Dari (دری, Darī, [daɾiː]) or Dari Persian (فارسی دری, Fārsī-ye Darī) is a political term used for the various dialects of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan.[4][5] Dari is the term officially recognized and promoted since 1964 by the Afghan government for the Persian language,[6][7] hence it is known as Afghan Persian in many Western sources.[8][9][10] This has resulted in a naming dispute among the native speakers of Persian in Afghanistan who refer to their language simply as Farsi (فارسی).[11]

Dari Persian
PronunciationPersian pronunciation: [daɾiː]
Native toAfghanistan
Native speakers
20.5 million (2000–2011)[1]
Official language of 35 of the Afghanistan population[2]
  • Indo-Iranian
    • Iranian
      • Western Iranian
  • Kaboli
  • Mazari
  • Herati
  • Logari
  • Badakhshi
  • Panjshiri
  • Laghmani
  • Sistani
  • Aimaqi
  • Hazaragi[3]
Persian alphabet
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byAcademy of Sciences of Afghanistan
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
prs  Dari, Afghan Persian
aiq  Aimaq
haz  Hazaragi
Glottologdari1249  Dari
aima1241  Aimaq
haza1239  Hazaragi
Linguasphere58-AAC-ce (Dari) + 58-AAC-cdo & cdp (Hazaragi) + 58-AAC-ck (Aimaq)

As defined in the Constitution of Afghanistan, it is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan; the other is Pashto.[12] Dari is the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan and the native language of approximately 40–45%[9][13][14][15] of the population.[14] Dari serves as the lingua franca of the country and is understood by up to 78% of the population.[16] Iranian Persian and Dari Persian are mutually intelligible, with small differences found primarily in vocabulary, grammar, and phonology.

Dari served as the preferred literary and administrative language among non-native speakers, such as the Pashtuns and Mughals, for centuries before the rise of modern nationalism. Also, like Iranian Persian and Tajiki Persian, Dari Persian is a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sassanian Empire (224–651 AD), itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids (550–330 BC).[17][18] In historical usage, Dari refers to the Middle Persian court language of the Sassanids.[19]


Dari is a name given to the New Persian language since the 10th century, widely used in Arabic (compare Al-Estakhri, Al-Muqaddasi and Ibn Hawqal) and Persian texts.[20]

Since 1964, it has been the official name in Afghanistan for the Persian spoken there. In Afghanistan, Dari refers to a modern dialect form of Persian that is the standard language used in administration, government, radio, television, and print media. Because of a preponderance of Dari native speakers, who normally refer to the language as Farsi (فارسی, "Persian"), it is also known as "Afghan Persian" in some Western sources.[9][10]

There are different opinions about the origin of the word Dari. The majority of scholars believes that Dari refers to the Persian word dar or darbār (دربار), meaning "court", as it was the formal language of the Sassanids.[6] The original meaning of the word dari is given in a notice attributed to Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (cited by Ibn al-Nadim in Al-Fehrest).[21] According to him, "Pārsī was the language spoken by priests, scholars, and the like; it is the language of Fars." This language refers to the Middle Persian.[6] As for Dari, he says, "it is the language of the cities of Madā'en; it is spoken by those who are at the king's court. [Its name] is connected with presence at court. Among the languages of the people of Khorasan and the east, the language of the people of Balkh is predominant."[6]

The Dari language spoken in Afghanistan is not to be confused with the language of Iran called Dari or Gabri, which is a language of the Central Iranian subgroup spoken in some Zoroastrian communities.[22][23]


Dari comes from Middle Persian which was spoken during the rule of the Sassanid dynasty. In general, Iranian languages are known from three periods, usually referred to as Old, Middle, and New (Modern) periods. These correspond to three eras in Iranian history, the old era being the period from some time before, during, and after the Achaemenid period (that is, to 300 BC), the Middle Era being the next period, namely, the Sassanid period and part of the post-Sassanid period, and the New era being the period afterward down to the present day.[24][25][26]

But it is thought that the first person in Europe to use the term Deri for Dari was Thomas Hyde, at Oxford, in his chief work, Historia religionis veterum Persarum (1700).[27]

Dari or Deri has two meanings:

