After being literally translated into english, the name of the Turkey (bird) follow some interesting pattern.

  • In english, they are called "Turkey".
  • In turkish, they are called "Hindi".
  • In hindi, they are called "Peru".
  • In arabic, they are called "Greek Chicken".
  • In greek, they are called "French Chicken".
  • In french they are called "Indian chicken".

The (wild) turkey is native from North America though (wiki). My question has been motivated by this 9gag post. I haven't double check their claims but I can tell it is correct in english and in french. In french they used to be called "Poule d'Inde" and by contraction they are now called "Dinde".


What is the reason for such pattern?

  • Is it just pure randomness? Among all things that we name, there must be at least one that follow some kind of remarkable pattern.

  • Does it reflect the history of Turkeys consumption? We might eventually be able to trace back the origin of the domestication through the names. If we assume that the names "Turkey" and "Peru" are coincidences, we may think that the indian first domesticated the Turkeys, followed by the French, Greeks and Arabs. However, it doesn't seem to match the history of Turkeys domestication (wiki). It is a slightly better fit if we consider the the term "Indian chicken" (in french) refers to the american first nations and not to India.

  • Is there some other reason?

  • 1
    To add color to the above list, in Malay the bird is called "Dutch Chicken" (ayam belanda)!
    – betelgeuse
    Mar 7, 2019 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


It seems right that this hilarious chain of terms reflects the spread of the domesticated turkey in the Old World. Even more names, with even more geographical references, is found here.

This article discusses the history of introduction of turkeys in Europe and beyond, and speculates on the variety of names, including the English word turkey. Version include onomatopoetic tuka, tuka (resembling the sound it makes), Hebrew tukka `big bird' (a possible coinage by Luis de Torres a.k.a. Yosef ben Levi Ha-Ivri), and relation to the merchants trading with Ottoman Empire, who were called Turkey merchants and might have played a role in the turkey's spread in England.

Furthermore, another article supports the idea that the "Indian" component in the relevant names refers to the New World. Their version of the etymology of turkey is that there was confusion of turkeys with guinea-fowls, who came to Europe from Africa through Ottoman Empire, wherefore were called turkey-hens of -cocks.

All that said, it seems that the etymology of its names in different languages is amenable to a thorough exploration, but would involve some work with XVI century texts. Maybe somebody did it already.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.