The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Turkish language

Turkish (Türkçe or Türk dili) is a Turkic language, spoken natively by over 100 million speakers in Turkey, Cyprus, and worldwide.



Turkish is a member of the Turkish family of languages, which includes Balkan Gagauz Turkish , Gagauz, and Khorasani Turkish in addition to Turkish. The Turkish family is a subgroup of the Southern Turkic languages , themselves a subgroup of the Turkic languages, which some linguists believe to be member of the disputed Altaic language family (which is considered part of the even more disputed Ural-Altaic language family.)

Geographic distribution

Turkish is spoken in Turkey and by minorities in 35 other countries. The Turkish used in countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania and Uzbekistan is also called Osmanli.

Official status

Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is one of the official languages of Cyprus.


Dialects of Turkish include Danubian, Eskişehir (spoken in Eskişehir Province), Razgrad, Dinler, Rumelian, Karamanli (spoken in Karaman Province), Edirne (spoken in Edirne), Gaziantep (spoken in Gaziantep Province), Urfa (spoken in Şanlıurfa Province).

Many other languages are spoken in Turkey, including: Pontic Greek in the Trabzon area (pontos being Black Sea in Greek). A modern version of Aramaic is also spoken in some villages in central and southern Turkey, and an Arabic dialect is spoken southwest of the Van sea. From the South Caucasian language groups, the Laz and Georgian languages are widely used in northeast Turkey, as is Cherkess in many villages which are geographically rather spread out. Also in the soulth east Kirmanch and Zaza are spoken which is also generalised as (Kurdish) even though the two dialects are significantly different. Some scholars consider these two different languages. In addition, several other Turkic languages are spoken by small groups. A small Jewish minority in Istanbul speaks "Ladino", also called "Judeo-Spanish", from descendants of Jews who fled from Spain in 1492 and found refuge in the Istanbul area. Professor Einar Haugen (1906-1994) of Norway who studied "ekte gudbrandsdalmċl" - a dialect spoken in the Gudbrandsdalen district of Norway - among Norwegian immigrants in Iowa, found "frozen" remnants of Kretic and old Spanish dialects from Turkey, making the country extremely interesting for language researchers and social anthropologists.


One of the characteristic features of Turkish is the vowel harmony (if the first vowel of a Turkish word is a front vowel, the second and other vowels of the same word are usually the same vowel or another front vowel; e.g. Erdem). See also the Ğ (soft g).

Vocalic system

Front Back
Close Unrounded i ı
Rounded ü u
Open Unrounded e a
Rounded ö o


Turkish, like Finnish and Hungarian, is an agglutinative language. Turkish is known for having an abundance of suffixes and it has no prefixes (some Arabic loan words have their own prefixes, but those are the common prefixes of Arabic). There can be upto four or five suffixes attached to one word at the same time. Suffixes can derive words and also establish the tense meanings. Two examples are as follows:

  • göz means "eye." By adding the suffix -lük, we have gözlük, which means "glasses." If we add another suffix -çü, we have gözlükçü, which means "someone who sells glasses." By adding another suffix -lük, we have gözlükçülük, which means "the business of selling glasses." To this word, we can add the suffix -te (which is the suffix for "in","on","at"), making the word gözlükçülükte, which means "in the business of selling glasses."
  • gel is the root for verb "come." By adding the negation suffix -me, we have gelme, which means "do not come." By adding the suffix -miş (the suffix for perfective tense), we have gelmemiş, which means "he/she/it has not come." By adding another suffix, -ti (the suffix for simple past tense), we have gelmemişti, meaning "he/she/it had not come." By adding the suffix -n (the suffix for singular second person in verbal system), we obtain gelmemiştin, meaning "you had not come." We can add another suffix -iz (the suffix which pluralizes the second person singular): gelmemiştiniz "you (plural) had not come." Finally, we can go even one step further and insert the question particle -mi (with the addition of consonant -y-, which becomes necessary to avoid having two contiguous sounds of i and d) between the two suffixes of -miş and -ti: gelmemiş miydiniz? ("hadn't you (plural) come?").

In Turkish, all verbs are regular.

Word order in Turkish is Subject Object Verb similar to Japanese and Latin, but unlike English.


The vocabulary of the Turkish language is a subject that is worth discussion, as the language's vocabulary has gone through drastic changes in history.

Replaced old words

When the Turks came from middle Asia to Anatolia about thousand years ago, they came in contact with Islam and the Arabic societies. Since the Turks accepted Islam, Arabic words (and less, yet still many, Persian words) started infiltrating the language. During the course of over six hundred years of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish kept borrowing loan words from these two languages. Towards the end of the 19th century, this got to a point where the language was rather called the Ottoman language. This is because Turkish had been inundated with so many loan words that the language became a mix of Turkish, Arabic and Persian. In contemporary Turkey, the Ottoman language is almost incomprehensible.

After Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey, he established the "Turkish Language Foundation" (Türk Dil Kurumu, TDK), whose task was to replace Arabic and Persian origin words with their new Turkish counterparts. The foundation did succeed in expelling over a few hundred Arabic words from the language, which are now considered obsolete in Turkish today. While most of the words introduced to the language by TDK are new, TDK also suggested using old Turkish words which had not been used in the language for centuries.

It is remarkable to note that different generations in Turkey prefer to use different words to express the same meaning. While the generations born upto the 1940's have tendency to use the old Arabic origin words (even the obsolete ones), the younger generations favor using the new words. Even though most of the new words completely replaced the old ones, some new words are not used as often as their old counterparts or have failed to convey the intrinsic meanings of the old words.

Here are some examples of the old (Arabic origin) words with their new Turkish equivalents:

Old word New Turkish word English meaning Remarks
muharebe, harp, cenk *** savaş war
sulh barış peace
imkân * olanak opportunity, possibility
şimal kuzey north
kıble güney south
şark doğu east
garp batı west
meridyen* boylam longtitude the old word is French origin
paralel* enlem latitude the old word is French origin
Teşrini Evvel Ekim October
Teşrini Sani Kasım November
Kanuni Evvel Aralık December
Kanuni Sani Ocak January
tayyare uçak airplane
lûgat sözlük dictionary
kelime * sözcük word
lâtife şaka joke
lüzum * gerek necessary
evrak * belge paper document in Arabic, evrāk is the plural of vārāk, in Turkish evrak is used as singular
tebdil değişiklik change
teadül denklik equivalence
teamül tepkime, davranış reaction, behavior
muvaffakiyet başarı success
nikâh * düğün wedding
nispet oran ratio
tasvir betimleme description
lisan dil language
zor*,***, müşkül çetin** difficult
hücum * saldırı attack
müsvedde taslak draft
misal örnek example
misafir * konuk guest
hediye * armağan gift
vazife * görev task, mission
mütehassıs uzman expert
müteferrik dağınık untidy
müsabaka karşılaşma match
mecbur * zorunlu must, obligation both the new and the old words can be used as noun or adjective
husus konu subject
iptidaî ilkel primitive
hâkim * yargıç judge
zamir * adıl ** pronoun
hakikat gerçek reality
hafıza * bellek ** memory
hadım kısır impotent
hikmet sebep reason
hilâf karşıt opposite
güzide *** seçkin elite
mâni engel obstacle
sıhhat sağlık health
mütalâa düşünce thought
iftihar övünme praisal
isim * ad name
ihtiyat yedek backup This word has other meanings in Turkish, which are sometimes used in the language
fiil * eylem verb
muhteviyat içindekiler ingredients
ilham* esin inspiration
talebe öğrenci student
hoca * öğretmen teacher
reis başkan president
tabiat * doğa nature
mübalağa abartma exaggeration
kâinat evren universe
mesut mutlu happy
mevkiî, mekân yer, konum location
sohbet* söyleşi chat the new word is used in somewhat different contexts
tembih* uyarı warning
tebrik* kutlama congratulate the new word also means to celebrate
tecelli belirme emerge
istisna aykırı exception
tavsiye* öneri suggestion
telâş* tasa,kaygı worry
tekâmül evrim, başkalaşım maturation, metamorphosis
tekaüt emekli retired
maaş * aylık ** salary
masraf* gider cost
meydan*, saha alan** open area while the new word is used mainly in mathematics (as in area of a triangle), it is seldom used in the same meanings of the old words.
meyil eğim slant
meyil eğilim tendency
ebedî sonsuz forever
meşhur * ünlü famous
ecel ölüm death
ecdat ata ancestry
nasihat öğüt advice, counsel
netice sonuç result
miskin uyuşuk supine
müzmin süreğen cronic the new word is seldom used
tembel *,*** haylaz lazy
nefes* soluk breath
müdahale* karışma intervention
müdafaâ koruma sustain, protect
münasebet* ilişki relation
nihayet * son(unda) final(ly)
nağme ezgi melody
evvel önce before
tamir*, tadilat* onarım renovation
hayat*, ömür* yaşam life
müsamaâ hoşgörü tolerance
vakâ olay event
muhakkak* kesin(likle) certain(ly)
mutedil ılım(lı) moderate(ly)
bariz* kesin,belli obvious
tecrübe * deneyim experience
irtifa yükseklik altitude the old word is only used in aviation, as in "the altitude of the plane"
müsaade izin permission
çehre yüz face
şatafat(lı) gösteriş(li) spectacular (noun and adjective)
kafiye uyak rhyme
gayri olmayan,başka non-, other in Arabic, "gayri" is a prefix which means non- as in "he is a non-muslim"; "he is not a muslim"
tasdik onay approve
mevhum kavram concept
tabir, ifade* deyiş** narration
kısım bölüm part
nafile boşuna futile
meşrubat içecek beverage
kifayet yeter enough

(* Old words that are still used in modern Turkish together with their new Turkish words.)

