Assuming Ahasuerus is in fact Xerxes I (as Wikipedia seems to suggest), does anyone know how the general Jewish pronunciation of Ahasuerus — Achashverosh — compares to the Ancient Persian pronunciation of that name?

Ahasuerus Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahasuerus

Edit: I ask as it seems to be relevant to explain how Ahasuerus authorized the Megillah if his name wasn't written in the accepted Ancient Persian pronunciation of his name.

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    Although it's a fascinating question, but how does it connect to Judaism? Why is it relevant for the Persians how we pronounced this particular name? Feb 28 at 10:00
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    Names don't always get converted perfectly phonetically to other languages, put mildly. Queen Elizabeth I in Spanish is es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabel_I_de_Inglaterra ; in Italian she's it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabetta_I_d%27Inghilterra. (In the earlier days of the State of Israel, Q.E. II was "Elisheva.") Or how about "Ulysses and Odysseus", or "Ramesses" and "Ozymondias." Someone decided what his name would be in Hebrew, and everybody went along with it.
    – Shalom
    Feb 29 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


Only barely similar. The characters of 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 read "x-sh-y-a-r-sh-a". The "x" is a "kh" sound (as in IPA /x/), and vowels are written. So the transcription is something like "khshayarsha". That initial khsh is a mouthful for some but otherwise it's fairly straightforward, and the relation to Greek Ξέρξης shouldn't be too much of a stretch.

For the rest, this amateur linguist follows Wikipedia's etymology with some commentary and nontechnical pronunciation guide:

First the name gained an "a" at the front (I'm not sure why, since Babylonian doesn't seem to object to initial kh, maybe there's a grammatical cause), and then had the khsh cluster broken up (gaining another "a" in between), which leads to the "achash" beginning.

The "shaya" was mutated in series to "shiya", then "shiwa" (exchanging one glide for another), then "shwe" (losing the "i" again), and finally "shwe" becomes "shve" in modern Hebrew.

And for the ending, the vowel in "-ash" was lost (never much of a surprise in Semitic languages) and later regained as "-osh".

The endpoints of this process are connected by reasonable, more-or-less predictable, sound changes, but there are so many of them across the languages and the years that it's near-impossible to see the relation without following the individual steps.

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    Note also the alternate Hebrew spelling אחשרש (preserved in the written Masoretic version of the text in Esther 10:1) whose pronunciation may have been closer to the Persian.
    – Joel K
    Feb 28 at 7:58
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    Also, re ending -rash -rosh, the Masoretic spelling אחשורש preserved thrice in Esther, @JoelK
    – Double AA
    Feb 28 at 12:02
  • More likely: a- is epenthetic because of consonant cluster khsh (as in אֶזְרוֹעַ Jer. 32:21 although apparently the epenthetic a- was already present in some Babylonian versions of the name), then akhsha > akhash by metathesis (compare נֶעֶרְמוּ instead of נֶעְרְמוּ Ex. 15:8) and possibly by analogy to אֲחַשְׁתְּרָנִים and אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנִים. y > w apparently from a Babylonian version of the name. The vowel change in the last two syllables might be by dissimilation (as in רִאשׁוֹן from רֹאשׁ) but that doesn't fully explain it.
    – b a
    Feb 28 at 14:01
  • The "-a" at the end, how was it likely dropped?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 28 at 15:09

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