Happy Thanksgiving from LawPundit ! How about the Question of the Origin of the Word Turkey for the Turkey Bird

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you have ever thought that the Turkey bird takes its name from the country Turkey, you would be wrong.

Believe it or not, there is no accepted etymology for the word for the bird “Turkey”, a word which has been analyzed lexically at great depth by Alain Theriault in his 1996 posting at the Linguist List.

There is also a comprehensive lexical list at the Wiktionary. The closest words to English “turkey” are German Trut-hahn, Latvian ti-tars, Hebrew tar-negol hodu“rooster Indian”, Igbo (southern Nigera) toro toro, Irish turcai, Italian tacchino, Ladin (Switzerland) tachin, Lower Sorbian turk, Sorbian truta, Romanian cúrca, Telugu (Dravidian language of India) Tarkee Kodi (compare those two words with the Hebrew). Many other languages of the world have a word for the bird turkey starting with a word like hind- or ind- or something similar to it meaning “bird of India”.

If the Turkey originated in Europe, the Latvian terms tark-sket or tark-skis might give the essential clue since these words mean to “chatter, clapper, patter, rattle”, i.e. “to gobble”.

But as explained by Michael Qunion at World Wide Words, the turkey originally came from Mexico of the New World and was brought to the Old World by the Spaniards, in part via India and the East Indies, which is how the bird got called the “Indian” bird.

The Maya term for the turkey cock was ah tzo based on current evidence so that an original *tzor– form is not inconceivable. Since Tzorkin viz. Tzolkin means “cosmic matrix” (whence “calendar”) and Chorti, the name of the Maya people, means “river of stars”, the name of the Turkey bird may have come originally from the contact of the first European explorers with the tribal populations of Mexico prior to the colonial era, i.e. rather than a “bird of India”, which the explorers thought they had discovered, it was actually a “bird of the Maya” Chorti, whence also names of the Turkey that reference Peru.

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