10 Turkish Words and Phrases We Wish We Had in English
Every language is a manifestation of how people think, reflecting the way its speakers perceive the world, and how they behave in it. If language is just a mirror of people’s minds, the world then is a magical place. Certain languages make their speakers experience situations in a radically different way that some of us do, or take for granted. In a way, languages are “many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue”, as Emerson once said.
More than a communication tool, Language is a philosophy of life.
When it comes to Turkey, Turkish language reveals not only their beliefs but the way they approach particular situations such as meeting someone, handing a gift or even dealing with grief.
In order to understand a bit of the Turkish’ “philosophy of life”, let us examine some of their phrases.
1. Kolay Gelsin- “May Things Come Easy at Work”
Image Source: Turkey Harvest
Literally, “may it come easy”, the closest translation to this phrase would be the English saying “take it easy”. However, Kolay Gelsin is most often used when wishing well to someone who is hard at work.
Note that in Turkish there is a dotted “i” and non-dotted “ı”, with the former sounding like the “ee” in the English word “free” and the latter as the “i” in the English word “bit”.
2. Yakamoz – “The Reflection of the Moon on the Water”
Image Source: Wall Devil
Yakamoz can be translated to the reflection of the moon on the water, also described as phosphorescence over the sea.
The word is also the title and subject of Kurdish-Turkish singer Ahmet Kaya’s song Yakamoz, where he describes a love interest fleeing into the rain and the moon’s reflection. Here is the video:
3. O – “He…She…it”
If the single-letter English word “I” is able to capture just one person, the Turkish wordO captures several pronouns in a more efficient way. The gender-neutral O can be used to describe he, she, and it.
4. Kara Sevda – “Blind and Hopeless Love”
Image Source: Cute Love
The closest English translation to this would be “blind love“. However, kara sevda captures more than this. It is love that is often hopeless, to the point of sickness.
Kara Seva is the title of a 2015 Turkish love drama series, whose main character’s love lives are forever changed after an unfortunate mining accident.
Kara Seva is also the title of the late Baris Manco’s song, where the singer struggles to describe his strong yet painful feeling of love, and ultimately decides that it is Kara Sevda:
5. Hocam – “My Teacher”
Image Source: AFS
In the word Hocam, the “c” sounds like a “j.. Hoca means teacher, and hocam is “my teacher“. Used figuratively, you can use hocam out of respect to nearly anyone, as the idea is that one can all learn something from all people, although in certain contexts the term may be too casual.
6. Abi, Abla, Amca, Teyze, Kızım, Oğlum (the ğ is silent), and Yenge – “Older Brother”
While meaning older brother, older sister, uncle, aunt, my daughter, my son, and your friend’s wife respectively, these familial terms are able to capture more than their literal meanings. You can use these terms for those who are not actually related to you, as it goes with the idea in Turkish culture that everyone is family.
The idea is similar in that you can refer to your dad’s friend Joe as Uncle Joe. Interestingly, you can use the terms abi and abla to a peer who does not necessarily have to be older than you, almost in the way you would use the word “bro”.
Unfortunately, you know you’re getting old when they stop calling you abla and you start hearing teyze.
7. Güle Güle Kullanın – “Use it smilingly”
Image Source: Isaiah 43:1
When pronouncing the word Güle, the “ü” almost sounds like the “u” in the English word “cute”. Güle Güle Kullanın simply means “use it smilingly“, which one would use when giving a gift.
8. Hoş geldin (or more formally, hoş geldiniz) and Hoş bulduk- “You are Bringing Joy with Your Presence”
When welcoming, hoş geldiniz is a phrase used to tell a guest that they have brought joy. What is unique here is the rebuttal hoş bulduk by the guest, meaning “we’ve found joy”.
9. Yalan Dunya – “The World is a Lie”
Image Source: Evolver Learning Lab
The world is a lie. During difficult times, like during the death of a loved one, many utter this phrase in order to cope with the fact that life is but a dream.
10. Elinize Sağlık (or more formally, Ellerinize sağlık) – “Health to your Hands for Being a Great Cook”
Image Source: Time Travel Turtle
Elinize Sağlık, literally meaning “health to your hands“, is used as a toast or a congratulatory remark on good work, especially good cooking.