Pashto Language Blog

What Does the Word Ghairat Really Mean in Pashto? Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Culture


You might be wondering why we are introducing to you a single word in this post. Well, the short answer is because it is very important to know this word if you want to know more about Afghans. Understanding the meaning associated with this word will enable you to understand the issue of honor in Afghan society. By simply giving you the dictionary meaning of this word, we will be leaving out many concepts that this word is associated with in Afghan society.

When talking about Ghairat, it is usually translated as “honor” into English, however, honor which is another very important concept to be learned about Afghan society is Ezat (عزت). These two concepts can be very much connected and they both can be gained by doing similar, or sometimes the same things in Afghan society, but still they are two separate concepts.

Ghairat is primarily surrounded around the protection and control of women in a nuclear family, or in an extended family, or even sometimes in a clan or tribe. So, the protection and control of female members of the family, the protection of other members of the family which includes the extended family and sometimes even the clan, the protection of one’s property, rising against oppression, defending the powerless, fighting for your rights, and in some cases taking revenge constitutes a person’s Ghairat.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to understand the definition above. Suppose a female member of an Afghan family decides that she wants to be a fashion model. The other members of the family, especially the male, members of the family do not agree with her and does not allow her because it is not acceptable in the society and will bring shame on the family, but she doesn’t care and becomes a model. In this case she has damaged the Ghairat of the male members of the family and in order for them to be considered people-with-Ghairat, they need to stop her and punish her, and otherwise it affects their status in the society. Similarly if someone oppresses you, and you don’t defend yourself while you can, then you are considered someone without Ghairat.

These are the major issues surrounding Ghairat, but there are many other things that can affect one’s Ghairat and honor in the Afghan society. For instance, not working very hard to provide for one’s family, mistreating one’s parents, fighting with women, mistreating a guest, not keeping your words, and there are many other little things that can affect one’s Ghairat. It is determined by the people of the society how much Ghairat someone has.

In Afghan culture, to tell someone that he/she does not have Ghairat is considered one of the biggest insults. If one doesn’t have Ghairat in Afghan society one will not be considered honorable; and if he/she is not honorable in this society, he/she could be alienated by most of the members and life can become very hard.

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About the Author: Sayed Naqibullah

Sayed Naqibullah speaks Pashto and Dari as his native languages. Since 2004 he has been teaching Dari and Pashto and working as cultrual advisor to NGO workers, foreigners who live, work, or are visiting Afghanistan. Sayed has worked as a linguist for several companies that produce language course-ware. He has worked as a guide, interpreter and translator of a number of NGOs working in Afghanistan. Sayed is also a blog writer on Afghan culture and languages. He is the author of a Dari language textbook called “Dari as a Second Language”.


  1. kimball:

    So it is like “face”, have face – lose face – regain face!?

  2. Farhad:

    Is there a word in English for this? I cannot seem to find it. Being an Afghan this word is so important to me, it drives me insane sometimes. It is in my blood since I was a kid. I would hate my mother wearing inappropriate clothes and we would get into fights. Now my wife, it is the same story. She thinks I’m insecure. To put it in simple terms I do not want someone else looking at female members of my household inappropriately. There’s no cure for this because I had it since I was like 12 yrs old. In terms of charity and handouts I will never except it. I rather work hard and never lose my ghiryat to take care of my family. This word runs my life but I cannot find an equivalent word for it.