Iran derives directly from
Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at
Rustam Relief, with the accompanying
Parthian inscription using the term Aryān, in reference to
Middle Iranian ērān and aryān are oblique plural forms of
gentilic ēr- (Middle Persian) and ary- (Parthian), both deriving from
Proto-Iranian *arya- (meaning "
Aryan", i.e. "of the Iranians"),
 argued to descend from
Proto-Indo-European *ar-yo-, meaning "skillful assembler".
 In the
Iranian languages, the gentilic is attested as a self-identifier included in ancient inscriptions and the literature of
[a] and remains also in other Iranian ethnic names such as
Ossetic: Ир – Ir) and
Ossetic: Ирон – Iron).
Historically, Iran has been referred to as Persia by
the West, due mainly to the writings of
Greek historians who called Iran Persis (
 meaning "land of the
Persians". As the most extensive interactions the
Ancient Greeks had with any outsider was with the Persians, the term persisted, even long after the Persian rule in
Old Persian: Pārśa;
Modern Persian: Pārse) was originally referred to a region settled by Persians in the west shore of
Lake Urmia, in the ninth century BC. The settlement was then shifted to the southern end of the
Zagros Mountains, and is today defined as
Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, Iran. As the
New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in
Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year,
Nowruz, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and Professor
Ehsan Yarshater, editor of
Encyclopædia Iranica, propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably.
 Today, both Persia and Iran are used in cultural contexts; although, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts.
Historical and cultural usage of the word Iran is not restricted to the modern state proper.
Greater Iran" (Irānzamīn or Irān e Bozorg)
 refers to territories of the Iranian cultural and linguistic zones. In addition to modern Iran, it includes portions of the
The Persian pronunciation of Iran is
[ʔiːˈɾɒːn]. Two common pronunciations of Iran in English are roughly “ih-RAHN” and “ih-RANN” which are listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as /ɪˈrɑːn/ and /ɪˈran/,
 Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary as \i-ˈrän, -ˈran; ī-ˈran\,
 and the Random House Dictionary as /i-ran', i-rän', ī-ran'/. The Cambridge Dictionary lists /ɪˈrɑːn/ as UK pronunciation and /ɪˈræn/ as US pronunciation. Other dictionary is the Collins Dictionary that lists the pronunciation as /ɪˈrɑːn/. The pronunciation guide from the
Voice of America provides the pronunciation of Iran as /ih-RAHN/.
 The pronunciation / or /eye-RANN/ is sometimes heard in U.S. media. According to an article in
The Washington Post,
 the correct pronunciation of Iran is /ee-RON/ while /EYE-ran/ is listed as the incorrect pronunciation.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language in the dictionary's 2014 Usage Ballot addressed the topic of the pronunciations of Iran and Iraq.
 According to this study, among three pronunciations for Iran in American English i.e. roughly “ih-RAHN,” “ih-RANN,” and “eye-RANN”, first two pronunciations were almost equally acceptable while “ih-RAHN” being the preferred pronunciation for most panelists participating in the ballot by more than four to one. With regard to the “eye-RANN” pronunciations, however, more than 70% of the Panelists deemed “eye-RANN” unacceptable. Among the reasons given by those Panelists who disapprove of “eye-RANN” were that it has “hawkish connotations” and sounds “angrier,” “xenophobic,” “ignorant,” and “not … cosmopolitan.”