Oriental rug definitions

When purchasing a rug, It can be very confusing and overwhelming when you don’t know what you are looking for.  As part of our commitment to making your shopping experience as simple and easy as possible.  We have included key vocabulary in relation to oriental rugs and the regions around the globe where they are produced.


ABRASH:  This is the variegated quality in new rugs that are woven with hand-spun wool and vegetable dyes when the wool is dyed at different depths of the same color.

AFGHAN WAR RUG:  A rug depicting a war scene or implications of the current situation and sometimes village scenes or maps of Afghanistan, first noted after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  These rugs were initially rejected by American dealers as they did not fit into any known reference point.

AKSTAFA or AKSTAFA PEACOCK DESIGN: A tribal rug design depicting a stick figure bird with illustrious long tail feathers. Currently found on new rugs with Caucasian based motifs (Kazaks) or antique pieces from the Caucasus or Turkey.

BIJAR: A town in NW Iran (including the surrounding villages) where the rugs of this name are found. Bijar rugs are woven by Kurdish weavers with an incredible originality and variation in the designs created. Bijar rugs are renown for their durability and have been nicknamed, “The iron rugs of Iran”.

BOTEH: The small tear drop design that you see in Paisley.

CHINESE RUG: Sometimes the term “Chino” will be on the label of a rug produced in China.

CITY RUG or WORKSHOP RUG: Denotes a finely woven rug which is produced in workshop facilities with a master weaver ensuring perfect renditions of specific patterns and standards. These rugs are woven with the design or pattern created by the weaver following a “cartoon” which has been carefully drawn down to the exact knot count and each color thereof.

DOBAG:  Natural Dye Research and Development Project, Turkey.

ELEPHANT’S FOOT: Additional name for a large gul on Turkoman rugs originally coming from Ersari Turkoman weavers. Ersari Turkoman: One of the more prolific weaving groups of the Turkomans now settled in northern Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

GABBEH: This word means unfinished or unclipped and originally referred to simple, whimsical rugs that the weavers kept for themselves and sometimes used for sleeping. Originally Gabbehs had very long pile and up to 5 or 6 rows of wefts. With this many wefts, the rug could be produced very quickly.

GHANZI: City in E Afghanistan, SW of Kabul, known for producing silky, beautiful wool.

GUL: This term come from a Persian word meaning flower. It is a geometric design element, octagon in shape, usually set in rows and associated with Turkoman rugs.

HERIZ, HEREZ: A town in the Azarbaijan Province of Iran where these rugs were originally woven. The most frequent Herez layout has a geometric based medallion design, almost squarish in nature. The colors most often seen are reds, blues, ivory with small increments of gold. The look of the Heriz rug is tribal in nature as these rugs were originally woven with hand-spun wool and vegetable dyes.

KAZAK: A general term currently being used in the rug world to describe rugs woven with design elements from the Caucasus. Originally this term was reserved for a specific antique Caucasian rug.

KHAMSEH: 1) Persian tribal affiliation, Fars Province, SW Iran. Confederation of 5 nomadic tribes that originally came together to fight the Qashqai. [The root of this word comes from an Arabic word meaning 5.] Current production of vegetable dyed tribal rugs from this area of Iran are woven with fantastic hand-spun Persian wool in traditional designs.

KILIM or KELIM: A flat woven rug composed only of warps and wefts with no knots being tied.

MOTIF: A decorative design or pattern.

NOMAD or NOMADIC: A member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.

PILE: The actual fabric of the rug. The pile is composed of threads emanating from the knots tied around the two warps at the base of the rug. The pile shows the design and IS what you are walking on when you travel across your rug. The pile can be trimmed quite short or left long or anything in between. On tightly woven rugs it will be cut shorter so as to see the details of the design and colors.

QASHQAI: A tribal confederacy generally associated with the Fars province in Iran. According to one reference, the majority of Qashqai were decedents of Turkoman peoples. Formerly nomadic, many Qashqai are now settled in small villages in southwest Iran. Their antique rugs are highly sought after and their new vegetable dyed rugs, including Gabbehs, are superlative.

SULTANABAD: Former name of the city of Arak in West Central Iran. Sultanabad and the surrounding area was known for abundant workshop production in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The most famous producer in this location was the Ziegler firm which produced Ziegler Mahals. The most easily recognizable Sultanabad design is an overall floral motiff (no medallion) with a traditional Persian border.

TABRIZ: 1) A city in Iran known for its finely woven workshop rugs with intricate, detailed designs, often using both wool and silk in the pile. 2) An Oriental rug woven in Tabriz.

TRIBAL RUG: A rug woven by nomadic or pastoral people based on traditional motifs woven with hand-spun wool. Tribal rugs were originally woven on wooden looms set up on the ground to be dismantled and reassembled while traveling. Normally a tribal rug will have a lower knot count and a geometric pattern verses the tightly woven symmetrical floral styles usually found in rugs produced in the larger cities.

VILLAGE RUG: Rugs woven in villages settled by former nomadic or pastoral tribal peoples. Village rugs and tribal rugs would be included in one group verses city rugs or workshop rugs at the other end of the spectrum.

WARP: Vertical threads that are set up on the loom as the first step in creating a hand woven rug. If the loom is not upright but on the ground, these threads run top to bottom or lengthwise. The knots are tied around the two warps so the warp is part of the foundation of the rug.

WEFT: Threads that are inserted running horizontally (side to side) after a row of knots have been tied. These wefts work to hold the knots in place. A rug can have one, two, three or more wefts depending on the type of rug or location where it is being made.