Friday, August 15, 2008

Etymology of "Ferenghi"

The first time I remember hearing this word was in the movie "Junoon", a movie based on Ruskin Bond's novel, "A Flight of Pigeons". In a scene where anxious relatives rush out to meet the warriors returning from Delhi during the 1857 revolt, a wounded, haggard Sarfaraz Khan cries out in despair, "Feranghi jeet gaye! Hum Dilli haar gaye!" (The English have won! We've lost Delhi!).

In Asia, why were the English or Europeans in general, called Ferenghi's?

Last year I came across this word again in Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red. The story revolves around the Ottoman Sultan's attempt to create a book of miniature paintings that would stun the 'Venetian infidels' or Franks into accepting that Ottoman art was much superior to their own. While reading about 'Frankish' master's and 'Frankish' kings, it had sounded so much like Ferenghi...

In Kerala, cashew nuts which was brought in by the Portuguese is called Parangi Andi or 'Foreign Kernels'.

The word for a 'foreigner' in modern Thai is farang, which according to one version, is an abbreviated form of farangset, meaning 'French'.

So is there is common link between Franks, France, Farang and Ferenghi?

6 comments:

Lisa Marie said...

"Ferengi" and similar terms are Arabic names for European traders, or for Westerners in general. Both the Arabic word and the name are similarly pronounced [fɛˈrɪŋɡi]. The name is likely derived from the Arabic word faranj or ifranj, "Franks", or possibly the Persian word farangi, meaning "foreigner". In Ethiopia, ferenj or ferenji has the same meaning. The Greeks sometimes use fra[n]gkoi (φράγκοι) as a mild slur against western Europeans. The term was used as a partially derogatory term in India to denote the British.

Dinakarr said...

Thanks for the additional info, Lisa!

Anonymous said...

I just came across the word "ferenghi" as well in the novel "moesson" by Wilbur Smith.
I still remember, when I lived in Singapore, our beautiful holidays in Muslim Malaysia.

We loved the "pearl of the East" a lot. This is the name for an island officialy called Penang on the west coast of Malaysia.
We used to go to a beach called Batu Ferenghi. Never thought about the name.
Great to realise that I, a ferenghi, was there at "foreigner beach". Thanks for the explaination. George, the Netherlands

Michael said...

Michael said:
I came across the word in The Janissary Tree which is set in 1830's Istanbul. It was used to refer to European military instructors training the new Turkish Army. The word piqued my interest because of its similarity to Ferengi, the master traders of Star Trek / Deep Space Nine.

Anonymous said...

Also the term "lingua franca" is based on these root words.

Anonymous said...

It is a Hindi word, used in other languages, like Arabic. It is a cognate of "Foreigner" in English...Usually misspelled on the Net as "Firingi" or some other from...