January/February 2018 Current Moscow Time: 03:32:51
20 January 2018


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Glossary for the Novel

Confused about a term which appears in the novel? Here is a useful list of foreign terms compiled by translator Liv Bliss. 

Notes:

  • Some of these terms had a different meaning outside the world of the novel and others have changed their meaning over time.
  • Transliteration (the rendition of one language’s script in the script of another) and the conversion of one language’s pronunciation system into one accessible to another language are not exact sciences; several of the terms below will appear differently elsewhere.

 

aba

shawl-style cape

berid

the caliphate’s messenger/postal service, which also served as its intelligence network

caravan-bashi

leader of a caravan

chakir

hireling soldier, bodyguard

dakhma

circular raised structure used in the Zoroastrian religion for the exposure and ultimate disposal of corpses

danik

a silver coin, worth less than the dirham and the dinar

dapirpat

scribe or secretary

dehkan

landowner

denarius (pl. denarii)

a coin used in the Roman Empire

dinar

a coin of considerable value, usually gold

dirham

a coin, usually silver, worth less than the dinar

diwan

an army

djinn

a spirit in  Islamic mythology

farr

the light that confers divine favor

hajj

the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is urged to perform at least once in a lifetime

harisah

wheat stew

houri

one of the lovely maidens traditionally claimed to be promised to faithful Muslim males in paradise

ifrit

fire demon, a variety of djinn

ikhshid

“prince,” official title of a Sogdian ruler

iqal

cord holding the keffiyeh in place

jizyah

poll tax levied on non-Muslims

jubba

tunic, often quilted, worn as inner or outer wear

jund

military camp

kaba

quilted jacket with sleeves or open tunic

kalam

reed or wooden writing implement

kalansuwa

tall cap, usually wrapped in a turban

keffiyeh

head-covering usually fashioned from a scarf

Khagan

Khan

kharaj

lump-sum duty levied on the land of conquered peoples (a form of tribute)

Khatun

female consort (wife, sister, or other relative) of the Karluk Yabgu; also a female Karluk ruler

kuftan

variant of “kaftan,” a robe

maliq

ruler

masjid

mosque

muezzin

the Islamic official who calls the faithful to prayer at prescribed times of the day

naib

deputy or second in command

Novruz

the Zoroastrian New Year’s celebration

oud

stringed instrument similar to a lute

parasang

unit of distance, now indeterminable

qadi

judge

qaid

master or leader

qin

ancient Chinese stringed instrument

sardwil

broad trousers

serdar

an honorific roughly meaning “chief”

tanbur

a long-necked lute

ummah

followers of Mohammad

Yabgu

supreme leader (male) of the Karluks, a powerful nomadic tribe