superior to other putative racial groups.
The atrocities committed in the name of this racial ideology have led
academics to avoid the term "Aryan", which has been replaced, in most
cases, by "Indo-Iranian". The term now only appears in the context of
Sanskrit and Avestan
1.2.1 Scholarly usage
1.2.2 Contemporary usage
220.127.116.11 Indian and Iranian nationalism
Nazism and white supremacy
2 Usage and adaptation in other languages
2.1 In Indian/
2.2 In Iranian literature
2.3 In Latin literature
2.4 In European languages
3.1 Before the 19th century
3.1.2 Vedic Sanskrit
3.1.4 Religious use
3.2 19th century
3.2.1 Theories of
3.3 20th century
4 See also
The English word "Aryan" is borrowed from the
Sanskrit word ārya,
आर्य, meaning "noble" or "noble one". It was
introduced into English with the new spelling by William Jones in the
The earliest epigraphically attested reference to the word arya occurs
in the 6th-century BC
Behistun inscription, which describes itself as
having been composed "in arya [language or script]" (§ 70). As is
also the case for all other Old Iranian language usage, the arya of
the inscription does not signify anything but "Iranian".
J.P. Mallory argues that "As an ethnic designation, the
word [Aryan] is most properly limited to the Indo-Iranians, and most
justly to the latter where it still gives its name to the country
Sanskrit and Avestan
In early Vedic literature, the term
आर्यावर्त, abode of the Aryans) was the name given
to northern India, where the Indo-
Aryan culture was based. The
Manusmṛti (2.22) gives the name
Āryāvarta to "the tract between
Himalaya and the
Vindhya ranges, from the Eastern (Bay of Bengal)
to the Western Sea (Arabian Sea)".
Initially the term was used as a national name to designate those who
worshipped the Vedic deities (especially Indra) and followed Vedic
culture (e.g. performance of sacrifice, Yajna).
Sanskrit term comes from proto-Indo-Iranian *arya-[note 1]
 or *aryo-,[note 2] the name used by the
designate themselves.[note 3] The
Zend airya 'venerable'
Old Persian ariya are also derivates of *aryo-, and are also
In Iranian languages, the original self-identifier lives on in ethnic
names like "Alans" and "Iron". Similarly, the name of
Iran is the
Persian word for land/place of the Aryans.
The Proto-Indo-Iranian term is hypothesized to have
proto-Indo-European origins, while according to Szemerényi it
is probably a Near-Eastern loanword from the Ugaritic ary,
It has been postulated the
Proto-Indo-European root word is *haerós
with the meanings "members of one's own (ethnic) group, peer, freeman"
as well as the Indo-Iranian meaning of Aryan. Derived from it were
the Hittite prefix arā- meaning member of one's own group, peer,
companion and friend;
Old Irish aire, meaning "freeman" and "noble"
Gaulish personal names with Ario-
Avestan airya- meaning Aryan, Iranian in the larger sense
Old Indic ari- meaning attached to, faithful, devoted person and
Old Indic aryá- meaning kind, favourable, attached to and devoted
Old Indic árya- meaning Aryan, faithful to the Vedic religion.
The word *haerós itself is believed to have come from the root *haer-
meaning "put together". The original meaning in Proto-Indo-European
had a clear emphasis on the "in-group status" as distinguished from
that of outsiders, particularly those captured and incorporated into
the group as slaves. While in Anatolia, the base word has come to
emphasize personal relationship, in Indo-Iranian the word has taken a
more ethnic meaning.
A review of numerous other ideas, and the various problems with each
is given by Oswald Szemerényi.
Proto-Indo-Europeans: during the 19th century, it was proposed that
"Aryan" was also the self-designation of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, a
hypothesis which has been abandoned.
Aryan language family": the
Indo-Aryan languages (including the
Iranian languages and Nuristani languages,
Indo-Aryan languages specifically, also called Indic.
Indian and Iranian nationalism
The term "Aryan" is used by Indian nationalists and Iranian
nationalists to refer themselves.[vague]
Nazism and white supremacy
During the 19th century it was proposed that "Aryan" was also the
self-designation of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Based on speculations
that the Proto-Indo-European homeland was located in northern Europe,
a 19th-century hypothesis which is now abandoned, the word developed a
racialist meaning. It has been used in Nazi racial theory to
describe persons corresponding to the "Nordic" physical ideal of Nazi
Germany (the "master race" ideology).[note 5]
Usage and adaptation in other languages
Sanskrit and related Indic languages, ārya means "one who does
noble deeds; a noble one".
