Throughout history, different nations and civilizations have used various names to refer to Armenia and its people, reflecting the cultural interactions and geopolitical changes of the time.
- Sumerians (around 2800 BC): The Sumerians referred to Armenia as Aratta, and they called the god of the Armenians Haya.
- Akkadians (second half of the third millennium BC): The Akkadians replaced the Sumerians and used the names Armani or Armanum for Armenia.
- Hittites (second millennium BC): The Hittites used the names Hayas and Armatan to designate Armenia.
- Assyrians (second half of the second millennium BC): The Assyrians called Armenia Uruatri or Urartu, and they referred to the region as Armi, which is associated with the biblical name Ararat.
- Persians: The Persians referred to the region as Arminia.
- Elamites: The Elamites, an ancient pre-Iranian civilization, called the region Harminuya.
- Egyptians: The Egyptians used the name Ermenen for Armenia.
The Hittite inscriptions deciphered in the 1920s by Swiss scientist Emil Forrer, German archaeologist, and historian Hugo Winckler, and Czech orientalist and linguist Bedřich Hrozný (not “Bedrich the Terrible”) indeed provide evidence of the ancient kingdom of Hayasa. Located in the mountainous region around Lake Van on the Armenian Highlands, Hayasa dates back to the Late Bronze Age (approximately 14th-13th century BC).
The name Hayasa can be broken down into two parts: Haya and -sa. The -sa suffix is similar to the modern Armenian suffix -stan in the name Hayastan. This linguistic connection is an important aspect of the continuity of the Armenian identity and culture throughout history.
The ancient Greeks were also familiar with the region and its people. Greek authors wrote about the Armenians as “hayer” (or Άρμενοί, “Armenoi” in Greek). The Greeks’ knowledge of Hayasa and the Hayer people demonstrates that the Armenian identity and culture were well-established and recognized by other civilizations in the ancient world.
The Armenian people’s self-identification is indeed closely connected to the name of the deity HAY(a)/HAY(a), who was revered as the Creator of the Cosmos. The origins of the name HAY(HAY) can be traced back to the Neolithic era and the early veneration of the Mother Goddess cult, with some scholars suggesting that the name HAY(a)/HAY(a) is derived from the original root AY(AY) or AYA(AYA).
The god HAYA-EA was also worshipped in Mesopotamia, specifically in the Sumerian culture around 2800 BC. The god HAY(a)/HAY(a), referred to as the “God of Wisdom” and the “God of Cosmic Water,” is mentioned in Sumerian inscriptions from that period. The Akkadians, who succeeded the Sumerians, revered this god as well, calling him ENKI.
The city of Ebla, an ancient city in modern-day Syria, also contains inscriptions dating back to around 2600 BC that reference both the deity and the people called “AY,” who lived in the Armenian Highlands. This further highlights the historical connections between the Armenian people and the deity HAY(a)/HAY(a) throughout the region.
In Armenian mythology, the name Hay is also associated with Hayk, who is traditionally considered the patriarch of the Armenian people. Medieval historians, including the prominent Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, recount the story of Hayk in their records. According to legend, Hayk was a divine descendant of the primordial God HAY(a)/HAY(a) and led the Armenians to victory against the tyrant Bel (or Belus) of Babylon. This victory established the freedom and independence of the Armenian people and solidified Hayk as a symbol of Armenian national identity.
The connection between the ancient kingdom of Hayasa, the mythical figure of Hayk, and the primordial god HAY(a)/HAY(a) highlights the deep historical and cultural roots of Armenian identity. These elements have shaped the collective memory and identity of the Armenian people throughout history.
The name “Armenian” carries significant meaning and is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Armenian people. It is composed of several elements:
- The sacred root “Ar”: This root is associated with the Creator, the Sun, or the god Ara/Arar(ich), who was widely worshipped among ancient Armenians.
- The root “men”: In Proto-Indo-European, this root simply means “person” or “people.”
- The suffix “yan” or “ian”: This suffix means “from” or “of” and is commonly used in Armenian surnames to denote ancestry or origin.
Putting these elements together, the name “Armenian” essentially means “people of Ar” or “people from Ar,” emphasizing the connection to the god Ara/Arar(ich) and the concept of creation.
Many geographical names, including the modern capital Yerevan (originally Erebuni or Erevan), contain the sacred root “Ar.” This root is also present in words like “ari,” which means “courageous” in Armenian.
The use of the root “men” to denote people or nations is also found in other contexts, such as in the names of Central Asian Turkic tribes (Turkmen) and in English terms like Frenchman, Chinaman, and Englishman.
The archaic Armenian word “man” (UK) meaning “Male” also carries the original meaning of “man,” with the plural form representing “people.” This connection further emphasizes the deep cultural and linguistic roots of the Armenian identity.
The “yan” (or “ian”) ends in the word “Armenian” and many Armenian surnames signify “offspring” or “from.” This suffix is used in many Indo-European languages and can be found in terms describing nations, concepts, or belonging.
Examples of this usage can be found in the names of various peoples, such as Norwegians, Romanians, and Belgians, where the endings “ian” or “yan” signifies a sense of belonging or origin.
In English, the ending “ian” is also used to indicate a sense of belonging or origin. For instance, the terms “Jeffersonian” (relating to Thomas Jefferson or his ideas) and “Clintonian” (relating to Bill or Hillary Clinton or their ideas) convey this sense of connection or origin.
Armenian surnames often preserve the archaic “yan” or “ian” ending, indicating a sense of origin or lineage. Examples include Arayan (meaning “from Ara” or “descendant of Ara”) and Nahapetyan (meaning “from Nahapet” or “descendant of Nahapet”). This naming convention emphasizes the importance of ancestry and heritage in Armenian culture.
Vigen Avetisyan, based on the article by Alexander Bakulin: Название Армении и армян в разное время