Armenian Language Corner

From Paradise to Yettem, California

The word for “garden” in Classical Armenian was bardez (պարտէզ). It came from the language of the old Iranian sacred book, the Avesta, which had the word pairidaeza (“park”). This word has kept the same meaning in our current language. However, it is interesting to note that English paradise and Armenian bardez are actually first cousins, but with different meanings. The English word came from Old French, which at its turn had Latin paradisus as its source. The source for Latin was Greek paradeisos, and the latter came again from Avestan pairidaeza.

However, we do not say bardez in the case of the Paradise. The book of Genesis tells us that Eden was actually a region where God planted a garden and placed Adam (Gen. 2:8). The Armenian word corresponding to “garden,” in the translation of the Bible, was trakhd (դրախտ), which was borrowed from the Iranian languages, where it actually meant “tree.” In the same way that the “garden of Eden” became, over time, Eden (Paradise), its Armenian equivalent trakhd yetemagan (դրախտ եդեմական) became simply trakhd (“Paradise”), and gradually lost its meaning “garden.”

Nevertheless, we also have the Armenian word Yetem (Եդեմ), which is the same as the English Eden. You may recall that the Californian town of Lovell, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was renamed Yettem due to the overwhelming presence of Armenians there. Yettem, located 18 kilometers north of Visalia, has a population of 211, according to the U.S. Census of 2010, and few, if any, Armenians nowadays, but St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, founded in 1911, is still active there.