Āryāvarta "abode of the āryas" is a
common name for North
gives the name to "the tract between the
Himalaya and the Vindhya
ranges, from the Eastern Sea to the Western Sea". The title ārya
was used with various modifications throughout the Indian
Subcontinent. Kharavela, the Emperor of Kalinga of around 1 BCE, is
referred to as an ārya in the Hathigumpha inscriptions of the
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The
Gurjara-Pratihara rulers in the 10th century were titled
"Maharajadhiraja of Āryāvarta". Various Indian religions,
Jainism and Buddhism, use the term ārya as an
epithet of honour; a similar usage is found in the name of Arya Samaj.
Ramayana and Mahabharata, ārya is used as an honorific for many
characters including Hanuman.
Indo-European language throughout Europe and the Middle East 500 BCE
In Iranian literature
Unlike the several meanings connected with ārya- in Old Indo-Aryan,
Old Persian term only has an ethnic meaning. That is in
contrast to Indian usage, in which several secondary meanings evolved,
the meaning of ar- as a self-identifier is preserved in Iranian usage,
hence the word "Iran". The airya meant "Iranian", and Iranian anairya
 meant and means "non-Iranian". Arya may also be found as an
ethnonym in Iranian languages, e.g., Alan and Persian
Ossetian Ir/Iron The name is itself equivalent to Aryan, where
Iran means "land of the Aryans," and
has been in use since
Avesta clearly uses airya/airyan as an ethnic name (Vd. 1; Yt.
13.143-44, etc.), where it appears in expressions such as airyāfi;
daiŋˊhāvō "Iranian lands, peoples", airyō.šayanəm "land
inhabited by Iranians", and airyanəm vaējō vaŋhuyāfi;
dāityayāfi; "Iranian stretch of the good Dāityā", the river Oxus,
the modern Āmū Daryā.
Old Persian sources also use this term
Old Persian which is a testament to the antiquity of the
Persian language and which is related to most of the
languages/dialects spoken in
Iran including modern Persian, the
Kurdish languages, and Gilaki makes it clear that Iranians referred to
themselves as Arya.
The term "Airya/Airyan" appears in the royal
Old Persian inscriptions
in three different contexts:
As the name of the language of the
Old Persian version of the
Darius I in Behistun
As the ethnic background of
Darius I in inscriptions at Naqsh-e-Rostam
Susa (Dna, Dse) and
Xerxes I in the inscription from Persepolis
As the definition of the God of the Aryans, Ahura Mazdā, in the
Elamite language version of the
For example in the Dna and Dse Darius and Xerxes describe themselves
as "An Achaemenian, A Persian son of a Persian and an Aryan, of Aryan
Darius the Great
Darius the Great called his language the Aryan
language, modern scholars refer to it as Old Persian because
it is the ancestor of modern Persian language.
Old Persian and
Avestan evidence is confirmed by the Greek
Herodotus in his Histories remarks about the Iranian
Medes that: "These
Medes were called anciently by all people Arians; "
(7.62). In Armenian sources, the Parthians,
Persians are collectively referred to as Aryans. Eudemus of Rhodes
apud Damascius (Dubitationes et solutiones in Platonis Parmenidem 125
bis) refers to "the Magi and all those of Iranian (áreion) lineage";
Diodorus Siculus (1.94.2) considers
Zoroaster (Zathraustēs) as one of
Strabo, in his Geography, mentions the unity of Medes, Persians,
Bactrians and Sogdians:
The name of
Ariana is further extended to a part of
Persia and of
Media, as also to the
Sogdians on the north; for these
speak approximately the same language, with but slight variations.
— Geography, 15.8
The trilingual inscription erected by Shapur's command gives us a more
clear description. The languages used are Parthian,
Middle Persian and
Greek. In Greek the inscription says: "ego ... tou Arianon ethnous
despotes eimi" which translates to "I am the king of the Aryans". In
Middle Persian Shapour says: "I am the Lord of the EranShahr" and
in Parthian he says: "I am the Lord of AryanShahr".
Bactrian language (a Middle Iranian language) inscription of
Kanishka the Great, the founder of the
Kushan Empire at Rabatak, which
was discovered in 1993 in an unexcavated site in the Afghanistan
province of Baghlan, clearly refers to this Eastern Iranian language
as Arya. In the post-Islamic era one can still see a clear
usage of the term
Aryan (Iran) in the work of the 10th-century
historian Hamzah al-Isfahani. In his famous book "The History of
Prophets and Kings", al-Isfahani writes, "
Aryan which is also called
Pars is in the middle of these countries and these six countries
surround it because the South East is in the hands China, the North of
the Turks, the middle South is India, the middle North is Rome, and
the South West and the North West is the
Sudan and Berber lands".