(** Words that are not as frequently used as the old words.)

(*** Old words that are Persian origin.)

Current loan words

Arabic loan words

Despite the expulsion of numerous Arabic words, Turkish still has a substential number of Arabic loan words that are used in the language today. However, some words have gone through phonetic changes in Turkish in order to accomodate the vowel harmony.

  • Some Arabic loan words are:
Word in Arabic Word in Turkish English meaning Remarks
marhabā merhaba hello
sīfr sıfır zero
zāmān zaman time
kitāb kitap book
tesellī teselli condolence
beyāz beyaz white the Turkish word ak is also used, but not as often as beyaz.
tehluke tehlike danger
tehdid tehdit menace
tacīz taciz harass
nufūs nüfus population
mezār mezar grave
cenāze cenaze funeral
miza:h mizah humor
mute:ahhid müteahhit contractor the new suggested Turkish word is üstenci, but this word is seldom used.
resmī resmi formal
ciddī ciddi serious
kināye kinaye sarcasm
iltifāt iltifat compliment
iltihāb iltihap infection
fikra fıkra anectode
iflās iflâs bankruptcy
ikrām ikram offer, give especially used when offering guests something to eat as courtesy
itirāf itiraf admit
itibār itibar impression
iftirā iftira blame especially used when blaming someone else for what the person has done.
fāre fare mouse
fark fark difference
hazīne hazine treasure
hāzīr hazır ready
hayvān hayvan animal
derece derece degree
hafif hafif light (the opposite of heavy)
mevsim mevsim season
temyīz temiz clean the word temyiz is also used in Turkish, but in the meaning of objection to a court's decision
temsīl temsil represent
dikkat dikkat caution
cezā ceza punishment
cevz ceviz walnut
cumhūriyyet cumhuriyet republic
fazla fazla many, too
hīle hile cheat
lezzet lezzet taste
dāire daire circle
fahişe fahişe whore
hevāa hava air
sāhīfe sayfa page in Arabic, sāhīfe ("pages") is the plural of sūhūf, meaning "page." In Turkish sayfa is used as singular.
iknā ikna persuade
sufre sofra (laid) table (to eat)
iāde iade return
resm resim picture, painting
sākin sakin calm
kirmizi kırmızı red the Turkish word al is also used, but rarely
lutfen lütfen please
matbah mutfak kitchen
tecāvuz tecavüz rape
merkez merkez center
merāk merak curiousity also means "being interested in"
masdar mastar infinitive form of verb
manzara manzara scenery
mādde madde material
mācerā macera adventure
hisāb hesap calculation
hikāaye hikâye story
mendīl mendil kerchief
meşgūl meşgul busy
ders ders lesson
hakāret hakaret insult
kūfr küfür swear, curse
abdāl aptal stupid
zevk zevk pleasure
zaif zayıf thin (used for persons)
zevāl zaval pathetic(adj) in Turkish the suffix - is used to derive adjectives from nouns
zarf zarf envelope
zekā zekâ intelligence
zekī zeki smart, intelligent
zarār zarar loss, damage
sāniye saniye second (as in time)
sanāayi sanayi industry
san:at sanat art
zātu'r-rie zatürre pneunomia
tāc taç crown
inşāāt inşaat construction
irk ırk ethnicity
intihār intihar suicade
redd ret reject
kabūl kabul accept
itirāz itiraz objection
insān insan human
muhendis mühendis engineer
sikāyet şikâyet complain
işgāl işgal occupy (a country as in a war)
itfāiyye itfaiye fire station

