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The meaning of the word armannu
1Emeritus Professor of Archaeogenetics, Balıkesir University, Turkey
2Immanuel Freedman, Ph.D SMIEE , Harleysville , PA, USA
The word GIŠ.UR.KUR.RA=armannu is a substantive found in SB Mari texts. The Assyrian
Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD) demonstrates that armannu is not
likely to be of Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian or Hurrian origin.
In CAD, the term includes discussions of its tentative usage as an aromatic substance related to animal
slaughter and its by-products as well as fumigation of associated locations. CAD also points out that:
The vocabulary designation “foreign apple” in Hh. III35f does not give sufficient evidence to
establish the meaning of armannu, and the identification with “apricot” on the basis of the
Syriac name “Armenian apple” (Prunus armeniaca) is based solely on the similarity of the words
armannu and armenāyā.
A literal reading of GIŠ.UR.KUR.RA is Sum: mountain and valley chopped twigs, considering the (ra)
postfix (cf. BLACK).
Turning to the question of arman as a geographic name, let us consider the hypothesis that Arman is a
geographic or ethnic name which elucidates the origin of the word “Armenian.” In particular, Arman
and Armi are referenced by tablets from the Royal Archives of Akkadian King Naram-Sin (c. 2236-2200
BCE) and his grandfather, Sargon the Great.
Let us examine the Sargon Geography (SG) text according to an edition by HOROWITZ (2011), p. 68-69
which reads at line 13:
ultu eb-lá adi bit na ni-ib KUR ar-ma- ni-i ki
with translation
from Ebla to Bit-Nanib is the land of Armani
Thus, Horowitz suggests that the land of Armani extends from Ebla to Bit-Nanib during the Ur III period
ca. 2600 BCE. He further cites references proposing alternate locations in Western Iran during the
Middle Assyrian and Kassite periods and Aleppo in the Old Akkadian and Ur III periods, together with a
likely identification of Ebla with Tell Mardikh in Syria.
The archives of Ebla include inscriptions that resemble neither Sumerian nor Akkadian together with
inscriptions that are clearly Sumero-Akkadian. These inscriptions have been considered to represent a
previously unknown dialect of Sumerian and have proved to be an abundant source of place names.
However, DYAKONOV (1985) indicates that most of these names do not belong to Sumerian or any
known Semitic language.
Some of these tablets mention the name Armi. In particular, DYAKONOV (1983) claimed that the
proposal that Armen relates to the origin of Armenians as Hays is unscientific because the Armenians
did not use the name Armen until they merged with Turkic clans of Kypchaks who represent true
descendants of Subaro-Armen ethnicity.
The name Armanum is derived from Armi or Aramey, which are names of semi-nomadic people from
Armi and Ebla. In one the Ebla inscriptions, Dyakonov cites a bill of payment indicating food ordered for
four persons of Armi. Two of the personal names are of interest here: Dumur and Utu Tamır-lim. Tamir
or Demir is a well-known Turkish personal name. Another name is Abarsila of the land of Armi. Abarsila,
Barsıl or Barsıbal, is an ethnotoponym which Dyakonov considers impossible to explain by Western
Semitic Languages.
Therefore, with respect to historical records, while the Hay-Armi relationship is highly unlikely, an
Armi/Armenrelationship is clear. Additionally, Arman and Armi place names are unrelated to Aramey
because of the vowels, in which Turkish is one of the rich languages while Semitic languages are poor in
vowels. As a result, Arman/Armen connotes both place and ethnicity while Armi simply connotes
In particular, Arman denotes a castle, forest or mountain. Place names including Arman/Armen have
lived in the lexicon of Turkic people wherever they went. This fact supports a solution proposed by
HOROWITZ (op. cit.) who is inclined to accept that the Western Ebla people from Aleppo migrated to the
East in Iran to join their Eastern relatives.
In another example of the presence of an ethnicity other than Sumero-Akkadian, an administrative
document from Mari (ARM 7 221 10) mentions four “Manda”-men (LU Ma-an-da), q.v. ADALI (2009).
Their names are clearly not Indo-European: d Addu-ma d Addu, Ri-im d Da-gan, I-pi-iq- A-[r]a- a[!]-tim,
a-ab- du-ni- ša-pa. Of particular interest is the fourth name: a-ab- du-ni- ša-pa which is difficult to
understand as Western Semitic. The first element of this personal name is clearly West Semitic abd-,
(abd :slave, servant), used by Amorite personal names in Mari. If one transcribes the personal name as
abdu-Nišapa, then why is the Sumerian goddess Nisaba present in a West Semitic name?
According to ADALI (op. cit.):
One cannot rule out surprises; for example a rock relief inscription situated in western Iran
honoring Anubanini (the Lullubean king) usually dated about the Ur III or Isin-Larsa era,
mentions Nisaba (dN[i-i]š- ba) as one of the Lullubean patron deities.