All this evidence shows that the name arya "Iranian" was a collective
definition, denoting peoples (Geiger, pp. 167 f.; Schmitt, 1978,
p. 31) who were aware of belonging to the one ethnic stock,
speaking a common language, and having a religious tradition that
centered on the cult of Ahura Mazdā.
In Iranian languages, the original self-identifier lives on in ethnic
names like "Alans", "Iron". Similarly, The word
Iran is the
Persian word for land/place of the Aryan.
In Latin literature
The word Arianus was used to designate Ariana, the area comprising
North-western India, Afghanistan,
Iran and Pakistan. In 1601,
Philemon Holland used 'Arianes' in his translation of the Latin
Arianus to designate the inhabitants of Ariana. This was the first use
of the form Arian verbatim in the English language. In
1844 James Cowles Prichard first designated both the Indians and the
Iranians "Arians" under the false assumption that the Iranians as well
as the Indians self-designated themselves Aria. The Iranians did use
the form Airya as a designation for the "Aryans," but Prichard had
mistaken Aria (deriving from OPer. Haravia) as a designation of the
"Aryans" and associated the Aria with the place-name
Airyana), the homeland of the Aryans. The form Aria as a
designation of the "Aryans" was, however, only preserved in the
language of the Indo-Aryans.
In European languages
The term "Aryan" came to be used as the term for the newly discovered
Indo-European languages, and, by extension, the original speakers of
those languages. In the 19th century, "language" was considered a
property of "ethnicity", and thus the speakers of the Indo-Iranian or
Indo-European languages came to be called the "
Aryan race", as
contradistinguished from what came to be called the "Semitic race". By
the late 19th century, among some people, the notions of an "Aryan
race" became closely linked to Nordicism, which posited Northern
European racial superiority over all other peoples. This "master race"
ideal engendered both the "Aryanization" programs of Nazi Germany, in
which the classification of people as "Aryan" and "non-Aryan" was most
emphatically directed towards the exclusion of Jews.[note 6] By
the end of World War II, the word 'Aryan' had become associated by
many with the racial ideologies and atrocities committed by the Nazis.
Western notions of an "
Aryan race" rose to prominence in late-19th-
and early-20th-century racialism, an idea most notably embraced by
Nazism. The Nazis believed that the "Nordic peoples" (who were also
referred to as the "Germanic peoples") represent an ideal and "pure
race" that was the purest representation of the original racial stock
of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans. The Nazi Party
declared that the "Nordics" were the true Aryans because they claimed
that they were more "pure" (less racially mixed) than other people of
what were then called the "
Before the 19th century
While the original meaning of Indo-Iranian *arya as a self-designator
is uncontested, the origin of the word (and thus also its original
meaning) remains uncertain.[note 7] Indo-Iranian ar- is a syllable
ambiguous in origin, from Indo-European ar-, er-, or or-. No
evidence for a Proto-Indo-European (as opposed to Indo-Iranian) ethnic
name like "Aryan" has been found. The word was used by
reference to the Iranian
Medes whom he describes as the people who
"were once universally known as Aryans".
The meaning of 'Aryan' that was adopted into the English language in
the late 18th century was the one associated with the technical term
used in comparative philology, which in turn had the same meaning as
that evident in the very oldest
Old Indic usage, i.e. as a (self-)
identifier of "(speakers of) North Indian languages".[note 8] This
usage was simultaneously influenced by a word that appeared in
classical sources (Latin and Greek Ἀριάνης Arianes, e.g. in
Pliny 1.133 and
Strabo 15.2.1–8), and recognized to be the same as
that which appeared in living Iranian languages, where it was a
(self-)identifier of the "(speakers of) Iranian languages".
Accordingly, 'Aryan' came to refer to the languages of the
Indo-Iranian language group, and by extension, native speakers of
The term Arya is used in ancient Persian texts, for example in the
Behistun inscription from the 5th century BCE, in which the Persian
Darius the Great
Darius the Great and Xerxes are described as "Aryans of Aryan
stock" (arya arya chiça). The inscription also refers to the deity
Ahura Mazda as "the god of the Aryans", and to the ancient Persian
language as "Aryan". In this sense the word seems to have referred to
the elite culture of the ancient Iranians, including both linguistic,
cultural and religious aspects.  The word also has a central
place in the
Zoroastrian religion in which the "
(Airyana Vaejah) is described as the mythical homeland of the Iranian
people's and as the center of the world.
The term Arya is used 36 times in 34 hymns in the Rigveda. According
to Talageri (2000, The Rig Veda. A Historical Analysis) "the
particular Vedic Aryans of the
Rigveda were one section among these
Purus, who called themselves Bharatas." Thus it is possible, according
to Talageri, that at one point Arya did refer to a specific tribe.