  • language of the court
"the Zebani Deri(Zeban i Deri or Zaban i Dari = the language of Deri), or the language of the court, and the Zebani Farsi, the dialect of Persia at large (...)"[28][29]
  • Dari, sometimes Araki-Methods (Iraqi), is a form of poetry used from Rudaki to Jami. In 1500 AD it appeared in Herat in the Persian-speaking Timurid dynasty, and the Persian poems of the Indian poets of the Mughal Empire who used the Indian verse methods or rhyme methods like Bedil and Muhammad Iqbal, became familiar with the Araki methods. Iqbal loved both styles of literature and poetry, when he wrote:

گرچہ هندی در عذوبت شکر است 1[30]

Garče Hendī dar uzūbat2 šakkar ast

طرز گفتار دری شیرین تر است

tarz-e goftār-e Darī šīrīn tar ast

Translation according to literature and poetry: Even though in euphonious Hindi* is sugar Rhyme method in Dari (Persian) is sweeter *

Qandi Parsi or [Ghand e Parsi] (Rock candy of Parsi) is a metaphor for the Persian language and poetry.

This poem is a poetic statement of the poet Iqbal with respect to the poetry of the 14th-century Persian poet Hafez:

شکرشکن شوند همه طوطیان هند

Šakkar-šakan šavand hama tūtīyān-e Hend

زین قند پارسی که به بنگاله می‌رود

zīn qand-e Pārsī ke ba Bangāla mē-ravad

English translation:

All the parrots of India will crack sugar

Through this Persian Candy which is going to Bengal[31][32]

Persian replaced the Central Asian languages of the Eastern Iranics.[33] Ferghana, Samarkand, and Bukhara were starting to be linguistically Darified in originally Khorezmian and Soghdian areas during Samanid rule.[34] Dari Persian spread around the Oxus River region, Afghanistan, and Khorasan after the Arab conquests and during Islamic-Arab rule.[35][36] The replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khorasan.[37] The Dari Persian language spread and led to the extinction of Eastern Iranian languages like Bactrian, Khwarezmian with only a tiny amount of Sogdian descended Yaghnobi speakers remaining among the now Persian-speaking Tajik population of Central Asia, due to the fact that the Arab-Islamic army which invaded Central Asia also included some Persians who governed the region like the Sassanids.[38] Persian was rooted into Central Asia by the Samanids.[39] Persian phased out Sogdian.[40] The role of lingua franca that Sogdian originally played was succeeded by Persian after the arrival of Islam.[41]

Persian was a major language of government and diplomacy until the middle of the 1700s. Subsequently, the strength of Persia declined relative to the industrializing states of Europe (many of whom pursued imperialist policies in the regions where Persian was spoken).

Table of the important terms of the Persian poets

This table gives information on how many times the poets of Persian literature wrote the terms Iran, Turan, Parsi, Farsi, Dari, Khorassan, and Pahlevi. It is worth mentioning that many of Nazm ( = verse نظم) i Dari or Dastan i Dari (a tale of Dari), Tarz e Guftar e Dari (طرز گفتار دری style of Dari convers) have spoken. Nazm (verse form) and Nassir (نثر = novel, short story, etc.) and درامه (drama) – the three genres of literature. New Persian literature begins with Poems of Rudaki.

Counted according to sources from these Internet sites[42][43]

Name of Poet of PersiancenturyUse of IranUse of TuranParsiFarsiDariGreater Khorasan Pahlavi
Rudaki9th and 10th16
Farrukhi Sistani9th 10th16115 Parsa’i101
Abū-Sa'īd Abul-Khayr10th12
Ferdowsi10th and 11th800 +150 +100+22529
Asadi Tusi11th51511 loghat ye fors =
Masud Sa'd Salman11th23219Nazm o Nassr Dari13
Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani11th151012 Parsa’i21283
Nasir Khusraw11 th11192792
Mahsati11th and 12th11
Khaqani12th21412 Nazm e Dari40180
Nizami Ganjavi12 th372123 Nazm and Dastan256
Amir Khusrow13 th 14th27613
Saadi Shirazi13th116+7
Rumi13 th 14th11296
Hafez14th692 Nazm ye Dari
Ubayd Zakani14th1141
Muhtasham Kashani16th12934
Saib Tabrizi17th10735
Muhammad Iqbal19th-Died 193819431 Tarz e1
Parvin Etesami19th/died 19412Parsa’i

Geographical distribution

Majority Dari speaking regions of Afghanistan

Dari is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan (the other being Pashto). In practice though, it serves as the de facto lingua franca among the various ethnolinguistic groups.

