Persian name: Mitra

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Wolverine9, Jun 1, 2013.

  1. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Is the Persian female name, Mitra, connected to Avestan miθra- "contract, treaty, a (male) god"? If so, by what process did the name of a prominent male god transform into a female name in modern Iran?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, it is a modern name, inflicted by "patriotic" but ignorant people on their unfortunate children.

    These people imagine that it is a female name because it ends in -a, which is a feminine suffix in Arabic (!). The correct NP continuation of miθra- is of course mihr.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2013
  3. mojobadshah Senior Member

    I have read and I can show you that the Persian name Mithra may not have always been a male name.
  4. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Sure, please show us where you have read this.
  5. mojobadshah Senior Member

    I've read so many books on Zoroastrianism that the sources get jumbled up, but I think it was Mary Boyce in one of her volumes on Zoroastrianism. She says something like Mithras is equated with Venus in Yasht 10.13 and Vedevidad 1.128-29 said to "go around the world before the sun." Herodotus equates Mithras with Aphrodite the Latin Venus. And finally Kushan coins represent *mihr's name as uhogo, a female divinity.
  6. Treaty Senior Member

    Mitra was basically absent in Persian until 20th century when the ancient Iranian culture was reintroduced to people. In addition, words ending with -ā were usually seen as female names (with a few exceptions like nimā). It is also worth mentioning that Indian names (like Krishna, as a female name) became popular probably since 40 years ago. So, it is possible that the Iranian girl's name Mitra was triggered by the Vedic deity.

    However, Mihr or Mehr had already lost its masculinity in Persian names, as Sun had too. Most of names with Mehr in it are girls name (e.g. Mehnoush, Mehri, Mehrnāz, etc).
  7. sotos Senior Member

    Not as unfortunate as children in Central Africa named "Jo", "Jane" or "Sally".

    Staying in topic, is there a universal law forbidding a male name becoming female in a time-span of 3000 years? How about "Maria"?
  8. Treaty Senior Member

    Or maybe, it was because -a is a suffix for female name in Romance languages which were more interesting than Arabic for those people. Anyway, I'm not sure if it was "patriotic". It is more a fashion, changing over time. There was (and is) a trend that Arabic names are old-fashioned, too religious or pre-modern (along with Anti-Arabic mentality). If this was just a patriotic movement we shouldn't have seen so many Romance and Greek names entering Persian at that time.

    In addition, Mitra is equivalent of Mehr. So, when Mehr is a feminine name it is not surprising that Mitra becomes feminine too. We must not forget that Mehr is no longer associated with "treaty" or "contract". Its main usage is now "love" (or romantic attachment, though innocently) that has a more feminine nature in Iranian culture. It may explain why Mehr itself becomes a feminine concept over time. And perhaps, it further encouraged the understanding of Mitra as a feminine name.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
  9. CitizenEmpty Senior Member

    English & Korean
    The Sanskrit word for friend in masculine/neuter/feminine is mitra (मित्र).
  10. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    In the form mitra "friend," it's only masculine and neuter. I don't think the Sanskrit usage has anything to do with its use as a modern Persian name, though. The same Romanized spelling is of course due to the absence of θ in Persian.

    The explanations provided by fdb and Treaty both appear plausible. Its use as a feminine name could be due to the presence of the -a suffix and people not being aware that Miθra was a male god, or because of a change in the Persian estimation of the sun (with which Miθra was identified) from a masculine to a feminine concept.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2013

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