While the word may ultimately derive from a tribal name, already in
Rigveda it appears as a religious distinction, separating those
who sacrifice "properly" from those who do not belong to the
historical Vedic religion, presaging the usage in later
the term comes to denote religious righteousness or piety. In RV
9.63.5, ârya "noble, pious, righteous" is used as contrasting with
árāvan "not liberal, envious, hostile":
índraṃ várdhanto aptúraḥ kṛṇvánto víśvam âryam
"[the Soma-drops], performing every noble work, active, augmenting
Indra's strength, driving away the godless ones." (trans. Griffith)
Arya and Anarya are primarily used in the moral sense in the Hindu
Epics. People are usually called Arya or Anarya based on their
behaviour. Arya is typically one who follows the Dharma.[citation
needed] This is historically applicable for any person living anywhere
in Bharata Varsha or vast India.
In the Ramayana, the term Arya can also apply to Raksasas or to
Ravana. In several instances, the Vanaras and Raksasas called
themselves Arya. The vanara's king Sugriva is called an Arya (Ram:
505102712) and he also speaks of his brother Bali as an Arya (Ram:
402402434). In another instance in the Ramayana, Ravana regards
himself and his ministers as Aryas. A logical explanation is that
Ravana and his ministers belonged to the highest varna (Ravana being a
Brahmin), and Brahmins were generally considered "noble" of deed and
hence called Arya (noble). Thus, while Ravana was considered Arya (and
regarded himself as such), he was really an Arya because he was noble
of deeds. So he is widely considered by Hindus as Arya (Noble
In the Mahabharata, the terms Arya or Anarya are often applied to
people according to their behaviour. Dushasana, who tried to disrobe
Draupadi in the
Kaurava court, is called an "Anarya" (Mbh:0020600253).
Vidura, the son of a Dasi born from Vyasa, was the only person in the
assembly whose behaviour is called "Arya", because he was the only one
who openly protested when
Draupadi was being disrobed by Dushasana.
The Pandavas called themselves "Arya" in the
when they killed
Drona through deception.
According to the Mahabharata, a person's behaviour (not wealth or
learning) determines if he can be called an Arya.
The word ārya is often found in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts. In
the Indian spiritual context, it can be applied to Rishis or to
someone who has mastered the four noble truths and entered upon the
spiritual path. According to Nehru, the religions of
India may be
called collectively ārya dharma, a term that includes the religions
that originated in
India (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism,
"O my Lord, a person who is chanting Your holy name, although born of
a low family like that of a Chandala, is situated on the highest
platform of self-realization. Such a person must have performed all
kinds of penances and sacrifices according to Vedic literatures many,
many times after taking bath in all the holy places of pilgrimage.
Such a person is considered to be the best of the Arya family"
Bhagavata Purana 3.33.7).
"My dear Lord, one's occupational duty is instructed in
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā according to Your point of
view, which never deviates from the highest goal of life. Those who
follow their occupational duties under Your supervision, being equal
to all living entities, moving and nonmoving, and not considering high
and low, are called Āryans. Such Āryans worship You, the Supreme
Personality of Godhead." (
Bhagavata Purana 6.16.43).
According to Swami Vivekananda, "A child materially born is not an
Arya; the child born in spirituality is an Arya." He further
elaborated, referring to the Manu Smriti: "Says our great law-giver,
Manu, giving the definition of an Arya, 'He is the Arya, who is born
through prayer.' Every child not born through prayer is illegitimate,
according to the great law-giver: The child must be prayed for. Those
children that come with curses, that slip into the world, just in a
moment of inadvertence, because that could not be prevented – what
can we expect of such progeny?..."(Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works
Swami Dayananda founded a Dharmic organisation
Arya Samaj in 1875. Sri
Aurobindo published a journal combining nationalism and spiritualism
under the title Arya from 1914 to 1921.
Main article: Arya (Buddhism)
The word ārya (Pāli: ariya), in the sense of "noble" or "exalted",
is very frequently used in Buddhist texts to designate a spiritual
warrior or hero, which use this term much more often than
Jain texts. Buddha's
Vinaya are the ariyassa dhammavinayo.
Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths are called the catvāry āryasatyāni (Sanskrit)
or cattāri ariyasaccāni (Pali). The
Noble Eightfold Path
Noble Eightfold Path is called
the āryamārga (Sanskrit, also āryāṣṭāṅgikamārga) or
ariyamagga (Pāli). Buddhists themselves are called ariyapuggalas
(Arya persons). In Buddhist texts, the āryas are those who have the
Buddhist śīla (
Pāli sīla, meaning "virtue") and follow the
Buddhist path. Those who despise
Buddhism are often called "anāryas".
