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Pak·i·stan (păkĭ-stăn, päkĭ-stän)
A country of South Asia. Occupying land crisscrossed by ancient invasion paths, Pakistan was the home of the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization, which flourished until overrun by Aryans c. 1500 BC. After being conquered by numerous rulers and powers, it passed to the British as part of India and became a separate Muslim state in 1947. The country originally included the Bengalese territory of East Pakistan, which achieved its separate independence in 1971 as Bangladesh. Pakistan became a republic in 1956. Islamabad is the capital and Karachi the largest city.

Paki·stani (-stănē, -stänē) adj. & n.

Word History: The names of many Central and South Asian states, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, end with the element -stan, a suffix of Iranian origin. The suffix is derived from the Iranian root *stā-, "to stand, stay," and means "place (where one stays), home, country." It can be added to the names of peoples to form the names of the countries where they live. The name Pakistan contains the same suffix and was coinedoriginally in the form Pakstanby Choudhary Rahmat Ali (1897-1951), a Muslim Indian Nationalist who devoted himself to the creation of separate countries for Muslims in South Asia in anticipation of the end of British rule there. Pakstan first appears in a pamphlet that Rahmat Ali published in 1933 "on behalf of the thirty million Muslims of PAKSTAN, who live in the five Northern Units of India, viz.: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan." The new name was meant to incorporate letters from names of all these areas, with the P representing Punjab, the A representing the Afghans (Afghān being a Persian word meaning "Pashtun"), and so forth. In Persian and Urdu, the sound of the name Pākstan also suggests an interpretation like "Land of the Pure," as if the name were derived from the Persian word pāk, "pure." Rahmat Ali's name for the region caught on quickly, and its spelling was soon changed to Pakistan, probably in order to break up the difficult consonant cluster kst and bring the word in line with other geographical names like Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Pakistan was chosen as the name of the country when it became independent in 1947.
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The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.