There are a lot of Turkish idioms that, when translated directly, seem very strange but are actually extremely common and an integral part of Turkish society. Affected by the country’s religious and superstitious beliefs, as well as the importance of family and hospitality, Culture Trip took a look at some very common idioms for an introduction to the Turkish language.
One of Turkey’s most prevalent superstitions, nazar is the belief that an envious person can cause bad luck just through their gaze. Admonished with the eye-shaped nazar boncuğu (nazar bead), this idiom is also used when someone is lucky or very happy, and you don’t want them to be affected by someone’s bad energy. Translating to “I hope you’re not affected by nazar,” the saying is also accompanied by biting your tongue and knocking on wood, which are proven methods of preventing that horribly evil eyeball.
Literally translating into “you arrived so wonderfully,” this saying will probably be the first thing you see when you arrive in Istanbul. The Turkish way of saying welcome is, of course, filled with compliments, which expresses how important guests are in Turkish culture and that they are always welcomed lovingly.
The opposite of welcome, this idiom literally translates into “you leave with lots of laughter” – which doesn’t make a lot of sense in English – meaning when guests leave, the hope is that they do so with a smile on their face. This idiom also expresses a wish that when Turkish people see someone off, they hope that their journey back home goes smoothly.
“Hayır,” or auspiciousness, is a very important concept in Turkish society, and when someone wishes for something, like a job or marriage, for example, then it should only occur if it’s auspicious. This idiom, which means “let it be auspicious,” can be used for many situations where you wish a person luck, such as when they buy a new car, get married, etc.
This idiom translates to “health to your hands,” which sounds pretty strange. However, it is used quite frequently in situations where someone has cooked food. Once you’re done with a meal, you say “ellerine sağlık” to express your gratitude for the person who prepared such an amazing meal for you.
Another great idiom for appreciating someone’s hard work, kolay gelsin translates into “let it be easy,” which means that you wish the person ease with their task. This idiom can be used for strangers, such as a cab driver, or someone you know that is busy with something like cleaning the house or tackling a difficult assignment.
You’ll always hear this idiom when someone comes out of the shower, and it goes back to the days when running water was scarce, and bathing could only be done sporadically and usually at a hamam. Translating to “let there be health,” this was a warm wish directed toward the person who bathed, hoping he or she didn’t catch a cold.
The Turkish version of “bless you” is much more gracious because it means “live long,” to which the appropriate reply is “sen de gör,” which means something along the lines of “I hope you see me grow old.” Sometimes strangers on buses will have this exchange, which comes to show how Turkish people are kind enough to wish long lives upon people they don’t even know.
One of the most common insults for someone who is annoying you, this idiom means “he/she has a cold in his head,” or that the person has basically gone insane, which would explain their annoying behavior. You’ll hear couples asking each other if they have this particular head cold when they argue with each other.