LINGUIST List 7.174

Sun Feb 4 1996

Sum: Turkey

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  • Theriault Alain, Turkey

    Message 1: Turkey

    Date: Sat, 03 Feb 1996 21:16:17 EST
    From: Theriault Alain <theriaalERE.UMontreal.CA>
    Subject: Turkey
    Hello everyone! This is the sum up of my turkey question. I do not intend to draw any conclusion (It is out of my field) but it seems to be amusing. It seems, however, that I was mistaken about the Egyptian Vs Greek translation of the word. I would like, first, to thank the following persons for their answers. Alexandra Aikhenvald, Alice Faber, Andrew R Linn, Baum Jonathan , Bilge K. Say, Bill Turkel, Bridget M. Canniff, Caroline Wiltshire, Cem Bozsahin, Cohen Dana, Dan I. Slobin, Dan Moonhawk Alford, Daniel Baum, David Lidsky, Deborah D K Ruuskanen, Donald T. Davis, E Wayles Browne, Eirik Hektoen,, Eul`alia De Bobes I Soler , Falk Yehuda , Frances Karttunen, Fred Baube, Gary H. Toops, Geoff Smith, Gomez Lopez Ricardo, Hannele Dufva, Hartmut Haberland, Hitay Yukseker, Jon Aske, Joseph Davis,, Karen S. Chung, Karen Stanley, Karl Teeter, Keller Rabenda Martin Robert, Kevin Tsai, Lora G. Lunt , Louis de Saussure, Manuel Sifre, Marcia Haag, Markus Nussbaumer, Mikko Lounela, Muriel Norde,, Randy Hudson , Richard Sproat, Ruth Loew, Saeed Menasan, Sarah Fairchild Sherry, Szymon Grzelak, Terry Regier, Thomas Becker, Thomas F. Shannon, Timo Honkela, Zarautz Gipuzkoa. - ---------------------------------------- So the bird seems to be related to INDIA for the following languages: ARABIC (standard) Just for the record, in standard Arabic (MSA) turkey is diiq hindi, or Indian rooster. And Benjamin Franklin thought that the U.S. should have claimed the turkey as our state bird instead of the eagle! Indigenous and more intelligent than the eagle. AZARI In Azari, a language spoken by 13-15 million Iranians and many more around the region, turkey is 'hindishga', that's something related to 'Hind'(India). BASQUE In Basque a turkey is "indioilar" or "indioilo" ("India rooster" india + oilar 'rooster' and "India hen" india + oilo 'hen'). CATALAN In Catalan it is "gall dindi". The translation may be, more or less, "cock from India" HEBREW In Hebrew it is called a "tarnegol hodu" or "Indian rooster" POLISH In Polish it is indyk, or more specifically indor 'male turkey', indyczka 'female turkey' from the name 'India'. RUSSIAN In Russian the turkey is called _indjuk_ (male), _indjushka/indejka_ (female). As food, the turkey is referred to by the term _indjushka_. In sum, it's the "bird of India," as in French. Russian has "ind'ejka" (sg.fem.n.) for "turkey," which is related to the word for "Indian." It's interesting to note, however, that seems to derive from "ind'ejec"/"ind'ejskij" which mean "Indian (sg.masc.n.)"/"Indian (sg.masc.adj.)" as in Native American, as opposed to "ind'ijec"/"ind'ijskij" "Indian (sg.masc.n)"/"Indian (sg.masc.adj)" as pertaining to the people of India. (Note: in the above transcriptions, c = ts, and ' indicates palatalization or softness. All five Russian words have stress on the second syllable.) TURKISH Turkey in Turkish is 'Hindi'. My etymology book says that it is named after Hindistan, the Turkish name for India. Hindistan is usually shortened to Hind. so it's Hindistan->Hind->Hindi. It also mentions that we got the bird from India, after having exported to East Asia from America. the source is:Turk Dilinin Etimoloji Sozlugu [The etymology of the Turkish LAnguage], I.Z. Eyuboglu, Sosyal Yayinlari (publisher), Istanbul, 1991, 2nd edition. YIDISH In Yiddish "turkey" is called "indik". The Yiddish word for Indian (the adjective) is "indish". The suffix -ik in Yiddish words usually indicates a slavic origin and thus the source of "indik" in Yiddish is presumably slavic. - ---------------------------------------- In Danish, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian, it is associated with a town from the Malabar coast (southern India): DANISH The Danish word is kalkun (stressed on second syllable) which is similar to Dutch kalkoen. The source seems to be an adjective kalkunsk, borrowed from Dutch kalkoensk, which means 'from Kalikut (on the Malabar coast)'. As the Danish etymologicl dictionary remarks, 'clearly a mix-up between the West and the East Indies'. (This is, actually, much more precise than just 'somebody else's bird', since the bird seems to have come from Mexico via the West Indies.) DUTCH The Dutch word for turkey is "kalkoen", deriving from the town "Calicut" (now Kozhikode) on the coast