Armenian Language Corner

What Is the Armenian Word for “Hotel”?

Any speaker of Western Armenian knows that the word for “hotel” is bantog (պանդոկ). However, if you visit Yerevan and you ask directions for the hotel where you are staying, they will look at you inquisitively, until you rectify yourself and say hiooranots (հիւրանոց), even if you know that hiooranots is that place in your home that you know in English as “living room.” (Western Armenian has the word hiooradoon / հիւրատուն “guesthouse”).

If you are curious enough to ask what bantog means there, they will tell you: “Tavern.” You will even find a restaurant called Bantog Yerevan (Պանդոկ Երեւան), translated into English as “Tavern Yerevan,” a few blocks away from the Marriot-Armenia hiooranots!

The standard word for a place of lodging in Armenian has been bantog since the fifth century (pronounced pandok in Classical Armenian, as it is today in Eastern Armenian). However, when you open the best dictionary of Classical Armenian, the monumental Nor Haigazian Lezvi Pararan (Նոր Հայկազեան Լեզուի Բառարան) published by three monks of the Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice (1836-1837), you find out that bantog means taberna (Latin), a word that translates into English as both “tavern” and “inn.”

Incidentally, there is a word close to bantog in Arabic, funduk (“hotel”), briefly borrowed by Armenian as pntuk (փնտուկ) before the 12th century. Since neither the origin of bantog nor of funduk can be explained through the Armenian or the Arabic languages, the natural conclusion is that there must be a common source for both. That common source is the Greek word pandokeion, which means “all-receiving” (the prefix pan “all” is the one we recognize in the word panamerican), and was borrowed by both languages without the ending –eion. A hotel or an inn is a place that may accommodate all sorts of people.

Back to the twenty-first century, the word bantog is used exclusively in Western Armenian with the meaning “hotel” and in Eastern Armenian with the meaning “tavern.” Where does hiooranots come from? Hioor (հիւր) means “guest” in Armenian (whether Western or Eastern), and hiooranots is a translation of the Russian word gostinitsa (“hotel”), where gost is the same word “guest.”