Therefore, Nisaba may be a Sumerian goddess loaned from a prior cultural stratum, termed Subaro-
Armen and we may consider that the name Armi may be derived from the cedar forest name
Of particular interest are texts (ARET X 18, 74, 75; TMG.75.G.2329, TMG.75.G.1249) that record the
marriage of an Eblaite princess Tagriš-Damu with a son of Nagar’s king as discussed by BIGA(1978). The
details of the marriage appear to have been worked out at a summit in Armi. This strongly suggests an
ethnic or cultural relation between the people of Ebla and Armi.
The expression GIŠ.UR = ar-wa-nu ARMT 12 201: 1 found in a list of materia medica strengthens
our proposal. In this example, the meaning of armannu is the fruit of a tree. Thus there is no direct
evidence that armannu is a geographic substantive, rather that GI is being used as a determinative for a
tree, forest or (less likely) wooden object.
Let us now examine the terminology of armannu within Akkadian and Assyrian dictionaries. The root
word is apparently arman. In particular, let us search for cognates of arman in modern Indo-European
(I-E) languages as well as languages contemporary to Sumerian, including Akkadian, Assyrian, Hittite,
Hurrian, and Old Turkic, to understand whether arman may have been conserved in any modern
In Akkadian, the vowels -a, -u, -i and sometimes -e found in or in front of a word are often assimilated.
Although the vowels -o, -ö, -ü, -ı, ə (ä) are generally found in cuneiform systems, they are not found in
Akkadian texts, although they are very common in Turkish. Therefore, as far as CAD is concerned, there
is no section or item that starts with the vowel “O.” There is, however one Turkish word that is closely
similar to this on etymological and semantic grounds, namely “orman.” Indeed, the absence of the
vowel “O” at the beginning of words in the languages mentioned above may provide rationale for
armannu as a loanword.
In Akkadian, sa-ar-me means forest (perhaps from Hurrian); in Sumerian, a word for forest is gi erinne,
with Hittite equivalent taru, cf. OB tir: forest. Hurrian, on the other hand, denotes forest with the
words: (1) garu/gauri, and (2) astuhhi (which connotes shrub). The semantic similarity of taru and garu
is striking, suggesting a common origin. This is especially noticeable in declension of the noun and
adjective, where there is first a loss of mimation and later a reduction in case marking in approximately
the same time frame in Hittitite, Hurrian, Babylonian and, Assyrian.
If we accept both tar- and gar -as root words signifying forest in either language, they may result from
the different dialects of different clans of the same ethnicity.
Of even greater interest ar- may also be part of both words: arman and orman.” A most striking
observation is that the Turkish lexicon has a synonym for “orman,” namely “arığ.” The word arığ” is one
of the oldest words in Ancient Turkic (Eski Türkçe). It can be found in Turkish texts of Orkhon (TT)
carved in stones named BAL.BAL. In TT it reads; “Arığ içinte takı içgerü kirtiler” which means, “In the
forest (the army) advanced even further into the deeper zone of the forest22. Thus the word “arığ” is
definitely semantically related to the words taru and garu. Perhaps the letters t/g may be added to
a root word aru- in different spoken dialects of the same language; if not, they are likely to have a
common origin on both etymological and semantic grounds.
It has demonstrated that in agglutinative languages such as Turkish, the root word never evolves as it
does in I-E languages regardless of how much time has passed. Therefore, we suggest that taru”,
garu”, and “arığ” share a common origin and signify “forest”.
In English, arman or “orman” may be considered equivalents of “forest” or “jungle”. Therefore from the
linguistic perspective, we propose that the word arman may define a forest, with equivalents “orman
or “arığ” in Turkish and that may, in principle, have been introduced by the protoTurkic groups termed
Let us now consider the text ar-man-na a-a-a u sirašuta, (I know how) to extract (?) the aromatic
substance from a. and how to brew beer (TuL p. 16:12). In Uighur and Orkhon inscriptions, many
derivatives of the question word "ne”, (Eng: what) can be found. These include ne te, na ta, nen te,
nan ta, kayıt , and kayıt ta.” There are also ta/te prepositions at the end of a sentence to reinforce
and/or strengthen the meaning of the sentence to which they are added. These prepositions may also
reinforce the meaning of the sentence by negating and/or questioning the meaning. Lastly, these
prepositions turn a sentence into a question. We can make the same observation in Azerbaijani, Kyrghıs,
Kazakh, Tıvan, Yakut, Chuvash, Shor, Maygar and Yakut Turkic Dialects.
Therefore, the text ar-man-na a-a-a u sirašuta is likely to mean “A female brewer obtains even
(hat.ta/hatta) the fragrant cedar tree (for brewing),” since Old Turkic has the terms ne ce/ne te which
means “to know how to make something.”