Dari is spoken natively by about twenty-five percent to about eighty percent population of Afghanistan as a primary language.[9][14][44][45][46] Tajiks, who comprise approximately 27% of the population, are the primary speakers, followed by Hazaras (9%) and Aymāqs (4%). Moreover, many Pashtuns living in Tajik and Hazara concentrated areas also use Dari as a first language. The World Factbook states that eighty percent of the Afghan population speaks the Dari language.[9] About 2.5 million Afghans in Iran and Afghans in Pakistan, part of the wider Afghan diaspora, also speak Dari as one of their primary languages.[47]

Dari dominates the northern, western, and central areas of Afghanistan, and is the common language spoken in cities such as Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Fayzabad, Panjshir, Bamiyan, and the Afghan capital of Kabul where all ethnic groups are settled. Dari-speaking communities also exist in southwestern and eastern Pashtun-dominated areas such as in the cities of Ghazni, Farah, Zaranj, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, and Gardez.

Cultural influence

Dari has contributed to the majority of Persian borrowings in other Asian languages, such as Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, etc., as it was the administrative, official, cultural language of the Persianate Mughal Empire and served as the lingua franca throughout the South Asian subcontinent for centuries. Often based in Afghanistan, Turkic Central Asian conquerors brought the language into South Asia.[48] The basis in general for the introduction of Persian language into the subcontinent was set, from its earliest days, by various Persianized Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties.[49] The sizable Persian component of the Anglo-Indian loan words in English and in Urdu therefore reflects the Dari pronunciation. For instance, the words dopiaza and pyjama come from the Dari pronunciation; in Iranian Persian they are pronounced do-piyāzeh and pey-jāmeh. Persian lexemes and certain morphological elements (e.g., the ezāfe) have often been employed to coin words for political and cultural concepts, items, or ideas that were historically unknown outside the South Asian region, as is the case with the aforementioned "borrowings". The Dari language has a rich and colorful tradition of proverbs that deeply reflect Afghan culture and relationships, as demonstrated by U.S. Navy Captain Edward Zellem in his bilingual books on Afghan Dari proverbs collected in Afghanistan.[50][51]

Differences between Iranian and Afghan Persian

There are phonological, lexical,[52] and morphological[26] differences between Afghan Persian and Iranian Persian. There are no significant differences in the written forms, other than regional idiomatic phrases.

Phonological differences

The phonology of Dari as spoken in Kabul, compared to Classical Persian, is overall more conservative than the standard accent of Iran. The principal differences between standard Iranian Persian and Afghan Persian as based on the Kabul dialect are:

  1. The merging of majhul vowels /eː, iː/ and /oː, uː/ into /iː/ and /uː/ respectively in Iranian Persian, whereas in Afghan Persian, they are still kept separate. For instance, the identically written words شیر 'lion' and 'milk' are pronounced the same in Iranian Persian as /ʃiːr/, but /ʃeːr/ for 'lion' and /ʃiːr/ for 'milk' in Afghan Persian. The long vowel in زود "quick" and زور "strength" is realized as /uː/ in Iranian Persian, in contrast, these words are pronounced /zuːd/ and /zoːr/ respectively by Persian speakers in Afghanistan.
  2. The treatment of the diphthongs of early Classical Persian "aw" (as "ow" in Engl. "cow") and "ay" (as "i" in English "size"), which are pronounced [ow] (as in Engl. "low") and [ej] (as in English "day") in Iranian Persian. Dari, on the other hand, is more conservative, e.g. نوروز 'Persian New Year' is realized as /nowruːz/ in Iranian but /nawroːz/ in Afghan Persian, and نخیر 'no' is /naχejr/ in Iranian but /naχajr/ in Afghan Persian. Moreover, [ow] is simplified to [o] in normal Iranian speech, thereby merging with the lowered Classical short vowel /u/ (see below). This does not occur in Afghan Persian.
  3. The Classical Persian high short vowels /i/ and /u/ tend to be lowered in Iranian Persian to [e] and [o], unlike in Dari where they might have both high and lowered allophones.
  4. The pronunciation of the labial consonant و, which is realized as a voiced labiodental fricative [v] in standard Iranian, is still pronounced with the (classical) bilabial pronunciation [w] in Afghanistan; [v] is found in Afghan Persian as an allophone of /f/ before voiced consonants and as variation of /b/ in some cases, along with [β].
  5. The convergence of the voiced uvular stop [ɢ] (ق) and the voiced velar fricative [ɣ] (غ) in Iranian Persian (presumably under the influence of Turkic languages like Azeri and Turkmen)[53] is absent in Dari, where the two are still kept separate.
  6. [a] and [e] in word-final positions are distinguished in Dari, whereas [e] is a word-final allophone of /æ/ in Iranian Persian.