The word Arya is also often used in Jainism, in Jain texts such as the
In the 19th century, linguists still supposed that the age of a
language determined its "superiority" (because it was assumed to have
genealogical purity). Then, based on the assumption that
the oldest Indo-European language, and the (now known to be
untenable) position that Irish
Éire was etymologically related to
"Aryan", in 1837
Adolphe Pictet popularized the idea that the term
"Aryan" could also be applied to the entire Indo-European language
family as well. The groundwork for this thought had been laid by
Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron
Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron 
In particular, German scholar Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
published in 1819 the first theory linking the Indo-Iranian and the
German languages under the
Aryan group. In 1830 Karl Otfried
Müller used "Arier" in his publications.
Translating the sacred Indian texts of the
Rig Veda in the 1840s,
German linguist Friedrich Max Muller found what he believed to be
evidence of an ancient invasion of
Hindu Brahmins, a group he
described as "the Arya". Muller was careful to note in his later work
that he thought
Aryan was a linguistic category rather than a racial
one. Nevertheless, scholars used Muller's invasion theory to propose
their own visions of racial conquest through South Asia and the Indian
Ocean. In 1885, the New Zealand polymath
Edward Tregear argued that an
Aryan tidal-wave" had washed over
India and continued to push south,
through the islands of the East Indian archipelago, reaching the
distant shores of New Zealand. Scholars such as John Batchelor, Armand
de Quatrefages, and Daniel Brinton extended this invasion theory to
the Philippines, Hawaii, and Japan, identifying indigenous peoples who
they believed were the descendants of early
In the 1850s
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau supposed that "Aryan" corresponded to
the suggested prehistoric Indo-European culture (1853–1855, Essay on
the Inequality of the Human Races). Further, de Gobineau believed that
there were three basic races – white, yellow and black – and that
everything else was caused by race miscegenation, which de Gobineau
argued was the cause of chaos. The "master race", according to de
Gobineau, were the Northern European "Aryans", who had remained
"racially pure". Southern Europeans (to include Spaniards and Southern
Frenchmen), Eastern Europeans, North Africans, Middle Easterners,
Iranians, Central Asians, Indians, he all considered racially mixed,
degenerated through the miscegenation, and thus less than ideal.
By the 1880s a number of linguists and anthropologists argued that the
"Aryans" themselves had originated somewhere in northern Europe. A
specific region began to crystallize when the linguist
Karl Penka (Die
Herkunft der Arier. Neue Beiträge zur historischen Anthropologie der
europäischen Völker, 1886) popularized the idea that the "Aryans"
had emerged in
Scandinavia and could be identified by the distinctive
Nordic characteristics of blond hair and blue eyes. The distinguished
Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley agreed with him, coining the term
"Xanthochroi" to refer to fair-skinned Europeans (as opposed to darker
Mediterranean peoples, who Huxley called "Melanochroi").
Madison Grant's vision of the distribution of "Nordics" (red),
"Alpines" (green) and "Mediterraneans" (yellow).
William Z. Ripley's map of the "cephalic index" in Europe, from The
Races of Europe (1899).
This "Nordic race" theory gained traction following the publication of
The Aryan Race (1888), which touches racist ideology.
A similar rationale was followed by
Georges Vacher de Lapouge in his
book L'Aryen et son rôle social (1899, "
The Aryan and his Social
Role"). To this idea of "races", Vacher de Lapouge espoused what he
termed selectionism, and which had two aims: first, achieving the
annihilation of trade unionists, considered "degenerate"; second, the
prevention of labour dissatisfaction through the creation of "types"
of man, each "designed" for one specific task (See the novel Brave New
World for a fictional treatment of this idea).
