Russian Words of Turkic Origin Posted by Maria on Aug 8, 2019 in Vocabulary
Russian is a Slavic language that has shares its origins with such languages as Ukrainian or Belorussian and, earlier, Polish or Bulgarian. Most of its vocabulary comes from this common Slavic “stock.” However, a few words in Russian have Turkic origins. They probably entered Russian from the Turkic languages (the group that includes Turkish, Tatar, and Kazakh, among others) spoken in the Golden Horde (Золота́я Орда́) and the Ottoman Empire (Осма́нская импе́рия).
Let’s look at some of these words. I don’t speak any Turkic language, so the translations and information on cognates in this post comes from Wiktionary.
Numerous words of Turkic origin refer to food items:
- балы́к: smoked or cured salmon spine
Compare this with the Turkish word balık (fish).
- алыча́: cherry plum
The origin of this word is the Azerbaijani alça.
- изю́м: raisins (usually uncountable)
Related words include the Uyghur ئۈزۈم (üzüm, “grape”) and Turkish üzüm.
- курага́: dried apricots (uncountable)
Similar to the Kumyk kurägä, dried apricots.
Society and Law
During the times of the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus, many words that entered the Old Russian language had to do with the government and social institutions:
- тамо́жня: customs, from тамга́ — seal, brand
Related words include the Bashkir тамға (tamğa, “brand, mark”) and Tatar tamɣa (seal).
- де́ньги: money (currently plural only, initially singular “деньга” referred to a coin)
Compare this to the Kazakh теңге (teñge), the name of the national currency of Kazakhstan.
- казна́: treasury; казначе́йство is the name of the state Treasury/Exchequer
Related to the Turkish hazine (“treasure, treasury”). Probably originated from the Iranian languages.
- тюрьма́: prison, jail/gaol
Compare to the Tatar төрмә (törmä, “prison”). You may sometimes see a version about this word being derived from the Latin turris, tower.
A few animals also got their names from Turkic languages:
- каба́н: wild boar; this word replaced the Slavic word вепрь in everyday speech
Cognates include Azerbaijani qaban, Kazakh кабан (kaban).
- барсу́к: badger
Compare to the Turkish word porsuk.
- тарака́н: cockroach
The origin of this word is ambiguous, but many versions point to a Turkic source.
- суро́к: groundhog, woodchuck
One version says this word came from a Turkic language, but another implies the name just imitates the sound this animal makes.
Many items of clothing have Turkic names, but these names have been in Russian so long, it doesn’t even register any more!
- хала́т: bathrobe, house dress, lab coat
This word is related to such words as the Azerbaijani xələt (“dressing gown”) and Uzbek xalat (“robe”), which are ultimately derived from Arabic.
- чуло́к: stocking
Compare to the Tatar čolgåu, footwrap.
- колпа́к: cap, nightcap, fool’s cap
Similar words include the Tatar калфак (qalfaq), Kazakh қалпақ (qalpaq), and Turkish kalpak (“cap”)
Did you recognize any of the words? Do you speak any Turkic language and, if so, how accurate are the comparisons I included in this post?
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.