Etymology of the Name - Speculations

Etymology of the Name Zoroaster / Zarathushtra / Zarathustra
Etymology is the study of the origins of words or parts of words and how they have arrived at their current form and meaning. It is supposed to be a pursuit of scholarship and not of wild imaginings. Nevertheless, it is the latter that characterizes the speculation about the origin or meaning of the name Zarathushtra and even its derivative, Zoroaster. Many of these speculations are derogatory and insulting to Zoroastrians whose heritage has for the main part been hijacked by so-called scholars and detractors.

There is no etymology assigned to the name Zoroaster / Zarathushtra / Zarathustra in Zoroastrian / Zarathushtrian scriptures.

The etymology we read in Western literature is entirely a Western construct and a figment of the fertile imagination of a succession of writers.

We find it amusing that classical Hellenic author Demon, and others like him, saw proof that Zoroaster was an astrologer in that his name contained -astr- meaning star! That is, of course, the Greek/Western version of his name, Zōroastrēs. Zoroaster's authentic name, Zarathushtra, bears no such meaning. According to Demon, the full name Zōroastrēs meant 'Star-worshiper' (sic).

The Wikipedia site offers a reason for the Greek version of the name - a combination of "the Greek zōros (literally "undiluted") and the Avestan -uštra with astron ("star")."

The Wikipedia article continues with an unbridled speculation of the name having something to do with camels: yellow or golden camels, herding camels, angry/furious camels and so on. Western authors simultaneously have ascribed Zarathushtra's homeland, the Aryan homeland, to the nether reaches of this globe - most of which would never have heard or seen of a camel. It would not be possible for camels to be bred in the mountains of Central Asia - the more likely area of Zarathushtra's early domicile. (Please see our pages: Aryan Homeland in Scripture and Aryan Homeland Location. Also see our page on Western Views on Aryans.)

The speculation that Zarathushtra's name had something to do with camels appears to have started with Eugene Burnouf when explained Zarath-ustra as 'fulvos camelos habens' meaning 'having yellow camels' (Comm. sur le Yacna, pp. 12- 14, Paris, 1833). Later he changed his theory and stated that the name meant 'astre d'or' meaning 'golden star' (Notes, p. 166), see Brockhaus, Vendidad Sade, p. 361, Leipzig, 1850, and Windisch- mann, Zor. Stud. pp. 46-47, or earlier in Jen. Litt. Zt., 1834, nr. 138, pp. 138-139.

The association of the name with stars was promoted by a Kircher (as quoted by Sapere Aude in a preface to William Westcott's The Chaldæan Oracles of Zoroaster) furnishes another absurd derivation "when he seeks to show that it comes from TzURA = a figure, and TzIUR = to fashion, ASh = fire, and STR = hidden; from these he gets the words Zairaster = fashioning images of hidden fire; -- or Tzuraster = the image of secret things." Aude goes on to state that, "Others derive it from Chaldee and Greek words meaning 'a contemplator of the Stars'."

Not content, historian Henry Rawlinson, saw in the name Zarathushtra proof that the founder of the Iranian religion was in fact a Semite, i.e Zara-thustra = Ziru-istar as meaning 'seed of Ishtar, descendant of Venus,' JRAS., Gt. Brit, and Ireland, xv. 227, 246 (cf. George Eawlinson, Herodotus, vol. iii. p. 455).

There are of course, a plethora of speculative explanations including gold-smith and others. Since all these explanations contradict one-another, they are inadvertently saying the other is wrong. The speculations serve no worthwhile purpose. They only serve to provide their authors with notoriety, a possible degree and employment. Regrettably a few Zoroastrians have taken up their own line of trying to divine some meaning from the name.

We do not wish to dignify these speculations any further with our comments.

The name Zoroaster / Zarathushtra has also been hijacked by detractors who garner web addresses. As a result they are no longer available to Zoroastrians.