Meanwhile, in India, the British colonial government had followed de
Gobineau's arguments along another line, and had fostered the idea of
a superior "
Aryan race" that co-opted the
Indian caste system
Indian caste system in favor
of imperial interests. In its fully developed form, the
British-mediated interpretation foresaw a segregation of
Aryan along the lines of caste, with the upper castes being
"Aryan" and the lower ones being "non-Aryan". The European
developments not only allowed the British to identify themselves as
high-caste, but also allowed the Brahmans to view themselves as on-par
with the British. Further, it provoked the reinterpretation of Indian
history in racialist and, in opposition, Indian Nationalist
terms, and – in following a special interpretation of Max
Müller's identification of "Aryan" as a national name – this gave
rise recently among
Hindu nationalists (the "Saffron Brigade") to the
"indigenous Aryans" or so-called "Out of India" theory, disputed by
many scholars in academia, which seeks an Indian origin of the
The Secret Doctrine
The Secret Doctrine (1888),
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky described the
Aryan root race" as the fifth of seven "Root races", dating their
souls as having begun to incarnate about a million years ago in
Atlantis. The Semites were a subdivision of the
Aryan root race. "The
occult doctrine admits of no such divisions as the
Aryan and the
Semite, ... The Semites, especially the Arabs, are later Aryans —
degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality. To these
belong all the
Jews and the Arabs." The Jews, according to Blavatsky,
were a "tribe descended from the Tchandalas of India," as they were
born of Abraham, which she believed to be a corruption of a word
meaning "No Brahmin". Other sources suggest the origin Avram or
The name for the
Sassanian Empire in
Middle Persian is Eran Shahr
Aryan Empire. In the aftermath of the Islamic conquest
in Iran, racialist rhetoric became a literary idiom during the 7th
century, i.e., when the Arabs became the primary "Other" – the
anaryas – and the antithesis of everything Iranian (i.e. Aryan) and
Zoroastrian. But "the antecedents of [present-day] Iranian
ultra-nationalism can be traced back to the writings of late
nineteenth-century figures such as
Mirza Fatali Akhundov
Mirza Fatali Akhundov and Mirza Aqa
Khan Kermani. Demonstrating affinity with Orientalist views of the
supremacy of the
Aryan peoples and the mediocrity of the Semitic
peoples, Iranian nationalist discourse idealized pre-Islamic
Achaemenid and Sassanid] empires, whilst negating the 'Islamization'
Persia by Muslim forces." In the 20th century, different
aspects of this idealization of a distant past would be
instrumentalized by both the Pahlavi monarchy (In 1967, Iran's Pahlavi
dynasty [overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution] added the title
Āryāmehr Light of the Aryans to the other styles of the Iranian
Iran being already known at that time as the
Shahanshah (King of Kings)), and by the Islamic republic that followed
it; the Pahlavis used it as a foundation for anticlerical monarchism,
and the clerics used it to exalt Iranian values vis-á-vis
An intertitle from the silent film blockbuster The Birth of a Nation
Aryan birthright" is here "white birthright", the "defense"
of which unites "whites" in the Northern and Southern U.S. against
"coloreds". In another film of the same year, The Aryan, William S.
Hart's "Aryan" identity is defined in distinction from other peoples.
In the United States, the best-selling 1907 book Race Life of the
Aryan Peoples by
Joseph Pomeroy Widney
Joseph Pomeroy Widney consolidated in the popular
mind the idea that the word "Aryan" is the proper identification for
"all Indo-Europeans", and that "
Aryan Americans" of the "
are destined to fulfill America's manifest destiny to form an American
Gordon Childe would later regret it, but the depiction of Aryans as
possessors of a "superior language" became a matter of national pride
in learned circles of Germany (portrayed against the background that
World War I was lost because Germany had been betrayed from within by
miscegenation and the "corruption" of socialist trade unionists and
Alfred Rosenberg—one of the principal architects of Nazi ideological
creed—argued for a new "religion of the blood", based on the
supposed innate promptings of the Nordic soul to defend its "noble"
character against racial and cultural degeneration. Under Rosenberg,
the theories of Arthur de Gobineau, Georges Vacher de Lapouge,
Blavatsky, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Madison Grant, and those of
Hitler, all culminated in Nazi Germany's race policies and the
"Aryanization" decrees of the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s. In its
"apalling medical model", the annihilation of the "racially inferior"
Untermenschen was sanctified as the excision of a diseased organ in an
otherwise healthy body, which led to the Holocaust.
In academic scholarship, the only surviving use of the word "Aryan"
among many scholars is that of the term "Indo-Aryan", which indicates
"(speakers of) languages descended from Prakrits". Older usage to mean
"(speakers of) Indo-Iranian languages" has been superseded among some
scholars by the term "Indo-Iranian"; however, "Aryan" is still used to
mean "Indo-Iranian" by other scholars such as
Josef Wiesehofer and
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. The 19th-century meaning of "Aryan" as
(native speakers of) Indo-European languages" is no longer used by
most scholars, but has continued among some scholars such as Colin
Renfrew, and among some authors writing for the popular mass market
H.G. Wells and Poul Anderson.
By the end of World War II, the word "Aryan" among a number of people
had lost its Romantic or idealist connotations and was associated by
Nazi racism instead.
By then, the term "Indo-Iranian" and "Indo-European" had made most
uses of the term "Aryan" superfluous in the eyes of a number of
scholars, and "Aryan" now survives in most scholarly usage only in the
term "Indo-Aryan" to indicate (speakers of) North Indian languages. It
has been asserted by one scholar that Indo-
Aryan may not be
equated and that such an equation is not supported by the historical
evidence, though this extreme viewpoint is not widespread.
