- country in SW Asia, between the Caspian Sea & the Persian Gulf: formerly an empire, it became an Islamic republic in 1979: 636,296 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km); cap. Tehran: former name Persia
- plateau extending from the Tigris River to the Indus River, mostly in Iran & Afghanistan
Usage Note: As foreign locales become more familiar to English speakers, the pronunciation of their names often evolves away from a literal rendering of their English spelling and toward their native pronunciation, though with considerable variation across names and speakers. Prague once rhymed with plague but now is closer to bog, while Chile may be pronounced either as “chilly” or “chee-lay,” and Brazil is still Anglicized (brə-zĭl′) rather than Portuguese (brä-sēl′). In American English today, we find three common pronunciations for Iran : (ĭ-rän′, ĭ-răn′, and ī-răn′), with analogous variants for Iraq. In our 2014 Usage Ballot, most Panelists personally preferred (ĭ-rän′), but a large majority considered both (ĭ-rän′) and (ĭ-răn′) acceptable. The same was true for Iraq. Panelists were much less tolerant of the pronunciation of the initial syllable as “eye” (some commented that this pronunciation seemed “unsophisticated” or “parochial”): 71% deemed (ī-răn′) unacceptable, with only 6% reporting it as their preferred pronunciation, with similar percentages for Iraq.
From Middle Persian (ērān), from Proto-Iranian *aryānām (“of the Aryans”), genitive plural of *arya- (as in Old Persian (ariya-), Avestan (airiia-), Ossetic ир (ir, “Ossetian”)). Compare Parthian (aryān) and Sanskrit आर्य (ārya).
(ērān) came to refer to the lands in which Iranians lived during the late 3rd to early 4th centuries. Prior to that time it signified people/culture (i.e. the Iranian nation), rather than geography. The antonymic (anērān) (whence انیران (Aniran)), originally meaning "non-Iranian", underwent a parallel development.