Oriental Rug Glossary

Persian Knot

Also called Senneh knot or asymmetrical rug knot. While sometimes called a Senneh knot, it should be noted that Senneh rugs use the symmetrical or Turkish knot.  The knotting pictured shows the rug knots opening to the left.  This is the most common style of Senneh knotting. Few Oriental rugs have the asymmetrical knot opening to the right.  This Senneh knot is found in many Persian workshop Oriental rugs such as those from Kashan, Qum, Kerman, Nain.

Turkish Knot

Also called Giordes knot or symmetrical rug knot. Found in Tabriz Oriental rugs from Iran as well as in many village rugs such as Hamadans and Heriz rugs.


Rug Knots Diagram



The word used to describe the variations in color found within a single color in an Oriental rug.  It refers to the hue or color change found on many older rugs, particularly those rugs woven by nomad tribes.  While abrash is commonly seen in tribal nomadic rugs and in some modern Oriental rugs are intentionally woven with the color variation.  The variations in color are usually the result of inconsistent dyeing of the wool, or through the introduction of a new wool batch while weaving the carpet.  Generally some abash is desirable in tribal carpets and very undesirable in “city” carpets.


A Turkic speaking nomadic and settled people living mostly in southern Iran.  The Afshar make mostly small rugs and saddlebags, animal trappings.  Tones of deep blue, red, gold and ivory are most often encountered in Afshar rugs

All-over design

A term used to describe the pattern of rugs whose fields have no central medallion.  An even repeating design throughout the field.

Aniline dyes

Synthetic dyes first invented (discovered) in 1856 by William Perkins.  The term is now used to describe any synthetic dyes used in Oriental or Navajo rugs.

Antique Wash

A chemical or natural process that tones down colors and to simulate aging.


An ornate curving design of intertwined floral and vine figures often seen in intricate workshop rugs such as those from Isphahan, Tabriz, Nain and Qum.

Art Silk

Short for artificial silk, it is usually mercerized cotton, rayon or polyester that appears to be silk.  Oftentimes artificial silk rugs are sold as real silk.

Asymmetrical Knot

“Persian” of “Senneh” knot. A pile knotting technique where only one or the two warps is completely encircled.  See Oriental rug knots.


Fine flat carpets woven in France from the 15th to 19th Centuries.  A term used to describe modern rugs that use similar designs and colors.


The Bachtiari confederation is a large and powerful group, covering much of central and southwestern Iran.  Small rugs, saddlebags and trappings are woven by nomadic Bachtiaris, while large carpets are woven by the settled tribes people.  The most familiar pattern is the garden design consisting of repeated squares or diamonds, each of which encloses a tree or floral motif.  The name translates roughly as “the lucky ones”.


A large group of nomadic tribes people living in Afghanistan and eastern Iran who weave many types of small rugs, animal trappings and tent furnishings.  They favor deep tones of blue, dark brown, dark red and touches of natural ivory.


The capitol of Uzbekistan and the traditional trading center for Turkomen tribal carpets.  Today, rugs called Bokhara are usually make in Pakistan using Tekke Turkoman designs.


This is a motif in stylized form representing either a pine cone, a palmetto, the sacred flame of Zoroaster or a Cypress tree. Sometimes called a Paisley Pattern.  Seen in many types of Oriental rugs.


Weft float weave used to add design and embellishment.  Often seen on the kilim bands at the ends of oriental rugs.


The task of pulling the wool fibers between two spiked paddles in order to arrange the fibers in a random manner.  It is a first step before combing which positions the fibers in a parallel arrangement.


This is a diagram of the rug design that weavers follow when knotting an oriental rug.  Used in workshop rugs and in some village rugs.


An oval shaped ornamental design element usually containing an inscription or date.

City Rugs

Rugs handwoven in large urban commercial workshops, typically with set patterns and colors. The weavers are generally hired for the work. Most of the large floral carpets associated with the term ‘Persian Carpets’ in the West have been woven in this environment.


A vague term referring to court carpets produced prior to the 19th century.


A stylized depiction of a cloud resembling a band knotted at its collar.  Originally a Chinese design but is often seen in Persian Oriental rugs.


Drawing the already carded fibers through a set of spiked blocks in order to align the fibers in a parallel arrangement.  This is done prior to spinning.


A Chinese motif symbolizing good fortune.  The dragon is sometimes rendered in a geometrical form with only the head portrayed realistically.


A common flat-woven rug from India, generally of cotton.