The use of the term to designate speakers of all Indo-European
languages in scholarly usage is now regarded by some scholars as an
"aberration to be avoided." However, some authors writing for
popular consumption have continued using the word "Aryan" for "all
Indo-Europeans" in the tradition of H. G. Wells, such as the
science fiction author Poul Anderson, and scientists writing for
the popular media, such as Colin Renfrew. Notions of the "Aryan
race" as an elite group that is regarded as being superior to other
races survive in some far-right European groups, such as Neo-Nazi
parties, Russian ultra-nationalists, as well as in certain Iranian
Echoes of "the 19th century prejudice about 'northern' Aryans who were
confronted on Indian soil with black barbarians [...] can still be
heard in some modern studies." In a socio-political context, the
claim of a white, European
Aryan race that includes only people of the
Western and not the Eastern branch of the Indo-European peoples is
entertained by certain circles, usually representing white
nationalists who call for the halting of non-white immigration
into Europe and limiting illegal immigration into the United States.
They argue that a large intrusion of immigrants can lead to ethnic
conflicts such as the
2005 Cronulla riots
2005 Cronulla riots in Australia and the 2005
civil unrest in France. The invasion theory, has however been
questioned by several scholars.
^ Fortson, IV: "The
Sanskrit word ārya-, the source of the English
word, was the self-designation of the Vedic Indic people and has a
cognate in Iranian *arya, where it is also a self-designation.
J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams: "Our ability to reconstruct a
Proto Indo-Iranian intermediate between Proto-Indo-European on the one
hand and Proto-Indic and Proto-Iranian is also supported by the
^ Both the Indic and Iranian terms descend from a form *ārya that was
used by the Indo-Iranian tribes to refer to themselves. (It is also
the source of the country-name Iran, from a phrase meaning 'kingdom of
Avestan airya may also be connected with Indo-Iranian *ara-.[a]
^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states at
the beginning of its definition, "[it] is one of the ironies of
history that Aryan, a word nowadays referring to the blond-haired,
blue-eyed physical ideal of Nazi Germany, originally referred to a
people who looked vastly different. Its history starts with the
ancient Indo-Iranians, peoples who inhabited parts of what are now
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. "
^ Under the 1933 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil
Service, a non-
Aryan was defined as "an individual descended from a
Aryan (in particular Jewish parents or grandparents)" (Campt 2004,
^ There is no shortage of ideas, even in the present day. For a
summary of the etymological problems involved, see Siegert
^ The context being religious,
Max Müller understood this to
especially mean "the worshipers of the gods of the Brahmans". If this
is seen from the point of view of the religious poets of the RigVedic
hymns, an 'Aryan' was then a person who held the same religious
convictions as the poet himself. This idea can then also be found in
^ Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin: "It thus seems that Ved. arya and Avest.
airya are to be connected [...] with a Vedic homophone ari-, aryá-
'righteous, loyal, devout', and with Indo-Iranian *ara- 'fitting,
^ "Aryan". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
^ a b Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed.
India through the ages.
Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,
Government of India. p. 70.
^ Michael Cook (2014), Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic
Case in Comparative Perspective, Princeton University Press, p.68:
Aryavarta [...] is defined by Manu as extending from the great
Himalayas in the north to the
Vindhyas of Central
India in the south
and from the sea in the west to the sea in the east."
^ a b Mallory 1991, p. 125.
^ a b c d e Oxford English Dictionary: "
^ Encyclopædia Britannica: " ...the
Sanskrit term arya ("noble" or
"distinguished"), the linguistic root of the word (Aryan)..." "It is
now used in linguistics only in the sense of the term Indo-Aryan
languages, a branch of the larger Indo-European language family" 
^ a b Thomas R. Trautman (2004): "
Aryan is from Arya a
page xxxii of Aryans And British India
^ a b c d e f g h i j Fortson, IV 2011, p. 209.
^ Anthony 2007, p. 11.
^ Gnoli, Gherardo (1996), "Iranian Identity ii. Pre-Islamic Period",
Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition, New York
^ Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, Iranian Identity, the '
Aryan Race,' and Jake
Gyllenhaal, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), 6 August 2010.
^ Anthony 2007, pp. 9–11.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica: "It is now used in linguistics only in the
sense of the term Indo-
Aryan languages, a branch of the larger
Indo-European language family" 
^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica: "It is now used in linguistics only in
the sense of the term Indo-
Aryan languages, a branch of the larger
Indo-European language family" 
^ cf. Gershevitch, Ilya (1968). "Old Iranian Literature". Handbuch der
Orientalistik, Literatur I. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1–31. , p.