Let us now turn to the following text: lî pulluqu aslī ṭubbuhu ar-ma (var. –man) –nu quddušu surruqu
kišukki bulls were slaughtered, lambs slain, holy armannu was scattered on the censer Borger Esarh. 92
§ 61:14 cf. aslī ṭubbuu lê pulluku ar-man-ni surruku Streck Asb. 263 iii 8, see also (in similar context) 4R
20, in the lexical section.
The word, kišukki denotes the verb to cut/ to slaughter. Now, a frequent root word in Semitic Akkadian
is the Turkic verb base “kes”. Many forms including kâs: cut, break; käs : separate into small pieces; as:
shorten, abbreviate; kes: to cut, chop, cut to pieces may be found in OT dictionaries.
In addition to the above considerations, the Hittite Etymological Dictionary [PUHVEL] offers further
insight into the Anatolian Turkish influence of these words on the Akkadian language. He points out
arma- (Hit: moon) as a “widespread Southern Anatolian lexeme” of likely I-E substratal origin. Thus
armai- (Hit: be pregnant) and armahhu (Hit: become pregnant) are plausibly related to menstruation as
is arma(n) (Hit: illness).
The further connection with Akkadian GIŠ.UR.KIB.RA=armahhu (Akk: thicket, shrub according to
CAD) may be clarified by noting KIB as Sum: wheat and that a crop results from fertilized (fecund) seed,
hence a plausible translation of armahhu as Akk:crop. The Hittite stem arma(n)- may therefore be
analogous to orman (Turk: forest) in the same manner as Hittite armahhu is analogous to Akkadian
From the linguistic perspective, many of these words, verbs, and sentences appear to form a common
Subarian substrate on which Sumerian, Akkadian, and Assyrian thrive, as well as the so-called proto I-E
A deficit of prior research is that the various texts have, in general, been treated as isolates. A
nonbiased analysis of all available source materials including cognates and equivalents in other
languages, especially Turkic, will make it possible to achieve a structurally and functionally
comprehensive judgment of the Subarian cultural substratum which had significant influence on
Mesopotamian civilization.
Hence, it is our conclusion is that armannu relates to chopped twigs and forest as well as an aromatic
substance derived therefrom. Interpretation of armannu as apricot is not definitively ruled out and
further analysis of similar texts on the basis of cultural diffusion is highly desirable.
The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, A Part 2
ADALI, S. F. (2009), Ummān-manda and its Significance in the First Millennium B.C., Ph.D. Thesis, U.
Sydney: AU
BIGA, M.G. (1998), “The marriage of an Eblaite princes with a son of Nagar’s king,”, Subartu 4(2), 17-22
BLACK, J. A. , Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory, p. 26 , Studio Pohl: Series Maior 12
DYAKONOV, I. M. (1985), Znaçeniye Eblı Dlya İstorii i Yazıkoznaniya Drevnaya Ebla, Moscow: RUI
DYAKONOV, I.M. (1983), Praistorii Armyanskogo Yazıka, İstoriko-Filologiçeskiy Jurnala AN. Arm. SSR, no.
3, Yerevan 1983
HOROWITZ, W.(2011), Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography
PUHVEL, J.(1984), Hittite Etymological Dictionary Vol. 1-2, p. 153
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Ummān-manda and its Significance in the First Millennium The marriage of an Eblaite princes with a son of Nagar's king
  • S F B C D Ph
  • U Thesis
  • Sydney
  • M G Au Biga
ADALI, S. F. (2009), Ummān-manda and its Significance in the First Millennium B.C., Ph.D. Thesis, U. Sydney: AU BIGA, M.G. (1998), " The marriage of an Eblaite princes with a son of Nagar's king, ", Subartu 4(2), 17-22 BLACK, J. A., Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory, p. 26, Studio Pohl: Series Maior 12
Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory
  • J A Black
BLACK, J. A., Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory, p. 26, Studio Pohl: Series Maior 12
Znaçeniye Eblı Dlya İstorii i Yazıkoznaniya Drevnaya Ebla
  • I M Dyakonov
DYAKONOV, I. M. (1985), Znaçeniye Eblı Dlya İstorii i Yazıkoznaniya Drevnaya Ebla, Moscow: RUI DYAKONOV, I.M. (1983), Praistorii Armyanskogo Yazıka, İstoriko-Filologiçeskiy Jurnala AN. Arm. SSR, no. 3, Yerevan 1983
Ummān-manda and its Significance in the First Millennium B.C
  • S F Adali
ADALI, S. F. (2009), Ummān-manda and its Significance in the First Millennium B.C., Ph.D. Thesis, U. Sydney: AU BIGA, M.G. (1998), "The marriage of an Eblaite princes with a son of Nagar's king,", Subartu 4(2), 17-22