Updated: 26 October 2018
If you have Iranian friends or have spent any time around Iranians, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the Persian word joon. It was actually the first Persian word my high school friends learned. Whenever they called my house and asked to speak to me, my mom would holler for me to pick up the phone, “Pontia joon!” And college was no different. Only this time, my roommates would hear me say, “Hey mommy joon!” when I answered the phone. Eventually, they’d ask me, “What does joon mean?” And from the day they found out, I became “Pontia joon” to them all.
So really, what does it mean? Well, it’s simple, but not quite that straightforward. Here, we’ll breakdown the 7 meanings and uses of the Persian word joon.
جان / جون
After the first name
Joon (or jân, as it’s often pronounced), means “soul/spirit/life”, but it’s essentially a Persian word of endearment used after a person’s first name to mean “dear”. It’s a little nicer than just calling someone by their name alone. For some of my cousins who are older than me, I use joon as a sign of respect, for example, Nati joon. For my younger cousins, it’s an affectionate way of calling them. I also use it with co-workers or acquaintances who I’m on a first name basis with. When I taught ESL in the US, my students called me “teacher”. In Iran, I’m “teacher,” “Pontia,” or “Khânum [Miss] Fallahi” with the guys, but I’m “Pontia joon” with the girls. I really prefer that. It automatically implies a sense of closeness.
In place of name
Often times, instead of calling my aunts by their names, like Khâleh [maternal aunt] Nooshin or Ameh [paternal aunt] Maheen, I’ll just call them Khaleh Joon/Jān or Ameh Joon/Jān, basically, “aunt dear”. One of my uncles who was the oldest son and sort of the head of the family was always Daei Joon, “[maternal] uncle dear”. In fact, throughout my entire childhood, I never even knew what his real name was. My father’s younger brothers usually call him dâdâsh (a more affectionate way to say “brother”) or dâdâsh jân. This is also what my mom called her older brother. And when she speaks to her older sisters, it’s always khâhar joon or khâhar joon [insert first name]. And back in the day, fathers and mothers were âghâ jân (sir dear) and mâdar jân (mother dear). This concept of not saying your older siblings’ names or calling your parents in this manner is more of a generational thing, but it could also be used now depending on how traditional the family is or where they live. But the bottom line is, you can’t really go wrong when calling someone joon/jān (unless you have a very formal relationship with them).
Here’s yet another use of joon. If you ask someone a question, and they don’t hear you, instead of saying Chi? (what?), you’ll more often hear them ask jân? (using the same question intonation). It’s just nicer than saying “what?” And used in this context, it’s pronounced jân not joon. You may also hear baleh in this case which means “excuse me”, although it’s also a polite form of saying “yes” depending on your intonation. But in my opinion, using jân to mean “what?” is VERY native. Actually, it’s not something I say which I think is a telltale sign that I wasn’t raised in Iran.
Here’s an example of this use from the movie Sâat 5 Asr. The old lady asks the man what his job is and he replies, jân?
To answer someone who said your name
Use joon/jân to answer someone who is trying to get your attention. For example, someone needs to ask/tell me something and says, “Hey, Pontia?” I say jân!, meaning “yes, what can I do for you?” I hear this a lot at work with my Iranian co-workers. When I want to ask one of them something, I’ll say, “Sara joon?” And she’ll answer, Joon! or Joonam! (“my soul/dear”). It’s interesting because if I say “Sara joon?” she’ll usually respond joon[am]! But if I say Sara jân? She’ll answer jân[am]! When I try to get my mom’s attention with mâmân joon?, she’ll sometimes respond joone delam! literally, “my heart’s soul!”. In this context, the intonation is not quite like a question, but more like a statement with some enthusiasm.
When something is cute or sweet
Another use is to say jân or ay jân used to indicate that you think something is really sweet and cute. For example, my little nephew often says or does adorable things to which we all say ay jân[am]! He’s picked up on this concept and often beats us to it after saying something cute. It’s also common to combine this use of joon with another one. For example, my nephew says, “Auntie!” and I answer “[ay] joone/jâne Auntie!” (Auntie’s heart/soul) which shows my affection for him and means that he has my full attention. Use this version for someone near and dear to your heart.
To answer the phone
Usually, Iranians answer the phone with alo?, but if you know who’s on the other end of the line and it’s someone you’re particularly close to (like your mom or any loved one) you can answer with jânam or joonam (my soul) instead. Jânam or joonam in this form takes more of a statement intonation than a question one.
In another clip from the same movie as above, the man’s fiancée is calling, so he answers Jânam, Mahnaz jân (of course adding jân after her name, too).
There’s jâne/joone man or jâne/joone to (or any other pronoun) or jâne/joone [insert name] which means that you swear on your own life or on someone else’s life.
Taking an annoyingly long time
Finally, when someone takes his/her sweet time to do something, and you’re totally annoyed/fed up you might say joonet bâlâ biyâd! (literally, “may your soul come up!”) The pronunciation here is always joon, not jân. Imagine you’re driving and the car in front of you takes entirely too long to make a turn, you’d say joonet bâlâ biyâd!, the Persian version of “hurry the f- – – up!”
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