Turkish Proverbs

Turkish Proverbs

Every country has its proverbs and idioms which reflects countries long tradition, culture , history, life style, features of society and the richness of language.

Origin of proverbs comes from the tradition of living and it is consistent of implementing commonly used objects into a poeticaly formed words or sentence. They are mostly metaphores and for understanding of one it is neccesary to have a knowledge about the people and the way people are living.

In Turkey these sayings are knows as ata sözü, which literally translates to “words of our ancestors.”In this article we will show You couple of most famous Turkish proverbs/idioms and their explanation.

Pireyi deve yapmak – Don’t turn a flea into a camel
​The Turkish idiom “Pireyi deve yapmak,” which translates into “Don’t turn a flea into a camel” is the equivalent to the English idiom of “making a mountain out of a molehill” and refers to overreacting to and exaggerating a minor issue.

Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır – A cup of coffee has a 40-year memory
A true testament to the importance placed on Turkish coffee for Turks, the proverb, “Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır,” is a proverb whose literal translation is, “A cup of coffee will be remembered for 40 years.” But what is actually infers is that partaking in a cup of Turkish coffee with a Turk means you will share a 40-year friendship.

Şeytanın bacağını kırmak – Breaking the Devil’s Leg
​A similar idiom to “Şeytanın bacağını kırmak,” which translates to “Breaking the Devil’s Leg” in English would be “getting the show on the road” as this idiom is used to denote starting something you haven’t been able to somehow for a long time or similarly to travel somewhere you have been unable to get to.

Dost acı söyler – A friend says what hurts
The proverb “Dost acı söyler,” which translates into English as “A friend says what hurts,” means that a real friend tells the bitter truth and it is used when someone needs to soften the blow of having to deliver or receive unfortunate news from a close buddy.

 Armut piş ağzıma düş “May the pear be cooked on the tree and fall into my mouth”. This describes a person who doesn’t like to work, to whom everything comes ready and done — or falls literally in their lap.

Ateş almaya gelmek “Coming over just for a light”. You can cheekily accuse a visitor of this when you want them to stay a while longer.

Havlayan köpek ısırmaz. English equivalent: Barking dogs seldom bite.”People who make the most or the loudest threats are the least likely to take action.”

Nazar değmesin “May you not be touched by the evil eye”. Said after giving a compliment, particularly to a child. Although I’m a pretty rational person, I do believe in the power of the evil eye and use this saying a lot.

Ellerine sağlık “Health to your hand”. Said to someone who has created something beautiful with their hands, particularly to a cook or a Turkish mom after she’s cooked up a feast for her family.

Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi – It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter
​The Turkish proverb “Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi,” which translated means “It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter,” is used to describe something that is very easy to do. Similar idioms in English would be “like a walk in the park,” “shooting fish in a barrel” or “as easy as taking candy from a baby.”

Keçileri Kaçırmak – Losing the goats
​The Turkish phrase “keçileri kaçırmak,” which translates to “losing the goats,” means that someone has lost their mind, or in other words, gone completely insane. Funnily enough in English there are quite a few similar idioms such as “going bananas,” “losing one’s marbles, “to be barking mad,” “to lose the plot” or “to go stir crazy,” being just some.

Tuzu kuru – His/her salt is dry
​The idiom “Tuzu kuru,” which literally translates to “his/her salt is dry,” means that someone is financially well-off, or as the English equivalent would say, “sitting pretty.”

Eşek hoşaftan ne anlar? – What does a donkey know about compote?
While the meaning is the same, only the animals and items discussed vary in the Turkish idiom “Eşek hoşaftan ne anlar?” which translates to “What does a donkey know about compote?” and its English equivalent “casting pearls before swine.” Both capture the notion of offering something valuable or good to someone who would be completely unaware of its value.

Maydanoz olma – Don’t be a parsley
​One of the more recent idioms to surface in Turkish is the comical “Maydanoz olma,” which in English literally as “Don’t be a parsley.” The meaning of this phrase is to mind your own business, and to unlike parsley, not stick your nose into everything.

Sinek kucuktur, ama mide bulandirir. – (The fly is small, but it can upset your stomach.) Used when an event that seems insignificant to others, still bothers a person.

Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu – What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage
​This particular Turkish idiom, “Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu,” is certainly one of the most perplexing, literally translates to “What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage?” Without aiming to decipher the words, and their placement, the meaning in the culture that uses it is what matters most and in this case, this statement is used to point out inconsistencies in one’s behavior or words.

Cami yıkılmış ama mihrab yerinde ”The mosque is a ruin but the mihrap is standing”. This phrase describes an older woman who retains her charms. It’s like saying a church is in ruins but the pulpit is standing. Basically, it’s the opposite of “mutton dressed as lamb.”

Deve bir pula, deve bin pula.  A camel for a dime, a camel for a thousand dimes. Used to show the irony when a person could not afford something even when it is very cheap, but can later afford it when it is thousand times more expensive.