of India. Originally, the bird was called "kalkoense haan", that is, rooster from Calicut. FINNISH Turkey, in Finnish, is kalkkuna. This is a IE loan-word, related to modern Swedish kalkon, which derives from some earlier form of low German (something like 'the hen of Calcutta'. I'm no expert on etymology, and I found this explanation in a popular book on etymology, but it seems to fit, doesn't it? NORWEGIAN But when I checked Norsk Riksmaalsordbok (a dictionary of Riksmaal, a rather conservative literary form of written Norwegian), it turns out that the word comes (via Low German and Dutch) from the name of the town Calicut on the Malabar Coast on the western side of southern India. - ---------------------------------------- In the folowing languages, 'turkey' has different origins: ARABIC (dialects) In Palestinian Arabic, the bird's name is equivalent to "Ethiopian rooster". It is pronounced as / diik Habash / where /diik/ is rooster and is /d/ as in "duck", long/i/ and /k/as in "king" /H/ is pharengeal fricative, /a/ is as a shwa, like the vowel in English /the/, and /sh/ is like the first consonant in English "show" In Levantine Arabic turkeys are referred to as Abyssinian roosters (diik Habash: diik is rooster and Habash is Abyssinia or Ethiopia. GREEK (It seems I was misleaded in that one...) Greek (cf. Andriotis, Etimologiko leksiko tis koines neoellinikes, Thessaloniki 1983) has: dianos < indianos, glossed as 'indike ornitha' ie. Indian bird, kourkos < Romanian curca (a with breve) < Slavic kurka gallos or galos, from Italian gallo 'cock' (but cf. gallo d'India 'turkey'); the similarity with gallos 'Frenchman' is probably accidental gal(l)opoula 'female turkey' is just a diminutive of gal(l)os, although it lends itself to reanalysis as gallo- 'French' + pouli 'bird'. Now both pouli 'bird' and the diminutive suffix -poulos/poula go back to Latin pullus, but they are usually kept apart in Modern Greek (also because of different placement of stress), so one should not put to much weight on this possible reanalysis (better ask some native speaker). MACEDONIAN In Macedonian [Slavic] it is misir m., misirka f., from Misir [the letters i should have no dots on top] (the Turkish name of Egypt) from Arabic Misr. MALAISIA (She didn't say wich language) En Malaisie, on dit "ayam belanda" [ayam = poulet; belanda = hollandais].(In Malaisia, it is "ayam belanda" [ayam = chiken; belanda = Dutch]. PORTUGESE In Portuguese, turkey is peru, which probably comes from the country Peru (feminine -a can be added to it, and then you get peru-a which means 'slut'; I thought it was some sort of analogy with galinha 'hen' which means the same thing). TAMIL from: Caroline Wiltshire ( the word in Tamil (a Southern Dravidian language) is "vaankooRi" (the R is a retroflex approximant, more or less), which comes from "vaan" = sky and "kooRi" = chicken, domestic fowl. On the other hand, one of my dictionaries lists an alternative which I've never heard "siimaikkooRi", from "siimai" = foreign country, Europe or any of the European countries. Perhaps a native speaker can tell you if this word is ever used these days. - ---------------------------------------- For the other languages of wich I received answers, there are either no etymology or country related to the name: BULGARIAN In Bulgarian, the turkey is a pujak (m.) / pujka (f.). BURA Bura, a Chadic language spoken in Nigeria. The word for turkey is something like tlotlo (where is supposed to be open-o). Apparently that is similar to other languages in the area. My guess is that it is onomatopaea (sp?) from the sound that turkeys make. CHINESE v _ mandarin chinese: huo ji (fire chicken or angry chicken) In Cantonese, turkey is foh(2) gai(1) - literally fire chicken, presumably from the red colouring round the face. FARSI in Farsi language the word for 'turkey' is 'bugalamun' which has notiong to do with any country! JAPANESE in Japanese it's _shichimenchoo_, 'seven-sided bird'. (literally meaning something like "a bird with seven faces or surfaces) UPPER SURBIAN In Upper Sorbian, the turkey is a trutak (m.) / truta (f.). - ---------------------------------------- Now, turkey is native of the American continent (That is what I have been told many times). Here are a few of the languages that are (or were) spoken on this Continent: AMERICAN LANGUAGES In Maliseet-Passamaquoddy (north-est of New-England) he word for "turkey" is nehm. In Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs and their neighbors and the heart of original turkey-domestication), the