Numerous noted scholars say that the name Afghan evidently derives from Sanskrit Ashvaka or Ashvakan, the Assakenoi of Arrian. This view was propounded by scholars like Dr Christian Lassen, Dr J. W. McCrindle, M. V. de Saint Martin, Élisée Reclus etc. In Sanskrit, word ashva (Iranian aspa, Prakrit assa) means "horse", and ashvaka (Prakrit assaka) means "horseman" , "horse people" as well as "horse breeders". Pre-Christian times knew the people of eastern Afghanistan as Ashvakas (horsemen), since they raised a fine breed of horses and had a reputation for providing expert cavalrymen.
The fifth-century-BCE Indian grammarian Panini calls them Ashvakayana and Ashvayana respectively . By the time of Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira (6th century A.D), Ashvakayana of Panini or the Ashvaka(na) of Mahabharata got transmuted to Avagānā , the 0-po-kien or A-po-kien of Yuan Chwang which term Alexander Cunningham and other sholars identify with name of Afghan . Classical writers, however, use the respective equivalents Aspasioi (or Aspasii, Hippasii) and Assakenoi (or Assaceni/Assacani, Asscenus) etc. From the 3rd century, when the Kushano-Sassanian civilization rose, we meet on the term Abagân. Persian Abagan is same as Sanskrit Avagan (Avagana) referred to in the Brhat Samhita by Varaha Mihira.
One of the most ancient names, according to historians and scholars, was Ariana - the Greek pronunciation of the ancient Avestan Aryānām Vaejā, Old Persian Aryānām or the Sanskrit "Aryavarta"(which included Whole of India and Afghanisthan) Realm of the Aryans. Today this Old-Persian, and Avestan expression is preserved in the name Iran and it is noted in the name of the Afghan national airlines, Ariana Airlines. The term Aryānā Afghānistān is still popular amongst Persian speakers in the country.
Large parts of the region were known as Khorasan, and hence present-day Afghanistan along with regions centered around Merv and Neishabur was recognized with the name Persian: خrs: Xorâsân which in Pahlavi means "Land of the Rising Sun". In the Persian literature modern Afghanistan is mentioned as well as Erân-e Xorâsâni or Xorâsân-e Erâni or Xorâsân-e Kabir (Greater Khorasan) or Xâvar-e Erân (East of Iran).Pashtun or Afghan
The Greek historian Herodotus mentioned a people called Pactyans, living on the eastern frontier of the Persian Satrapy Arachosia as early as the 1st century BCE, but it remains unknown as to what connection they have with Pashtuns. Similarly, the Rig-Veda mentions a tribe called the Pakthas inhabiting eastern Afghanistan and some academics have proposed a connection with modern Pashtuns, but this too remains speculative. Another ancient people proposed as ancestors of the Pashtuns are the Bactrians who spoke a similar Middle Iranian language. Pashtuns are also historically referred to as ethnic Afghans, as the terms Pashtun and Afghan were synonymous until the advent of modern Afghanistan and the division of the Pashtuns by the Durand Line which is a border drawn by the British in the late 19th century. According to V. Minorsky, W.K. Frazier Tyler, M.C. Gillet and several other scholars, "The word Afghan first appears in history in the Hudud-al-Alam in 982 CE."It was used by the Pashtuns and refers to a common legendary ancestor known as Afghana.17th century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak
“ Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashton and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtons, Pashtons are Afghans“
- On hearing about the new faith of Islam, Qais from Aryana travelled to Medina to see Muhammad, and returned to Aryana as a Muslim. Qais Abdur Rashid purportedly had many sons, one of whom was Afghana. Afghana, in turn, had four sons who set out to the east to establish their separate lineages. The first son went to Swat, the second to Lahore , the third to Multan, and the last one to Quetta. This legend is one of many traditional tales amongst the Pashtuns regarding their disparate origins. Again, it was this legendary Afghana who is stated to have given the Pushtuns their current name. It is notable that the Afghan of this legend is separated from the Afghana of Solomon's times by at least 11 centuries.
- The "Makhzan-e Afghān" by Nematullah, written in 1612 CE at the Mughal court in India, traces the Afghan or Pakhtun origin from Abraham. It states that King Saul had a son Irmia (Jeremia), who had a son called Afghana. Upon the death of King Saul, Afghana was raised up by King David, and was later promoted to the chief command of the army during the reign of King Solomon. The progeny of this Afghana multiplied numerously, and came to be called Bani-Israel. In the sixth century BCE, Bakhtunnasar, or Nebuchadnezzar king of Babil, attacked Judah and exiled the progeny of Afghana to Ghor located in the center of what is now Afghanistan. In course of time, the exiled community came to be addressed as Afghan after the name of their ancestor, and the country got its name as Afghanistan. This view however has no historical records.
- H. W. Bellew, in his book An Enquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan, believes that the name Afghan derives from the Latin term Alban, used by Armenians as Alvan or Alwan, which refers to mountaineers, and in the case of transliterated Armenian characters, would be pronounced as Aghvan or Aghwan. To the Persians, this would further be altered to Aoghan, Avghan, and Afghan as a reference to the highlanders or "mountaineers" of the eastern Iranian plateau.
- There are also a few people who tend to link "Afghan" to an Uzbek word "Avagan" said to mean "original".
- By another authority, the name Afghan is said to mean wailing which the Persians are said to have contemptuously used for their plaintive eastern neighbors.
The Taliban used the phrase "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" to refer to their country. Between the fall of the Taliban after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 Loya jirga, Afghanistan was referred to by the Government of the United States as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan. Under its new constitution, the country is now officially named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The term "Afghanistan", meaning the "Land of Afghans", was mentioned by the sixteenth century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs, referring to the territories of Peshawar-Valley (Kohistan) that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans" by Babur). ...“Don't call it Kohistan, but Afghanistan; for there is nothing there but Afghans and disturbances.” Thus it is clear that for this reason the people of the country call their home in their own language Afghanistan, and themselves Afghans. The people of India call them Pathān; but the reason for this is not known.