In the last 20 years, Turkey has modernised itself in many ways, yet behind the face of travel magazines and modern trends, tradition and culture still reign strong. This is especially evident in the daily expressions used among friends, family, work colleagues, and strangers. Indeed, anyone learning Turkish would do well to learn the phrases because they will hear them frequently. Whether they are cultural phrases used for politeness or slang expressions used to express dismay, most of them are quite easy to remember.
Daily Turkish Expressions and their Meanings
Hos Geldiniz: This will be said to you when you arrive at a destination, either a friend’s house or simply a shop. As one of the most frequently used Turkish expressions meaning “welcome,” it is a reflection of the old-fashioned Turkish tradition that even a stranger is a friend. If you want to respond in kind, say “hos bulduk” to express that you feel welcomed.
Hadi: One of the easiest Turkish expressions to use is “hadi” meaning, “Come on.” Used to indicate the person is tired of waiting, a mother whose kid is walking slowly and dawdling might use it, as would a person waiting in a queue.
Bos Ver: Frequently used, this phrase shows the Turkish characteristic of letting the small things go. It means “never mind” and is along the same lines of the Turkish expression of “farket mez” saying it does not matter. Likewise, if a Turk says to you “takma kafana,” this means do not let it worry your head.
Gecmis Olsun: As the equivalent of the western blessing of “get well soon,” say this to someone who is ill. Turks like to be in full health at all times, and even just a sneeze will result in a blessing of “cok yasa,” meaning, “Bless you.” Reply “Sende gor”, and you have just returned the blessing.
Hayirli Cumalar: This is one to learn because you can say it every Friday. In the Muslim world, Friday is the holy day. The word “hayir” means good and is not to be confused with hayir meaning “no.” Hayirli Cumalar means “good Fridays.”
Iyi Gunler: Another phrase frequently used every day and everywhere is “Iyi gunler” meaning “good days” but it is used when a person leaves. Anyone learning Turkish should remember this phrase because it is said in a multitude of daily public situations with friends, and strangers.
Olmaz: Short, sharp and straight to the point, “olmaz” expresses impossibility. It indicates something is out of a person’s hands, they do not wish to do it, or they do not agree with the discussion taking place.
Naber? This slang phrase is a shortened abbreviation of “ne haber?” which means what is the news with you? The abbreviated version is less formal and typically used between close friends.
Kolay Gelsin: A literal translation of “may it come easy,” say this to anyone working or doing a strenuous task. A good time to also use, it is if someone is anticipating a tough, stressful day at work.
Turkish Expressions to Display Surprise, Exasperation, and Disappointment
O Ha: With an emphasis on the “o,” this expression shows shock and disbelief in what you are seeing. An old person seeing a fast car zoom down the street may say it. Likewise, it can be used in any situation that is unexpected.
Of Ya!: Situations of exasperation often result with the Turkish expression “Of ya” (pronounce the “o” as you would do to say oh). The “ya” is an emphasis of the frustration and using this phrase will make you sound like a real Turk.
Bu Ne Ya! Carrying on the theme of using “ya” to emphasise the expression, “bu ne ya!” is used to show disappointment in what the person is seeing. A mother arriving home to find her kid’s toys all over the house might use it, as would an employer who is disappointed with his employee’s results.
Common Everyday Islamic Expressions Used in Turkey
Selamunaleykum: Used by Muslims all over the world, this means, “May Gods peace be upon you” and is used in replacement of the non-Muslim greeting of “hello.” A person arriving at a teahouse or restaurant or walking into a shop may say it, and the response is “Aleykumselam” to return the blessing.
Inshallah: Used to express hope for an event and translating to “with god’s will,” this expression is closely linked to “Masallah” that is used as praise and admiration for something or someone. At the birth of a healthy baby, someone may say it to reflect his or her belief that God protects the child. Likewise, when people see a cute, newborn baby, they show their delight by using this phrase.
Cok sukur: Muslims often say this to themselves when they are happy, and it means thanks to God. The Turkish word for thanks, which is “tesekkurler,” is a variation of this Islamic phrase.
Turkish Food Expressions
Afiyet Olsun: Turks love their food and enjoy nothing more than sitting down to a delicious, healthy meal. This phrase is the western equivalent of “enjoy your meal” and is frequently used every day even by waiters in restaurants who serve your food.
Elinize Saglik: Turkish women have a reputation as goddesses in the kitchen, and on many occasions; extend invites to friends, family, and sometimes strangers to join them for a meal. When you finish eating say “elinize saglik” to the cook to express your satisfaction with the food. This phrase translates as “health to your hands.”
Turkish Expressions Related to Special Occasions
Hayirli Olsun: Turks are known to be hard workers, and whether they are starting a new job, opening a business or shop, this expression portrays your hopes that they will be successful in their endeavour because you are saying, “may it be good.”
Iyi Yolcuklar: Is your friend going somewhere? If so, say “iyi yolucuklar” as they set off to wish them a safe journey. It is the Turkish equivalent of “bon voyage.”
Basiniz Sagolsun: It is a tradition in Turkey, to bury dead people quickly according to religious beliefs. When a person announces the death of someone close to them, or you understand they are in mourning, this expression means “health to your head”, and you wish their grief passes quickly.
Gule Gule Kullan: On a lighter note, when someone buys something new such as a car, clothes, or a house, this phrase translates as “enjoy it” To respond, with thanks, say “tesekkur ederim.”
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