Of uncertain origin. Iranian (Sogdian) or Indo-Iranian tarkāna (“judgment”), Mongolic darxan (“blacksmith; man exempt from taxes and obligations”), and Turkic tarxan (“man exempt from taxes and civil service”) have all been suggested as possible sources, but the irregularity of the plural in the Turkic languages suggests it was borrowed into, not from, them. A relationship to Middle Korean tarku-, tarho- (“to heat (a piece of iron); to deal with”) has also been proposed. See Wikipedia's article for more.
Another possibility also includes a derivation from Mongolian [script needed] (tar, dar, “ironmaster, blacksmith; to disperse, divide up, spread”) via Middle Mongolian [script needed] (tara, “scattered”) or [script needed] (tarxa-, “be scattered”), ultimately from Proto-Mongolic *tara-, *tarka- (“to disperse, scatter”), possibly from Proto-Altaic *t`ájri (“to scatter, disperse”). The Mongolic form was probably not borrowed from Turkic; the Old Turkic form is tar-, while modern Kypchak forms like tara-, tarqa- are most likely borrowed from Mongolian. The original Turkic derivative form is preserved as *dar- (“to go apart, scatter, spread; to branch, be forked; branch; claw; finger”), possibly rooted in Proto-Altaic *tā̀ro (“to stretch, spread”).
Since at least the late 1800s, British researchers have suggested that tarkhan / tarqan and the Etruscan personal name Tarquin / Tarquinius might be cognate.
tarkhan (plural tarkhans)
- (historical) An ancient Central Asian title used by various Turkic (Hunnic, Xiongnu, Khazar), Mongolic and Indo-European (Scythian and Tokharian) peoples, especially in the medieval era, and prominently among the successors of the Mongol Empire; it generally conferred exemption from taxation.
2007 May 6, Michael Chabon, “‘Gentlemen of the Road’”, New York Times:
- The tarkhan, leader of the Khazar army, meets Amram, Zelikman and a green-eyed young person who claims to be Alp, the brother of Filaq.
1980, Manfred Späth, “Beiträge zur 4. Internationalen Konferenz über Altrussische Geschichte. Begunov, "Weisse Rus".”, page 164:
- Already by the time of Genghis Khan, tarkhans were exempt from taxes and various economic services; they later became a privileged estate or class. In the Kazanian society, the tarkhans constituted a privileged, landowning, and conditionally hereditary nobility which was exempted from taxes and most other obligations.
- *dar-, *tara-, *tarka- Sergei Starostin, Vladimir Dybo, Oleg Mudrak (2003), Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers
- Han-Woo Choi, A Study of the Ancient Turkic "TARQAN", Handong University
- Dimitri Theodoridis in: Lars M. Hoffmann, Anuscha Monchizadeh, Zwischen Polis, Provinz und Peripherie: Beiträge Zur Byzantinischen Geschichte und Kultur, Tarhānīyāt, Otto Harrassowitz, 2005, pp.378
- Lars M. Hoffmann, Anuscha Monchizadeh, Zwischen Polis, Provinz und Peripherie: Beiträge Zur Byzantinischen Geschichte und Kultur, chapt: Tarhānīyāt, by Dimitri Theodoridis, Otto Harrassowitz, 2005, pp.378. Quote: "Es darf in diesem Zusammenhang nicht außer acht gelassen werden, dass britische Forscher die kühne Behauptung aufgestellt haben, wonach das Wort tarxan und der etruskische Personenname Tarquinus auf ein und dassselbe Etymon zurückzuführen wären." References: (see below)
- H. Beveridge, The Mongol title tarkhan, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1917), p.834:
- "And I do not suppose that there can be any doubt that the names Tarchon, Tarquin and Tarkhan are identical."
- F. W. Thomas, Tarkhan and Tarquinus, in: Ebenda (1918), pp.122-123; and H. Beveridge, pp.314-316.