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Aryan is the Anglicization of the Sanskrit, Avestan and Vedic term arya. The literal meaning of the word is "Noble". Etymologically, it seems originally to denote kinfolk or clansmen, and later to be a general term of respect. Archeological records show that early in the 2nd millennium BC, ancient Persians (in present-day Iran) used the term Aryan to describe their lineage and their language. Darius the Great, King of Persia (521-486 BC), in an inscription in Naqsh-e-Rostam (near Shiraz in present-day Iran), proclaims: "I am Darius the great King...A Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage...". The term has become a term of art in the Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Jain, and Hindu religions.

When the ancient Persians lived in the Inner Asian Steppes and moved south into today's Iran (the name itself derives from arya), they named the place Airyanem Vaejah, or The Iranian Expanse, and today the word survives as Iran. The aryan tribes which moved into the indian subcontinent too, initially called the land they migrated and settled into as Aaryaa vartha or aryan expanse / aryan land. Many present day Iranian boy and girl names reflect this ancient relation: names like Aryana, Iran-dokht (Aryan Daughter), Arayn, Aryan-Pur, Aryaramne, ...

In its original sense, it may or may not have had racial meaning. It has, however, been corrupted by abuse (see Aryan race and Dravidian race) to justify racially discriminatory policies ranging from simple oppression to genocide, beginning with the British Raj and continuing through the Nazis and neo-Nazis.

"Aryan" is not to be confused with "Arian," a follower of the Christian heresy Arianism.

See also: Aryan invasion; Aryan race

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