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Interesting Etymologies 31 : Turkic











"Hello again Word Lovers!" That is not a mistake, we do mean Turkic and not Turkish! Turkic is a language group, Turkish being the most obvious one in this group (Have a read of the Wikipedia entry on Turkic to discover more)


The Turkic peoples and their langauges seem to have emerged from a region called Altay between China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan and swept both east and west to form vast empires; The Ottoman, The Seljuk, The Timurid, The Mogals all leaving us a world were many speak a Turkic language. (The history of the Turkics is a fascinating and long one, once again further reading can be started on the Wikipedia page for the Turkic peoples)


Food Words:


Kefir : Is a word of Turkic origin, but of unclear origin beyond that. A fermented milk or yoghurt drink made from Kefir grains. In Turkish it roughly translates as "good life" or "long life".


Baklava : a layered pastry dessert made of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is believed this comes from a Mongolian root meaning "to tie" or "to wrap up". But there is also a case to be made that the Mongolian originally came from Turkic.


Pastrami : Dried meat, actually a Romanian word from Turkish Pastirma or Basdirma, but the PIE root is Bas meaning "to press".


Yoghurt : A word that has travelled the world! Yog meaning to condense and Yogush meaning to liquefy. Although there is also claim that it derives from the Turkish word yoğurmak meaning to thicken, coagulate, or curdle.


More Turkic words:


Kaftan : A type of robe, dress or tunic. There is a strong degree of debate over whether this is of Turkish or Persian origin.


Balkans : Meaning a chain of Mountains, but the region of south eastern Europe takes its name from Turkic.


Hungary : The English name for Magyar is taken from Latin, but that had taken it from Turkic "Onogor"


Balaclava : The village in the Crimea that provided the name of the head dress when British soldiers suffered in the bitter cold of the region in the 1850s and wore knitted helmets to keep warm. The word means "fishing grounds".


Taiga : The Russian Steppe. A Turkic word meaning "Rocky, Mountainous terrain."


Urdu : The variant of Hindi named by Turkic from ordu meaning a camp or army (camp) which also gives us our word horde for a large gathering of people. It came to Western Europe via Poland and still today the Polish word for horde is Horda.


Charly takes a brief wander into Turkic etymologies in Polish and Russian, listen to the programme to hear the "satisfying" interesting etymologies he demonstrates. Sausages and Heroes, why Harry Potter is known as Gary in Russian and one of the most Russian of all Russian words Balalaika, is in fact Turkic!


Bergamot : The blue flower comes ot us via Italian, but they in turn took it from Turkish, Bey Armudu meaning the Pear of the Bey, Bey meaning the Turkish ruler.


Cassock : The long robe worn by Priests and other members of the Church order comes from Middle French Casaque for long coat but probably from Turkic Quzzak meaning a nomad or adventurer, also providing us with the word Cossack and also Kazakhstan. The -stan suffix comes from Indu/Iranian meaning a place where you stand. The PIE root sta-no has a direct link to our word stand.


Lackey : a servant, especially a liveried footman or manservant. Another Turkic word that comes to us across Europe. laquais in French, lacayo in Spanish but ultimately ulak in Turkish, meaning a runner or courier.


Kiosk : An open summer house or pavilion coming to mean small shop. Another Turkic word that has gone global.


Turquoise : The Turkic colour. Many think of red in relation to Turkic but many Turkic states use turqoise in their national flag colours. The name is thought to have developed in Venice (IE18 Venice) where many Turkic merchants traded blue gemstones.


And finally a word that Charly believed to be Turkic but is not, Vampire. Old Hungarian has vampir, Old Church Slavonic has opiri. This is claimed to come from the Tatar word for witch but this is disputed. From 1985 onwards etymologists believe Vampire has emerged from the Serbian word Bamiiup.








Explore the full Interesting Etymologies series archive here


As well as being the host of our Interesting Etymologies series, Charly Taylor is a stand up comedian and author. His latest offering is available now:


SkipDeLirio's Worst Ever Gig : A novel by Charly Taylor


Caesar’s army has returned from the long campaign in Gaul and the enemy has been all but defeated. Some of Pompey’s army, however, remains in Africa. Together with straggling Roman rebels and the local king Juba, they are gathering forces to prepare one last attack on what is now Caesar’s Rome. But there is one problem – a descendant of Scipio Africanus is fighting on the side of the Africans. And without a Scipio of their own, the superstitious Romans refuse to go to Africa to fight.


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