November 17, 2006

21 Geographically Confused Names for the Turkey

I’ve always thought it was strange that the English word for the bird commonly eaten on Thanksgiving is “turkey,” since it did not originate from the Mediterranean country of the same name, but is native to North America. Upon further research, I’ve found that the early European settlers came up with the name because of the American bird’s resemblance to the African Helmeted Guineafowl, also known as the turkey-cock.

Confusion over the provenance of this particular bird is not limited to the English language, however; many other languages, including Turkish, have geographically related names for the Thanksgiving bird that are just as mixed up as ours. This information comes mostly from the Wikipedia, along with somewhat contradictory statements from the Linguist List (here and here).

Names Referring to India

  • Turkish: Hindi (from/related to India)
  • French: Poulet d’inde (chicken from India)
  • Catalan: Gall dindi (Indian chicken)
  • Hebrew: Tarnegol hodu (Indian chicken)
  • Russian: Indiuk
  • Polish: Indyk
  • Yiddish: Indik
  • Maltese: Dundjan
  • Dutch: Kalkoen (from the Indian city of Calicut)
  • Bahasa Indonesia: Ayam kalkun (bird + reference to Calicut)
  • Danish: Kalkun (see Dutch)
  • Swedish: Kalkon (see Dutch)
  • Low German: Kalkuun (see Dutch)
  • Finnish: Kalakuna (see Dutch)

Names Referring to France

  • Greek: Gallopoula (French bird) [According to some sources, it’s a different word meaning “Egyptian rooster.”]
  • Scottish Gaelic: Cearc frangach (French chicken)

Other Countries

  • (Standard) Arabic: Dik roumi (Roman rooster) [According to some sources, it’s diiq hindi, or Indian rooster]
  • Palestinian Arabic: Diik Habash (Ethiopian rooster)
  • Egyptian Arabic: “Greek bird” or “Greek rooster” [According to some sources, it’s dik-rumi, or Turkish fowl, though that looks suspiciously like the “roumi” that supposedly means Roman]
  • Malay: Ayam belanda (Dutch chicken)
  • Portuguese: Peru (refers to the country)

2 Responses to “21 Geographically Confused Names for the Turkey”

  1. Callie Le Renard said:

    After reading this, I thought that the names above refer not to India, the country, but rather to American Indians/Native Americans who first introduced white settlers to the bird we know as Turkey.

  2. Micah Stetz said:

    Excellent observation, Mr. Renard. I personally found this page while searching for an answer as to why the Arabs call it the “roman rooster”. That question, however, goes yet still unanswered…