This glossary is by no means a comprehensive list. We will continue to add terms periodically as we continue developing this resource. Check back in regularly to learn new terms, or reach out to us if there is a term you would like to see defined!


Abrash [technical term] - a variation in color density caused by wool being dyed in small batches. This is an arbitrary process that can greatly enhance the beauty or value of a rug.

Examples of abrash in Persian Malayer, Veramin and Caucasian Shirvan Kilim


Afshar [rug, people] - the Afshar are a Turkic people who migrated from Central Asia to the Persian Plateau nearly a millennia ago. Over the centuries they became a powerful force in the Persian military. They become so powerful in fact, that they were viewed as a threat and dispersed by some of the later Safavid shahs. The immense range of designs and motifs found in Afshar rugs can be attributed to the tribe’s wide geographic spread.

Iranian Plateau map illustrating Afshar disaspora in between two antique Afshar rugs


Aniline [dye] - a term used to describe a whole range of synthetic dyes first created in the 1860s. The color tends to be very fugitive and can often run or fade over time.

Baluch [rug, people] - Baluch refers to a people that span from Eastern Persia, into Western Afghanistan and reaching throughout Pakistan and into the Punjab state of India. They are composed of many distinct groups that share common language, culture and customs. Traditionally they were mostly nomadic but currently many have adapted to settled life. Baluch rugs most commonly use a limited color palette of blue, red, brown and black, with ivory as an accent color.

Baluch Rugs and Map of NE Iran and NW Afghanistan


Block Print [textile, textile technique] - one of the earliest processes of textile printing that uses engraved wood blocks to transfer patterns to cloth.

Boteh [technical term] - one of the oldest and most common symbols, usually used to represent fertility. More commonly referred to as paisley in the West, it is likely derived from Persian and Indian design. The word boteh is derived from the Farsi word for ‘cluster of leaves’ or ‘bush’, and the shape has vague and ancient origins, with different hypotheses as to its original meaning. Some believe it to be a flame (relating to Zoroastrianism), others believe it to be a seed pod or almond, and still more believe it a simple curled leaf. Just as there are myriad interpretations for the meaning of the boteh, there are just as many ways the form is represented.

Caucasian and Kurdish Boteh Images and Illustration Paisley


Chyrpy [textile] - A long robe of embroidered silk worn by Tekke women for special occasions. They are worn over the head and shoulders with false, decorative sleeves.

Endless Knot [technical term] - One of eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism and Jainism. It represents Samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. In the decorative arts it can have many connotations including wisdom and longevity.

The Endless Knot featured on a Chinese Deco and vintage silk rug


Foo Dog [design element] - Chinese mythological beasts often referred to as guardian lions. They symbolize both protection as well as prosperity and success.

Gul [design element] - Translates to flower in Farsi (Persian) and can refer to variety of design elements from the rosettes on classical Persian rugs to the more abstract octagonal motifs prevalent on Turkmen weavings. 

Gul Farang [design element] - Translates to “foreign flower” in Farsi (Persian). Gul meaning flower and Farang (Farangi) meaning foreign (foreigner) which originates from the Frankish language. The design is an abstracted floral, reminiscent of european decorative motifs of the 19th century.

Hooked Rug [textile] - A type of rug traditionally made in New England and Maritime Canada. They are crafted by pulling yarn or repurposed fabric through a backing material using a hooked tool. 

Ikat [textile, technical term] - Translates from ‘to tie’ or ‘to bind’ in Malay and is a resist dyeing technique. This method of textile patterning involves tightly wrapping portions of warp thread with a resist material, before immersing it in a dye bath. It describes the dyeing technique as well as the finished fabric itself. It is practiced in many textile centers throughout the world but most famously in Indonesia and Uzbekistan.

Ikat weaving textile examples from Uzbekistan & Indonesia


small square embroideries created by Lakai & Kungrat girls to showcase their artistic talents. Traditionally part of a dowry to be displayed prominently in the home.

Indigo [dye] - a dyestuff derived from the leaves of indigo plants, which are most often soaked and fermented before being dried and ground into a powder. The color spectrum encompasses a wide range of blues. Evidence of indigo dyeing dates back to at least 6,000 years.

Janyak [textile] - an Armenian tradition of crafting small portable needle lace. The art form is commonly passed from mother to daughter.

Jufti Knot [technical term] - a pile-weaving technique where the knot can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. It refers to the knot being placed over four warp threads instead of two, which makes the work go faster, and results in a thicker knot.

Kantha [textile] - a Bengali folk tradition of embroidering textiles using recycled cloth. Traditionally, multiple scraps of white cotton cloth from old saris or dhotis (men's trousers) would be quilted together and artistically embroidered using a variety of stitches but most notably the running stitch.

Three images of Bangladeshi Nakshi Kantha textiles


Kelleghi [technical term] - a specific rug format that is long and narrow but wider than a classical runner. This size proportion has more traditionally been used in rug producing regions from North Africa to Central Asia and less so in the West. 

Khorjin [textile] - A double saddlebag traditionally used by pastoral nomads for storage during migration.  

Kilim [textile, textile term] - can refer to a variety of flatwoven textiles constructed of warp and weft threads and most often employ a tapestry technique.