Dialect continuum

The dialects of Dari spoken in Northern, Central, and Eastern Afghanistan, for example in Kabul, Mazar, and Badakhshan, have distinct features compared to Iranian Persian. However, the dialect of Dari spoken in Western Afghanistan stands in between the Afghan and Iranian Persian. For instance, the Herati dialect shares vocabulary and phonology with both Dari and Iranian Persian. Likewise, the dialect of Persian in Eastern Iran, for instance in Mashhad, is quite similar to the Herati dialect of Afghanistan.

The Kabuli dialect has become the standard model of Dari in Afghanistan, as has the Tehrani dialect in relation to the Persian in Iran. Since the 1940s, Radio Afghanistan has broadcast its Dari programs in Kabuli Dari, which ensured the homogenization between the Kabuli version of the language and other dialects of Dari spoken throughout Afghanistan. Since 2003, the media, especially the private radio and television broadcasters, have carried out their Dari programs using the Kabuli variety.



Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
pb td kɡ q (ʔ)
Nasal m n
Fricative f sz ʃʒ xɣ h
Tap ɾ
Approximant l j w
  • Stops /t, d/ are phonetically dental stops [t̪, d̪].
  • A glottal stop /ʔ/ only appears in words of Arabic origin.
  • A flap sound /ɾ/ may be realized as a trill sound [r], in some environments, mostly word-final position; otherwise, they contrast between vowels wherein a trill occurs as a result of gemination (doubling) of [ɾ], especially in loanwords of Arabic origin. Only [ɾ] occurs before and after consonants; in word-final position, it is usually a free variation between a flap or a trill when followed by a consonant or a pause, but flap is more common, only flap before vowel-initial words.
  • When preceding a velar consonant, /n/ becomes a velar nasal sound [ŋ]. When preceding a bilabial stop, it is realized as a bilabial nasal [m].
  • When occurring in a word-final position /w/, it is articulated with a slightly heard back vowel as [wᵘ].
  • There is no presence of a voiced labio-dental fricative in Dari, however; when a /f/ is preceding a voiced consonant, it becomes slightly voiced as [].


Front Central Back
High i u
High-mid e o
Low-mid ɛ
Low a ɑ
Front Back
High au ui
Mid oi
Low ai ɑi
  • Vowel sounds /a, ɑ/ are realized as [ɐ, ʌ] when occurring as lax.[54]

Political views on the language

Successive governments of Afghanistan have promoted New Persian as an official language of government since the time of the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526), even as those governments were dominated by Pashtun people. Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty (1826–1973) first introduced the Pashto language as an additional language of administration. The local name for the Persian variety spoken in Afghanistan was officially changed from Farsi to Dari, meaning "court language", in 1964.[55][56][57] Zaher said there would be, as there are now, two official languages, Pashto and Farsi, though the latter would henceforth be named Dari. Within their respective linguistic boundaries, Dari and Pashto are the media of education.