word for the male turkey is huehxo:lo:-tl, which appears to be a compound of hueh- 'great, big' and xo:lo:-tl 'male servant', while the word for female turkey is to:tol-in, which is the general word for domesticated bird. Since the turkey was the Aztecs' domesticated bird, further specificity doesn't seem to have been needed prior to the introduction of European chickens at the time of the conquest. European chickens were called either cax < castilla or piyo (apparently from the call that Europeans use when rounding up their chickens: piyo, piyo, piyo, which is basically 'chick, chick, chick' cf. Sp. pollo). Xuehxo:lo:-tl has given rise to the Mexican Spanish word guajalote. In other Spanish-speaking areas the word pavo is used. It originally was used for the peacock, until turkeys were imported from the Americas. In Yucatec Maya, the word for turkey is tso' and the European chicken is usually cax. In Choctaw, an interesting thing has happened. There are two native words, fakit and cholokloha, both based on the sound of the bird's call. The word `fakit' is pronounced just like `fuck it' so it has fallen precipitously from use as the Choctaw community has become bilingual. Fakit has been replaced by `akank chaaha' or `tall chicken'. I am not sure if `akanka' referred to native birds before the advent of European domestic chickens, but that word is used for this bird now. So we have a native word replaced by a phrasal descriptive term based on a European bird to avoid embarrassing ourselves to English speakers. Sigh. - ---------------------------------------- Thanks to Thomas F. Shannon (who is not affraid to open a dictionary) here is a list of different languages and their word for 'turkey' from: Thomas F. Shannon ( In answer to your repeated request for the word for turkey in various non-indoeuropean languages, I went to my shelf, picked up my handy "Concise dictionary of 25 languages" and found the following: Language word Hungarian pulyka Finnish kalkkuna Turkish hindi (I assume the etymology is what it looks like!) Indonesian ajam belanda Arabic dik roumi Hebrew tarnegol hodu Japanese shichimenchoo Swahili bata mzinga The other languages listed are IE, to wit French dindon Spanish pavo Italian tacchino Portuguese peru Rumanian curcan German Truthahn (Puter/Pute is also used) Dutch kalkoen Swedish kalkon Danish kalkun Norwegian kalkun Polish indyk Czech krocan Serbo-Croat puran Esperanto meleagro Russian indyuk Greek galopou'la Yiddish indik Thanks to Randy Hudson who reads very interesting books: from: Randy Hudson ( According to Reay Tannahill's "Food in History" (rev. ed., 1993, Crown Publishers, originally Penguin): the Mexican [Nahuatl?] word is "uexolotl"; in Turkey it's "hindi" (suggesting, like Fr. "dinde" or "dindon" < "coq d'Inde", or Ger. "indianische Henn", that the origin was thought to be India); in Egypt, "dik-rumi" ("Turkish fowl"); in India [language unspecified], "peru" (evidently "Peru"); in Persia, "filmurgh" (elephant bird). And, to finish, here is a letter I received from David Lidsky wich conclude the topic in a very nice way: from: David Lidsky ( Two English dictionaries which I have consulted give similar etymologies for "turkey". The story goes like this. The African bird now called the "guinea fowl" used to be called (presumably because of a mistaken belief about its origin) the "Turkey cock", it's having arrived in Europe via Turkish territory. The bird now called "turkey" in English was originally thought to be identical with (or a sort of) the bird now called the "guinea fowl" and that being then called the "Turkey cock" the turkey was also called the "Turkey cock". Doesn't that all sound a bit unlikely involving as it does two separate mistakes? Do historians of language have documentary proof of these mistakes having been made in the way described? And are we to believe that two additional mistakes occurred relating the bird to India and to Peru in other languages (according to my encyclopedia it is a North American bird). One mistake which I think is well documented is the mistaking of America for India by the first visitors from Europe. Could this explain those cases in which "turkey" in different languages is related to India?

    - ---------------------------------------- I hope you found it as amusing and instructive as I have

    Alain Theriault | "The problem with the future Etudiant au doctorat | is that it keeps on turning Departement de linguistique et traduction | into the present" Universite de Montreal | | Hobbes (Bill Waterson)