Loanwords in Turkish Language

It is estimated there are 7000 languages currently spoken in the World. Maybe you do not realize but there are so many loanwords or borrowings that you are using in your daily life.

For instance, the word “coffee” is imported from the Turkish language to the Western languages (kahve) (to Turkish language is imported from Arabic, and Arabic is from an African language). Although the favorite drink of Turks is tea nowadays, Turkish coffee is an important drink in Turkish culture. Cultural contacts, wars, and many other things need words to be imported and exported!

Did you know Turks call breakfast ‘kahvaltı‘ which literally translates to ‘ (the food) before the coffee. Because our mighty Sultans want to eat something before coffee so that their mighty stomachs don’t get ill.

I love Sultans. They can be very interesting. Anyways, let’s go on:


More on the borrowings in the Turkish Language.

Many Persian and Arabic words have been borrowed as Islam was embraced by Turks. But in the nineteenth century, The Turkish Language Society (TDK) made a long list of “pure Turkish” words. Their purpose was to start a movement in favor of a simplification and purification. Shortly after, many loanwords were successfully replaced by their Turkish counterparts in literary language. Those Turkish counterparts were found from the other Turkic languages. In the midst of the nineteenth century, Turks started to borrow words from French, English & Italian. Today many loanwords are still used as much as the ‘pure Turkish words’ that has been intentionally imported to the language!

Loanwords in Turkish Language – Examples:

Turkish:Televizyon açıkken, gazete veya roman okumamalısın
Translation: You shouldn’t read newspaper (tr. gazete) or novel (tr. roman) when television (tr. televizyon) is on
Turkish: Kız arkadaşını restorana, romantik bir akşam yemeğine çıkar
Translation: Take your girlfriend to a restaurant (tr. restoran or lokanta) for a romantic dinner (tr. Romantik)

Gazete < (fr. Gazette)
Roman < (fr. Roman)
Televizyon < (fr. Télévision)
Lokanta < (it. Locanda)
Restoran < (fr. Restaurant)
Romantik < (fr. Romantique)

Loan-words in Turkish Language:

Let’s take a look at another phrase.

Turkish: Muharebe yıllarında yazılmış bütün kitapları okuduğumu zannediyorum
Translation: I suppose that I read every book written at the time of war.

Muharebe (Arabic, not commonly used) Savaş (Commonly used)
Kitap (Arabic, commonly used)
Zan- (Arabic, commonly used) San- (Commonly used)

Although a large number of Arabic loanwords can be seen in literary language, Turkish counterparts are more commonly used in daily Turkish.

It is still being debated as to whether the language reform was the right thing to do. But it is obvious that it reached its objectives. Although many Persian and Arabic words are still used today, the new generation mostly uses the Turkish counterparts. On the other hand, with the increasing use of social media, many English words are in use such as Selfie, twit atmak. (tr. to Tweet) etc. And as you might guess, some people have concerns about loanwords because they think they lead to “language contamination”.

Most of the loanwords do not follow phonological patterns such as vowel harmony or consonant alternation.

But why?

Let’s take a deeper look into that:

For example, you can’t just land in Atatürk Airport and be Turkish, right? You’d be a stranger at the beginning. You wouldn’t know how to go to a barber, how to ask food in a restaurant or pass to asian side by bosphorus etc.

It takes some time to get used to a country, a new way of living.

But what if you grow a Turkish moustache and dress like Turkish? You’d be more like a Turkish?

That would be funny!

Well, words are kindda experiencing the same thing. They don’t blend in the language at the beginning. Turkish grammar rules don’t apply to them. They don’t follow vowel or consonant harmony.

Because they have different phonologies, different sounds, different vowels etc. etc. Each language and each vocabulary have different phonologies.


They have long been in the language so that their sounds change and be more like a Turkish word. then, the grammar rules are being valid. They can grow a moustache.

You may also want to check ‘11 Turkish words you won’t believe they are borrowings!‘ article.

Extra: I have found this videoArabic loanwords in English‘ on Youtube. Maha (A tutor of Arabic language) talks about Arabic borrowings in English. It seemed quite interesting to me. If you want to watch, here it is:

Turkish tutor Gokce Turkish tutor Ayse Turkish tutor Feyza
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