Persian loan words

  • Though not as many as Arabic, Turkish still has a large number of Persian loan words. Some are:
Word in Persian Word in Turkish English meaning Remarks
kūr kör blind
pervāne pervane propeller
perde perde curtain
perçīn perçin rivet, clinch bolt
bāzār pazar sunday, bazaar
bādingān patlıcan eggplant the original word is Persian, but Turkish borrowed this word through Arabic
raspi orospu whore
penjerd pezevenk pimp
bādām badem almond
pūl pul stamp
but put statue
āheng ahenk harmony
bād-ı hevā bedava free
gireç kireç lime
hefte hafta week
haste hasta sick
haste-hāne hastane hospital
āteş ateş fire
horūs horoz cock, rooster
hīç hiç nothing, never
bahār bahar spring spring and fall in Turkish are rather expressed by the compound words ilkbahar and sonbahar, the word ilk meaning first, the word son meaning last
legleg leylek stork
gūşe köşe corner
kūy köy village
gūnah günah sin
şobān çoban shepherd
cuft çift double, couple
cevān-merd cömert generous
çenber çember circle
çengāl çengel hook
kulāh külah cone
kūşk köşk small palace
siyāh siyah black the word kara is also used, but not as often
çāp-ū-rāst çapraz cross, across
cāme-şūy çamaşır laundry
çāre çare solution
çāder-i şeb çarşaf linen
çār-sū çarşı mall
Çār-şenbe Çarşamba Wednesday
Pencşenbe Perşembe Thursday
panbuk pamuk cotton
pārçe parça piece
pence pençe paw
pencere pencere window
penbe pembe pink
perişān perişan pitiful, pathetic
kār kâr profit
nerdubān merdiven staircase
servān serüven adventure
reng renk color
muhr mühür seal, signet
zēhr zehir poison
mujde müjde good news
şeker şeker sugar

French loan words

  • Turkish, like many other Indo-European languages, has also borrowed significant number of words from French. Note that most of the words are similar to English. Some French loan words are:
Word in French Word in Turkish English meaning Remarks
abonné abone subscriber
Allemand Alman German
amphithéâtre amfi amphitheater in Turkish only the abbreviated form is used
amibe amip ameba
analyse analiz analyze
bouquet buket bouquet
équipe ekip team the Turkish word takım is also used, but in different contexts
Briscambille iskambil card deck
liqueur likör liquor
stagiaire stajer intern
stage staj internship
chantage şantaj blackmail
chance şans luck, chance
dactylo daktilo typewriter
rendez-vous randevu appointment
portrait portre portrait
autobus otobüs bus
automatique otomatik automatic
cravate kravat tie
télégraphe telgraf telegraph
télévision televizyon television
téléphone telefon telephone
visa vize visa
virage viraj curve, bend (in a road)
tourisme turizm tourism
plage plâj beach
pièce piyes play (theater)
élastique lastik rubber
caricature karikatür caricature
manchette manşet headlines
lycée lise high school
camion kamyon truck

Greek loan words

Word in Greek Word in Turkish English meaning Remarks
pirchos fırça brush
pontikos fındık hazelnut Turkish borrowed this word through Persian, but the original word is Greek
manitari mantar mushroom
lemoni limon lemon
limen liman port
kolpos körfez bay
anazitisis anahtar key
cheros çerez nut
litra litre liter
mespilon muşmula medlar
boreas poyraz boreas in Greek this word means the Greek god of the north wind. In Turkish it means the north-east wind
maimou maymun monkey Turkish borrowed this word through Arabic
maraggus marangoz carpenter
prisma prizma prism
kastanon kestane chestnut
stratos strateji strategy Turkish borrowed this word through French
lampas lamba lamp
stadion stadyum stadium

Italian loan words

Word in Italian Word in Turkish English meaning Remarks
fattura fatura invoice
protesto protesto protest
pompa pompa pump
tromba tulumba water pump
ricetta reçete prescription
resina reçine resin
balena balina whale
lira lira (unit of currency)
opera opera opera
crema krema cream (filling for pastries) Turkish uses another word krem, which is French origin in the context of face, skin, hand cream
tempo tempo tempo
piano piyano piano
bianco piyango lottary
placca plaka license plate
loggia loca lodge
cassa kasa vault
cemento çimento cement

English loan words

Turkish also has borrowed words from English (especially the names of sports). Some examples are:

Word in English Word in Turkish Remarks
leader lider
football futbol soccer
off side ofsayt used especially in soccer
basketball basketbol
handball hentbol
tennis tenis
sport spor Turkish borrowed this word through French
internet internet
cargo kargo
speaker spiker
ketchup ketçap
mine mayın
polyester polyester
magazine magazin

Writing system

Turkish is written using a modified version of the Latin alphabet, which was introduced in 1928 by Kemal Atatürk as part of his efforts to modernize Turkey. Until 1928, Turkish was written using a modified version of the Arabic alphabet (see Ottoman Turkish), but use of the Arabic alphabet was outlawed after the Latin alphabet was introduced. See Turkish alphabet.


English Turkish
yes evet
no hayır
hello merhaba
thanks teşekkür ederim
please lütfen
excuse me affedersiniz
you're welcome bir şey değil
good night iyi geceler
good-bye hoşça kalın

A famous quotation and motto of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: "Yurtta sulh, Cihanda sulh." -Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which is translated as "peace at home, peace in the world."

External links

Last updated: 10-10-2005 06:14:05
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