So we know that the noun "Afghan" is preferred over "Afghani" when it comes to describing the people of Afghanistan, but what's the scoop for using it as an adjective? For example, is saying an "Afghani carpet" incorrect, offensive, both or neither, as opposed to an "Afghan carpet"?

Context: A rather lively debate on Travel.SE about whether using the term "Afghani passport" in a newspaper article is a mark of cluelessness.

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    Any proper noun can be used as an adjective in English. If you're interested in whether the form Afghani is offensive, you'd do better asking an English-speaking Afghan and listening to what they tell you. They are, after all, the people whom you are concerned about offending, right? Why would anyone but an Afghan take offense about uses of the word Afghani in English? Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 16:54
  • Note that whatever the correct words are in English or Dari, without knowing the cultural situation, it would be natural to use 'Afghan' as a noun or adjective, but also not strange to use 'Afghani' for a person (on analogy with other Middle Eastern toponyms like Omani, Iraqi, Kuwaiti). But the real answer should be what people from Afghanistan are comfortable with in English.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 22:36
  • I wonder if this is a little like the word Scotch which at one time was to Scotland as Dutch is to Holland, but now refers only to whisky, the word Scottish having superseded it for all other purposes.,
    – davidlol
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 22:46
  • The question you link to ('"Afghan is preferred over "Afghani"') does not seem at all decisive
    – Unrelated
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 19:52

4 Answers 4


The term Afghan is both the noun (for people and things) and the adjective in Dari (the variety of Persian used in Afghanistan. The term afghani is a separate noun, referring to a small unit of currency.

We have evidence in English from usage much earlier than the events of post-1978 showing Afghan as both a noun and an adjective, e.g. Afghan carpet, Afghan hound, and a knitted or crocheted Afghan (lap blanket), thanks to contacts between the Raj (British colonists of the Subcontinent) and Afghans.

I am frustrated when I hear academics using afghani as a noun (other than to mention the coin) and adjective with their students, thus perpetrating the error.


I had cultural sensitivity training for work in Afghanistan. I was taught that Afghan is the word you are looking for. It describes a person or thing from Afghanistan. Afghani is the money.

The Afghan rug cost me 500 Afghani.


The CIA world factbook gives Afghan. There's a Slate article here that gives more on the topic. Afghan is definitely the correct word.

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    Both the CIA world factbook are about calling people "Afghanis", but I'm asking about using it as an adjective, eg. "Afghani passport". Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 4:57

Several decent sites I have found suggest that, for example, "an Afghan family" is widely preferred to "an Afghani family." But 1) I don't use this word much, and 2) this usage seems contrary to other terms such as Hindustani or Uzbekistani. So pardon me if I have to stop and think.


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