What “naked” and “naan” have in common

The word “naan” (which refers to a kind of oven baked bread used in Central and South Asia) is a borrowing from Middle Persian “nān”, which itself comes from Proto Iranian *nagna, and this word is descended from Proto Indo European root *negʷ-

This root gave us *nakwadaz in Proto Germanic which eventually became “naked” in Modern English. So “naan” and “naked” actually have a common ancestor! This happens all the time with words. A certain sense of the word becomes prevalent, and takes over from a previous meaning. “naan” was baked while sitting open (and thus naked) on top of coals in a fire and this description of a naked food (as opposed that was cooked by covering it with coals) eventually began to be used as the name of the food itself.

Leave a Reply