^ Michael Cook (2014), Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic
Case in Comparative Perspective, Princeton University Press, p.68:
Aryavarta [...] is defined by Manu as extending from the
the north to the
Vindhyas of Central
India in the south and from the
sea in the west to the sea in the east."
^ Encyclopaedic dictionary of Vedic terms, Volume 1 By Swami
Parmeshwaranand, pages 120 to 128 
^ a b E. Laroche, Hommages à G. Dumézil, Brussels, 1960
^ a b c Szemerényi, Oswald (1977), "Studies in the Kinship
Terminology of the Indo-European Languages", Acta Iranica III.16,
Leiden: Brill pp 125–146
^ a b c d Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 304.
^ Witzel 2000, p. 1.
^ a b c d e f Bailey, Harold Walter (1989), "Arya", Encyclopædia
Iranica, 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul
^ a b Duchesne-Guillemin 1979, p. 337.
^ Schmitt, Rüdiger (1989), "Aryan", Encyclopædia Iranica, 2, New
York: Routledge & Kegan Paul
^ a b Wiesehofer, Joseph Ancient
Persia New York:1996 I.B. Tauris
^ Arbeitman 1981, p. 930.
^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 213.
^ Edelman 1999, p. 221.
^ An Introduction to the Indo-European Languages by Philip Baldi, page
51: "The term
Aryan used alone is often used to designate the Indic
^ Edwin Francis Bryant; Laurie L. Patton. The Indo-
Evidence and Inference in Indian History. psychology press.
^ Ansari, Ali M. Perceptions of Iran: History, Myths and Nationalism
Persia to the Islamic Republic. I.B.Tauris.
^ a b Watkins, Calvert (2000), "Aryan", American Heritage Dictionary
of the English Language (4th ed.), New York: Houghton Mifflin,
ISBN 0-395-82517-2, ...when Friedrich Schlegel, a German scholar
who was an important early Indo-Europeanist, came up with a theory
that linked the Indo-Iranian words with the German word Ehre, 'honor',
and older Germanic names containing the element ario-, such as the
Swiss [sic] warrior
Ariovistus who was written about by Julius
Caesar. Schlegel theorized that far from being just a designation of
the Indo-Iranians, the word *arya- had in fact been what the
Indo-Europeans called themselves, meaning [according to Schlegel]
something like 'the honorable people.' (This theory has since been
called into question.)
^ The Sacred Books of the East, Volume 14, p. 2
^ Wink, André (2002). Al-Hind: Early medieval
India and the expansion
of Islam, 7th–11th centuries. BRILL. p. 284.
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^ G. Gnoli,"Iranic Identity as a Historical Problem: the Beginnings of
a National Awareness under the Achaemenians", in The East and the
Meaning of History. International Conference (23–27 November 1992),
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^ a b c d e f g h G. Gnoli, "IRANIAN IDENTITY ii. PRE-ISLAMIC PERIOD"
in Encyclopædia Iranica. Online accessed in 2010 at 
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Excerpt:"The name "Aryan" (OInd. āˊrya-, Ir. *arya- [with short a-],
in Old Pers. ariya-, Av. airiia-, etc.) is the self designation of the
peoples of Ancient
India and Ancient
Iran who spoke
in contrast to the "non-Aryan" peoples of those "Aryan" countries (cf.
OInd. an-āˊrya-, Av. an-airiia-, etc.), and lives on in ethnic names
like Alan (Lat. Alani, NPers. Īrān, Oss. Ir and Iron). Also accessed
online:  in May 2010
^ H.W. Bailey, "Arya" in Encyclopædia Iranica. Excerpt: "ARYA an
ethnic epithet in the
Achaemenid inscriptions and in the Zoroastrian
Avestan tradition.  Also accessed online in May, 2010.
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l'Africa e l'Oriente, Roma, 2002.
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^ Professor Gilbert Lazard: "The language known as New Persian, which
usually is called at this period (early Islamic times) by the name of
Dari or Parsi-Dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation
of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of
Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of
the Achaemenids. Unlike the other languages and dialects, ancient and
modern, of the Iranian group such as Avestan, Parthian, Soghdian,
Kurdish, Balochi, Pashto, etc., Old Middle and New Persian represent
one and the same language at three states of its history. It had its
origin in Fars (the true Persian country from the historical point of
view) and is differentiated by dialectical features, still easily
recognizable from the dialect prevailing in north-western and eastern
Iran" in Lazard, Gilbert 1975, "The Rise of the New Persian Language"
in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595–632,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
^ R.W. Thomson. History of
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