The use of a variety of different needle-worked stitches to decorate fabrics.


The official language of Iran.


The main section of the rug that is surrounded by the boarder and contains the central medallion or other motifs.


A rug made without knotted pile. Common forms are the kilim (also kelim and gelim) and the sumak.


The excess warp threads extending from the end of the rug sometimes finished in macramé style knotting.

Guard stripes

Bands which surround and enhance the main border.  A thin stripe used to highlight guards and to separate them from the beginning of the field.


This is an octagonal motif, usually elongated and divided into four.  The word means “rose or flower”.


A Turkish word for rug.


A Turkish word for rug merchant.


The weight and stiffness or flexibility of a rug.  A rug´s handle might be described in terms such flexible, stiff, of soft.

Herati design

This is a design feature often found in carpets from Persia.  Usually four leaves are woven around a well-defined diamond.  When rendered in a small fine pattern, this is sometimes referred to as the “Fish Design” or Mahi design.


A flat woven rug from the Mideast. Also spelled kelim and gelim.

Kufic Script

A term for the bold, rectilinear calligraphic script which became highly stylized and used as decorative elements rather than text.


A rounded division frequently found in medallions and in border ornaments.


Frame or machine used for interlacing two or more sets of threads or yarns to form a rug or other textile.


A diamond shaped parallelogram or rhombus.


Large design found in the center in some oriental rugs.


Typical design of a prayer rug derived from the niche or chamber in a mosque.


Single or repeated design elements found throughout the rug.


A rugs surface, formed by the creation of knots in the foundation.  Nap.

Pile weave

A term used to refer to the structure of knotted carpets and rugs forming a pile or nap.  Wool, silk, or sometimes cotton is knotted around the warp in a variety of techniques.

Prayer rug

A small Oriental rug used by Muslims to kneel on when reciting their prayers.  It should be noted, however that most prayer rugs were woven for the foreign market.


A small mat measuring about 2 x 3 feet.


Round symmetrical ornaments with four lobes.


Number of knots per 7cm. (2 3/4 inches).  Twenty four raj would be approximately 76 knots per square inch.

Reciprocal design

A motif in contrasting colors but a consistent repeating pattern.  Borders often have reciprocal designs.


A motif resembling an open flower consisting of a circular arrangement of parts around a center.


A long, narrow rug used mostly for hallways and staircases.  Usually under three feet wide.


A prayer rug containing multiple prayer niches.

Safavid Dynasty

Persian Dynasty ruled by Shah Abbas from 1587 to 1628 AD.


Workshop crafted carpets woven in the vicinity of Sultanabad (Arak) in west central Iran.  Named for a small town north of Sultanabad.  Nearly all were exported to the United States.


A confederation of Turkic speaking tribes living in Azerbaijan.  They are known for making sumak bags and kilims.

Slit Tapestry

A technique commonly used on Kilims where the weft threads turn back at the meeting of different color areas.  It is easily recognizable by the small gaps which appear where there are color changes.


An ornamental treatment located at the corners of the field.


An interlacing design resembling straps.


A type of flat-weave rug using a weft wrapping technique to form the face and pattern of the rug. Also spelled Soumak, etc.


A hand-woven wall hanging with a flat weave, usually characterized by complicated pictorial designs.  It also refers to weft face weave.

Tea Wash

A procedure used to soften the colors of a rug and give it the appearance of age.


The largest Turkomen tribe in the 19th century who made some of the finest Turkomen rugs.

Village rugs

Rugs made in villages or in small workshops.  The designs respond to the current market needs to a limited degree.  There is usually no elaborate cartoon or diagram drawn before the rug is woven.

War Rugs

Usually refers to rugs woven by Afghani Baluch people during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.  These rugs show the weapons of war, including tanks, guns and helicopters. This stark tradition has continued during the American invasion of Afghanistan.


Threads of yarn–usually cotton or wool– that extend through the entire length of the rug, on which the weaver ties the knots.  The lengthwise or vertical threads.


Threads of yarn–typically cotton or wool– that run across the width of the rug.  The widthwise or horizontal threads in a rug, passed over and under the warps to form the foundation of a pile rug or the design of a flat woven rug.


Turkish term for a small rug often used as a pillow cover. Dates back to Ottoman times.


The Turkish term used to describe any nomad living in Turkey. Also Yoruk.


A rug measuring about 3′ x 5′.  A zar is about one square meter so a zaronim is a square meter and a half.

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