At the advent of Islam, the major Persian/Iranian empire at the time was conquered by Arabs. The Iranians would call their Arab enemies "tāži" (in fact, the term "tāzi" is still known in Iran as an ethnic slur against Arabs). The origin of the word is believed to have stemmed from the Arabic tribe "ṭāʼī" (طائی). Iranians who embraced Islam and became Muslim were similarly referred to as "tāži", meaning someone who turned Arab.
Eventually Muslims began to conquered Central Asia, then taken over and ruled by non-Muslim Turkic peoples. These Turks learned the word "tāži" and took to referring to the Muslims as "tājik", in accordance to their accent. It just so happened that the Muslims were overwhelmingly Iranian, and so the meaning of "tājik" shifted away from meaning Muslim, but was then understood to mean "Iranian". The Turkic people themselves eventually became Muslim as well, but "turku tājik" became crystallized as symbolizing the cultural rivalry between Turks and Iranians.
Tajik (plural Tajiks)
- A person from Tajikistan or of Tajik descent.
- Wiktionary's coverage of Tajik terms
- Appendix:Tajik Swadesh list for a Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words in Tajik
- Wikipedia article on the Tajiki-Persian language
Tajik (not comparable)
- Of, from, or pertaining to Tajikistan, the Tajik people (living in Tajikistan and Afghanistan) or the Tajiki dialect of Persian.
Refers to ethnicity, not nationality. Compare Tajikistani (“inhabitant of nation of Tajikistan; pertaining to Tajikistan”).