See also


  1. Dari, Afghan Persian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Aimaq at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Hazaragi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. "South Asia :: Afghanistan – The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  3. "Iranica, "Afghanistan: v.Languages", Table 11". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  4. Afghan Folktales from Herat: Persian Texts in Transcription and Translation. 2009. ISBN 978-1-60497-652-6.
  5. Afghanistan Digital Library
  6. Lazard, G. "Darī – The New Persian Literary Language", in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition 2006.
  7. Declassified Airgram Department of State May 1964 Farsi–Dahri(sic) to be official language
  8. "Airgram Farsi to Dari 1964 Embassy Kabul to USA".
  9. "CIA – The World Factbook, "Afghanistan", Updated on 8 July 2010". Cia.gov. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  10. "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: prs". SIL International. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  11. Oxford English Dictionary online, s.v. "Persian", draft revision June 2007.
  12. "The Afghans – Language Use". United States: Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). 30 June 2002. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  13. "Afghanistan v. Languages". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica, online ed. Retrieved 10 December 2010. Persian (2) is the most spoken languages in Afghanistan. The native tongue of twenty five percent of the population ...
  14. "Dari". UCLA International Institute: Center for World Languages. University of California, Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  15. "The World Factbook". 15 October 2013. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  16. "South Asia :: Afghanistan – The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  17. Lazard, Gilbert 1975, "The Rise of the New Persian Language"
  18. in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595–632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  19. Frye, R. N., "Darī", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Publications, CD version
  20. "DARĪ – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  21. Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 15; Khjwārazmī, Mafātīh al-olum, pp. 116–17; Hamza Esfahānī, pp. 67–68; Yāqūt, Boldān IV, p. 846
  22. ""Parsi-Dari" Ethnologue". Ethnologue.org. 19 February 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  23. ""Dari, Zoroastrian" Ethnologue". Ethnologue.org. 19 February 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  24. "Farsi, the most widely spoken Persian Language, a Farsi Dictionary, Farsi English Dictionary, The spoken language in Iran, History of Farsi Language, Learn Farsi, Farsi Translation". Farsinet.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  25. "Persian alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  26. UCLA, Language Materials Projects. "Persian Language". Iranchamber.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  27. Thomas Hyde (1760). Veterum Persarum et Parthorum et Medorum Religionis Historia. E Typographeo Clarendoniano. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  28. John Richardson, London, 1777 pg. 15
  29. "تمهید". Ganjoor (in Persian). Ganjoor. 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  30. Jafri, Sardar (January–February 2000). "Hafiz Shirazi (1312-1387-89)". Social Scientist. 28 (1/2): 12–31. doi:10.2307/3518055. JSTOR 3518055.
  31. Abbadullah Farooqi (2013). "THE IMPACT OF KHAWAJA HAFIZ ON IQBAL'S THOUGHT". Iqbal. Government of Pakistan. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  32. Kirill Nourzhanov; Christian Bleuer (8 October 2013). Tajikistan: A Political and Social History. ANU E Press. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-1-925021-16-5.
  33. Kirill Nourzhanov; Christian Bleuer (8 October 2013). Tajikistan: A Political and Social History. ANU E Press. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-1-925021-16-5.
  34. Ira M. Lapidus (22 August 2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3.
  35. Ira M. Lapidus (29 October 2012). Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 255–. ISBN 978-0-521-51441-5.
  36. Ira M. Lapidus (29 October 2012). Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256–. ISBN 978-0-521-51441-5.
  37. Paul Bergne (15 June 2007). The Birth of Tajikistan: National Identity and the Origins of the Republic. I.B.Tauris. pp. 5–. ISBN 978-1-84511-283-7.
  38. Paul Bergne (15 June 2007). The Birth of Tajikistan: National Identity and the Origins of the Republic. I.B.Tauris. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-84511-283-7.
  39. Josef W. Meri; Jere L. Bacharach (2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization: L-Z, index. Taylor & Francis. pp. 829–. ISBN 978-0-415-96692-4.
  40. Sigfried J. de Laet; Joachim Herrmann (1 January 1996). History of Humanity: From the seventh century B.C. to the seventh century A.D. UNESCO. pp. 468–. ISBN 978-92-3-102812-0.
  41. "Ganjnama - مجموعه آثار مولوی ... " نتایج جستجو برای SEARCH_Q".
  42. "گنجور".
  43. "AFGHANISTAN v. Languages". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica, online ed. Retrieved 10 December 2010. Persian (2) is the language most spoken in Afghanistan. The native tongue of twenty five percent of the population ...
  44. "Languages of Afghanistan". SIL International. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2005. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  45. "Dari language". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  46. "Dari language, alphabet and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  47. Bennett, Clinton; Ramsey, Charles M. (1 March 2012). South Asian Sufis: Devotion, Deviation, and Destiny. ISBN 978-1-4411-5127-8. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  48. Sigfried J. de Laet. History of Humanity: From the seventh to the sixteenth century UNESCO, 1994. ISBN 9231028138 p 734
  49. Zellem, Edward. 2012. "Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs". Charleston: CreateSpace.
  50. Zellem, Edward. 2012. "Afghan Proverbs Illustrated". Charleston: CreateSpace.
  51. "Ethnologue report for language code: prs". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  52. A. Pisowicz, Origins of the New and Middle Persian phonological systems (Cracow 1985), p. 112-114, 117.
  53. Mitchell, Rebecca; Naser, Djamal (2017). A Grammar of Dari. München: LINCOM. pp. 20–27.
  54. Willem Vogelsang, "The Afghans", Blackwell Publishing, 2002
  55. Declassified
  56. see too Harold F. Schiffman Language 2012, Pg. 39-40

Further reading

  • Harold F. Schiffman Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and Its Neighbors (Brill's Studies in South and Southwest Asian Languages) BRILL, Leiden, 1.ed, 2011 ISBN 978-9004201453
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