Bidjar, Shirvan and Moroccan kilim details


Lac [dye] - an insect indigenous to Asia, Lacs are cultivated on local host trees. They secrete and cover themselves in a resin that used to make a dye that ranges from light pinks to deep scarletts. Lac resin is also widely used to make lacquer, shellac, and pigments for painting.

Laleh Abbassi (Medachyl) [design element] - Translated from Persian as “Tulip of Abbas” named after the Safavid Shah Abbas. This is a common border motif that is rendered as reciprocating trefoils in contrasting colors and usually utilized in the minor borders. Also known as dogtooth or Medachyl which means doorways.

Laleh Abbassi Caucasian & Persian rug border design


Madder [dye] - a dyestuff derived from the madder plant root, which is dried and ground into a powder. The color spectrum ranges from orange to red.

Madder dyed wool from Afghanistan Madder plant illustration Caucasian Sumac Rug


Mihrab [design element] - an architectural term that refers to the niche in the wall of the mosque (the qibla) to signal the direction of Mecca for the faithful. In prayer rugs the mihrab makes up the central motif. The mihrab represents the gateway to paradise; its upward reach suggests a progression towards illumination.

Keyseri and other Turkish Prayer Rugs and Agra Prayer Rug with the top of design, or mihrab detailed


Mina Khani Design [technical term] - One of the most prevalent Persian repeating designs after the Herati pattern. The pattern is prevalent everywhere from the urban centers of Tabriz and Veramin to Kurdish village rugs and Turkmen trappings. It consists of a few alternating types of blossoms, which are connected by a system of either vine or lattice work, with minor flowers and more vines filling in the empty space.

Mordant [dye] - a substance that allows the dye to permanently affix itself to the wool. Common mordants used are iron, alum, sodium chloride, and urine. Different combinations of mordants and dyes will create an infinite variety of colors and shades. Derived from the Latin mordere, to bite.

Oxidation [technical term] - A chemical reaction where a catalyst like oxygen interacts with elements like metals altering their composition. Oxidized metal is commonly known as "rust". Sometimes metals or metallic salts are utilized in the dye process to create specific tones. Over time these tones will oxidize or deteriorate faster than those surrounding them creating an interesting dimensionality.

Three examples of oxidation in antique rugs, Baluch, Ningxia & Turkish Maden



Palmette [design element] - a stylized flower or palm leaf used as a decorative element, notably in Persian rugs and in classical moldings, reliefs, frescoes, and vase paintings.

Persian Tabriz and Heriz examples of palmettes in rug design


Persian Knot [technical term] - pile weaving technique also known as the Senneh knot or asymmetrical knot. Yarn is looped around one warp thread and then passed behind the neighboring warp thread, then brought out to the front. This technique makes it possible to weave rugs with a higher knot density, allowing for finer and more detailed curvilinear designs.

Persian Laver Kerman as examples of a Persian or asymmetrical knot, also illustrated


Qashqa'i [rug, people] - The Qashqa’i are a Turkic people that reside primarily in southern Persia and have a long tradition as pastoral nomads. The quality of their wool and weaving culture is well regarded and their rugs highly sought after by collectors. Hundreds of thousands of Qashqa’i still complete the migration from summer to winter quarters each year.

Rya [rug] - Literally translates to rug in Swedish and is a traditional Scandinavian textile woven in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Originally intended as a bedding blanket, most Ryas have long shaggy piles.

Scandinavian Swedish Rya rugs


Rölakan [rug] - Traditional Swedish flatweave constructed using a double interlock tapestry technique. Originally intended to be displayed as bed and wall coverings.

Slip-loop Pile [technical term] - a pile-weaving technique most often associated with Tibetan weavers. Yarn is looped around the warp and gauge rod, and then onto the next bit of warp, gauge rod, warp gauge rod, etc. Once a whole row of pile is looped around the rod, the loops are cut all at once which allows for work to progress quickly. There are many variations to this technique, with the major variation resulting in rugs with fringes on all four sides.

Sofreh [rug] - refers to a cloth upon which food is served. Spreading the sofreh out is a sign of hospitality for guests. Traditionally used directly on the floor, sturdily woven textiles purpose made for this use can be found in weaving cultures from Anatolia to Central Asia.

Surmah [technical term] - named for the ancient eye makeup also known as Kohl, it has entered the rug lexicon as a term describing the deepest blue/black tones.

Karabagh, Kurdish and Senneh rugs with examples of deep blue/black surmah


Turkish Knot [technical term] - pile-weaving technique also known as the Ghiordes or symmetrical knot. Yarn is looped around two neighboring warp threads, then each end thread is looped around each warp thread and back out through the middle.

Kurdish rug, Turkish knot diagram illustration, Turkish Oushak rug


Turkmen [rug, people] - The Turkmen are a nomadic people of Central Asia who live primarily in Turkmenistan, Persia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Weaving is one of the primary aspects of Turkmen culture: the skill of weaving is both a valuable asset and respected profession. Their rugs utilize a distinct color palette with a field often dominated by a red to a reddish/brown or less commonly shades of purple. Turkmen weaving also has very distinct gul ornamentation and patterning as well as more strict graphical continuity than most other traditions.

Antique Tekke and Ersari rugs from Central Asia with Turkmen Guls on the Flag of Turkmenistan


Warp [technical term] - Yarn or thread arranged lengthways and held stationary by tension on a loom. It is crossed by the weft in order to construct a fabric.

Weft [technical term] - Yarn or thread woven widthways from side to side to fill the warp.