Art & Culture

Turkey the bird and Turkey the Nation

By Kubra Beskardes

Volume 1 Issue 2

November 24, 2020

Turkey the bird and Turkey the Nation

Image provided by Boris Stroujko

Turk - The word originally means “strength” though it’s not clear where it came from and it changed meaning during the time. To Persians it meant “barbarian,” but now it means “a person of Turkic origin,” so it does not only consist of “Turkish” people. In Turkey, we call ourselves just “Turks” because the direct translation of Turkish would be “Turkce” which is the language we speak, and a fun fact? It’s actually not Turkey, it’s Turkiye, the land of the Turks, so probably not many Turks would know that around the world, their country shares its name with a bird.


Turkey the bird originated in the Americas and Turks originated in Central Asia and by the time the bird took this name, they were in Anatolia. This seems so irrelevant, but the story goes like this; Turkish merchants sold some wild fowls from either Africa or India to Europeans, and Europeans called the bird “Turkey (coq) Rooster” and Turkey for short. When they landed in the New World, they saw another bird of a totally different species and called it also turkey because they both looked similarly funny. So it remained “turkey.” Another fun fact? Turks call this bird “hindi” because we thought it originated from India.


Eating turkey is not that common in Turkey. Not that we specifically don’t eat it, but because we are foreign to the bird or it’s foreign to us, Turks don’t want to eat something they don’t know. Personally, I only like turkey when it’s sliced and in between two breads; otherwise, I would not prefer it.


But this whole story brings a question to the mind: when Europeans came to the Americas during the 15th and 16th centuries, back then Turks were under the name “Ottomans” not Turkey, because Ottomans consisted of many ethnicities so I would be wrong to call it Turkey. Turkey was formed in 1923, and – well -  maybe they just went with “Turks Rooster or Turkish Rooster,” then it became just “turkey” over time.