Definition: the specific fragrance of roses.
The English use of the noun attar solely describes the essential perfume and fragrance of roses, however, in Persian, the original term was atar-gul, with gul being a rose. The Persian atara is the verb ‘to smell’. The Hindi word for attar and perfume is ‘itra’ which is from Persian and the Arabic ‘itr’. The Urdu is itār.
Why this word?
Some words have their own imagery, their own scent, their own realm of existence. There is something so Middle-Eastern to the way this word sounds, that it really has the power of grabbing my mind’s eye and throwing me to a lonely rose, mistakenly growing in the desert… Moreover, it makes me appreciate the unique smell amidst the yellow wilderness.
The earliest use of “attar” (according to the NED) is by Thomas Pennant in his 1798 book “The view of Hindoostan”, volume 2 specifically, addressing Eastern Hindoostan: “I shall perfume my paper with a brief account of that luxury of India, the Attar of roses”.
In 19th century India, the Otto of Roses, or by imperfect purists Attar of Roses, was “an essential oil obtained the petals of the flower, a manufacture of which the chief seat is at Ghazipur on the Ganges.” (Yule & Burnell, 1903).
How to use the word attar in a sentence?
“Her neck smelled so divine, I could only compare it to the unique attar of roses”.