What Is the Difference Between the Words "Iranian" and "Persian"?

There is no difference between the words “Iranian” and “Persian.” Individuals use them interchangeably to refer to the same group of people. Similarly, the names “Iran” and “Persia” both refer to one country, but this is not entirely accurate. Historically, Iran consisted of kingdoms that correspond to modern-day provinces. The kingdom of Pars became known as Persia in the West. Therefore, referring interchangeably to Iran as “Persia” is similar to referring to the United Kingdom as “England.”

The name “Iran,” which means “Persia” in Farsi , became popular in 1935 at the behest of the Persian government. Under the influence of Nazi propaganda, the Persian ambassador to Germany first introduced the idea of a name change. This was to signal a new beginning in a country that had recently become free from the shackles of British and Russian influences. The name change was to mark the beginning of a new era in Persian history, and to acknowledge the Aryan connection of its population; Iran is a derivation of the word “Aryan.”

Flattery and an appeal to history swayed the government, and the Persian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that the country be known as Iran. Out of courtesy, the diplomatic corps obliged, and the name Iran soon appeared regularly in official communications and press releases.