There’s really no better way to learn a language than to be fully immersed in the environment. When people ask me if I feel my Persian has improved since living in Tehran, my answer is a whole-hearted YES! Even though I grew up speaking it, the way I spoke and perhaps my word choice was never fully native. But now, I find myself using words and expressions that I never would have, had I not lived here. And the ever-evolving nature of language means there’s always something new to learn, particularly when it comes to slang. And between living in Tehran and having teenage and college-aged students, let’s just say I’ve picked up a lot of it. Here are 10 super common Persian slang words.
Literally: to tie empty
Meaning: to bluff; to exaggerate; to BS
Example: Someone says they want to buy a new car, and they are thinking of getting a Mercedes. You know there’s no way they could afford it. Khâli mibande (They’re bluffing). Or if your friend exaggerates how much money they make, you could use the negative, khâli naband (quit BS-ing)! A person who does this is called a khâli band, as in Pesar khâlam khâli band-e (My cousin is a bluffer). (The noun form is khâli bandi.)
Literally: to twist
Meaning: to ditch someone/stand someone up/flake out on someone/get out of doing something
Example: A couple of friends and I were going out to dinner one night, and we invited another friend. He told us his aunt had already invited him over, but that he’d find an excuse to get out of it and join us. Next thing we know, there he was! “Khâlam-o pichundam,” he joked.
It’s common to be on the receiving end of being twisted, too. In that case, you can say, “We had plans to do X, vali mano pichund (but s/he ditched me).”
(Persian learners- the correct spelling is پیچاندن pichândan, but what I’ve written is the informal spelling/way it’s actually pronounced.)
Literally: three whistles
Example: We have a family friend who always tells me this. “Pontia, kâri dâshti zang bezan, seh soot miyâm!” (Pontia, if you need anything, call me, and I’ll be there in an instant!)
Literally: to drop pieces
Meaning: to make a snide/sarcastic remark
This has a couple of uses. One could be a guy sort of catcalling a woman in the street. Tikeh mindâze be dokhtare mardom. (He’s catcalling someone’s daughter!)
Another meaning is to make a sarcastic remark. Az âdamâyi ke tikeh mindâzan khosham nemiyâd (I don’t like people who make snide remarks).
Example: She’s a nice girl, vali kheyli âvizun-e (but she’s really clingy). This one makes sense right? A person so clingy it’s as if they’re hanging onto your neck and won’t let you go. Anywhere you go, they want to go, too.
A synonym of this word is sirish (which literally means “glue/paste”). Incidentally, in my dad’s village in Taleghan, there’s a dirt path nicknamed sirish-e râh because when it rains, it turns into a really sticky mud.
Between the two, I would say âvizun is more negative. Sirish can be a little cutesy.
Sar-e kâr gozâshtan
Literally: to put someone at work
Meaning: to pull someone’s leg
There are subtle variations of this one. One is in the sense of making someone wait. For instance, you planned to meet at 11, and it’s now 12. You call your friend and say, “Kojâi? Mano sar-e kâr gozashti?” (Where are you, making me wait so long!?) In this scenario, you could also use kâshtan (literally, “to plant”), as in Mano yek sâat kâsht. (S/he kept me waiting for one hour.)
Another use of this is between friends who mess with each other. Say you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Apple, and they want to schedule an interview with you. Later, you find out it was a prank call from your friends. Doostâm mano sar-e kâr gozâshtan. (My friends were pulling my leg.)
And finally, say you want to buy a new car, and someone tells you they can get you a great deal. But then you never hear from them again. Toro sar-e kâr gozâshte. (They’ve pulled your leg.) It’s not necessarily a lie, but they just kind of said something in the moment without any intention of following up on it.
Literally: to spill worms
Meaning: to mess with/bug someone (in a harmless way)
My student was telling me about a classmate of hers in school (who also happened to be my student) and how she drove her teachers crazy. I found it hard to believe because she was always fairly well-mannered in my class (even though I could tell she had a mischievous side). “You know teacher,” she continued, “yah, she’s nice, but she’s constantly… dropping worms.” That gave me a good laugh.
If your friends incessantly tease you about something, you could say, kerm nariz (lit., don’t spill worms [stop messing around]).
Literally: board/picture (like the French tableau)
Example: “The way Ali looks at Maryam, tâblo-e ke âshegeshe” (it’s obvious he’s in love with her.)
Literally: [to give] a whistle
Meaning: a goof/faux pas; to make a goof or faux pas
This is kind of like a Freudian slip, except not quite as “Freudian” as it is “a slip”. It can be a funny mistake or faux pas. Or if someone asks you not to make a sooti, they mean not to blow their cover. Sooti comes from soot zadan (to whistle).
When I traveled to Qeshm, I met a nice family in the hotel who sort of took me under their wing. But they had done so much shopping (10 suitcases full!) that in the airport, they tried to unload some of the burden on me so they wouldn’t have to pay for excess baggage. That’s when their punk ass 15-year-old son turned to me and said, “If anyone asks, these bags are yours. Sooti nadi!” [Don’t blow it.] (And in case you’re wondering, I did NOT accept any bags from them!)
Dahan servis kardan
Literally: to service someone’s mouth
Meaning: to annoy someone badly
Ok, the literal English translation sounds awful! But that’s what happens when you annoy someone to death. For example, your friend needs help with a project and calls you 10 times to ask you questions. Or a person won’t stop talking and is driving you nuts. Dahanamo servis kard! (They really annoyed me!)
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a person who’s annoying. Once, for instance, my cousin was telling her friend that it’s easier to print something out and edit it on paper because if you try to do it on your phone, dahanet servis mishe! (It’s totally annoying!)
But like many Persian phrases, tone plays an important role. For instance, mordam (I died) can mean anything from “I was so embarrassed” to “I died of laughter” to “I’m exhausted” all depending on how you say it. Dahan servis is the same. For example, you’re watching a soccer game, and a player scores a great goal. You could say, “Dahanet servis! What an awesome goal!” In this sense, it’s almost like a damet garm. You’re encouraging the player.
Conversely, it can be used as a protest. Your friend gives you directions to go somewhere, and they turn out to be awful! It takes forever, and you get stuck in traffic. When you see your friend, you say, “Bâbâ (dude), dahanet servis! What the hell kind of directions were those?”
Which one are you going to try out first?
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