An Etymological Survey of Some Terms Pertaining to Medicine and Diseases in Ancient Iran

Document Type: Original Article



Avesta is the oldest written text remained and extant from Iranian old languages. It comprises of a collection of thousands of words and expressions covering almost all fields of religion and the culture of ancient human beings. With regard to what is left of Avesta, the contents of the twenty-one Nasks (“books”) remained from the Sasanian period, and the documents existing in other books pertinent to the Middle era, it becomes evident that this old language must have been deemed significant from a scientific point of view in ancient times. The presence of words germane to the specific sciences of the past such as astronomy, medical sciences, law, economics and the like indicates that the Avestan had to enjoy the features and potentialities of a scientific language. This book, in addition to being a source narrating the principal beliefs of the ancient era, has common roots with ancient Indian and European cultures. The present study is aimed at getting a better understanding of the roots of some of the terms, relevant to the medical sciences mentioned in surviving texts of Avesta. First, the authors have chosen a few medical terms and some of the diseases referred to in Avesta. The lines and sections in which these terms and words are referred to in Avesta are presented with the line number and the name of the section they are taken from alongside with their translation. Moreover, the roots of the chosen words are examined from a derivational point in Avestan, Sanskrit, Latin, Indo-European and English, and their translations are given. Bearing in mind that no such research has been done so far in this fashion, it is hoped that the etymological analysis and dissection of these words can open a new horizon to the researchers who are interested in knowing more about the genuinely Iranian words of all the scientific areas such as Medical sciences and the sciences related to it, present in Avesta.