These two words in English would appear to refer to foreign peoples / cultures known to the Rus within recorded history.

The Russian wikipedia pages indicate a surface similarity in spelling:

Are the etymologies (and, by extension, the current meaning) of these two terms terms referring to similar, or related, groups, or is this a false connection?

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    This is a good question and I have always wondered this myself. In this case I think it's fine to ask both about the modern difference in meaning and about the etymology - but since this is a linguistics site you should focus on the etymology - and so should the answers. Without that the question would be more suitable to english.SE or history.SE - It would be great if you could edit the question in this regard. Oct 10, 2013 at 6:41
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    Good comment @hippietrail and I was wondering that myself as I was writing the question. There are similar questions on Linguistics, but I hadn't quite put my finger on the essential difference as you made quite clear above. Thanks for improving my query. Oct 10, 2013 at 22:13
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5 Answers 5


You should not confuse the two terms:

  1. The Cossacks: are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who became known as members of democratic, semi-military and semi-naval communities,[1] predominantly located in Ukraine and in Southern Russia.
  2. The Kazakhs: are a Turkic people of Eastern Europe and the northern parts of Central Asia (largely Kazakhstan, but also found in parts of Uzbekistan, China, Russia and Mongolia).

On top of that, The Russian Empire recognized the ethnic difference between the two groups; it called them both Kyrgyz to avoid confusion between the terms Kazakh and Cossack (both names originating from Turkic "free man".)

the noun qazğaq derives from the same root as the verb qazğan ("to obtain", "to gain"). Therefore, qazğaq defines a type of person who seeks profit and gain.

Vassmer's etymological dictionary traces the name to an Old East Slavic козакъ, kozak, originally from Cuman Cosac - a free man (in the Latin translation of this word in the Codex) or a freed man (in the Arabic translation)

In a nutshell, they have the same meaning but each group refers to a specific area.

Source: Wikipedia

I hope my answer would be of help. Thanks!

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    Thanks for your answer! Could you please edit your post and elaborate on how both terms are derived from Turkic free man and when they diverged? This seems crucial to the answer.
    – robert
    Oct 9, 2013 at 22:37
  • That is a terrific answer, Mohamed. Robert's comment about adding the info on etymology would be helpful, but I am going to mark this as the accepted answer. Oct 10, 2013 at 22:10

There're 2 completely different groups, just their name is of same etymology. It comes from ancient Turkic 'kazak' - "free man, wanderer, rambler".

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    Could you post some more information or some etymologies focusing on their derivation? This is a Linguistics SE, so we should probably focus on the Linguistic part of the question.
    – acattle
    Oct 10, 2013 at 1:37
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    Hi @Alexander-T... you indicate they are completely separate but bytebuster above seems to indicate they are the same? Any thoughts? Oct 10, 2013 at 22:08
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    No, @bytebuster indicates that the words have a common etymological origin. Both groups of people were independently described using a word that meant "a free, independent person, adventurer, tramp". In both cases that term stuck and became the standard word to describe each people. I do agree that none of the answers makes it as clear as possible, especially when the term began to be used to each group and how the forms of the terms diverged. Oct 11, 2013 at 3:14

I believe, a single quote from Vasmer's dictionary will answer the question:

Слово: казаґк,
Ближайшая этимология: аґ-, укр. козаґк, др.-русск. козакъ "работник, батрак", впервые в грам. 1395 г.; см. Срезн. I, 1173 и сл. Из укр. заимств. польск. kоzаk "казак". Ударение в форме мн. ч. казаґки -- результат влияния польско-укр. формы; оренб. казаки говорят: казакиґ; см. Зеленин, РФВ, 56, 239. Заимств. из тур., крым.-тат., казах., кирг., тат., чагат. kаzаk "свободный, независимый человек, искатель приключений, бродяга" (Радлов 2, 364 и сл.); см. Бернекер 1, 496; Мi. ТЕl. I, 330. Сюда же казаґки мн., соврем. казаґхи -- тюрк. народ. Этноним касоґг не родствен казаґк, вопреки Эльи (505).

A loose translation:

Word: kazak [qɑzɑq]
Nearest etymology: ag-, Ukrainian козаґк, Old Russian козакъ "worker, farmhand", in grammar since 1395; see Sriezniewski, 1173 and a dictionary. [...] Borrowed from Turkish, Crimean-Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Chagatai kаzаk "a free, independent person, adventurer, tramp" (Radlov 2, 364 and dictionary); see Berneker 1, 496; Мi. ТЕl. I, 330. Cognates казаґки plural, modern Kazakh казаґхи -- a Turkic nation. [...]

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    Hi @bytebuster - you seem to be implying that they are the same group? Alexander T below says different groups. Oct 10, 2013 at 22:06
  • @marccenedella Let's see if Alexander provides with some reputable links.
    – bytebuster
    Oct 10, 2013 at 22:15
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    No, it says that Kazakh is cognate, i.e. a word from the same origin. It does not say that it designates the same people.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 11, 2013 at 0:18
  • I don't see any mention here of 'cossack'. Where is the comparison?
    – Mitch
    Jan 8, 2017 at 14:19
  • @Mitch kazak is transliteration of Russian казак, which means cossak.
    – culebrón
    Apr 28, 2019 at 22:14

Qazaq I think comes from the verb qaz- meaning to scrape, scratch, dig. This was applied to horses (qazaq at) when they scraped snow (hoofed) to find some food. It's necessary to wander for it. And then it was applied for humans as well.


They don't come from the not pure Turkish, the roots of those words come from an ancient and very strong Aryan caste. Their Brahmin are still keeping their secrets in the caves of Kathmandu.

It is written there that once they dominated the center of Asia. All their conquest of the plains of India, the bloodshed and intermingling with local Dravidian populations, and the unforgettable war with Lord Krishna.

You can find the modern name of those wise mans here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khasas

Given the common origin of Slavic and Iranian language it should be obvious to you that we are talking about the same people.

People think that those are only living Nepal, but, in fact, many cities of Afghanistan and even Kashmir (the place we call Eden) himself are actually named after this caste.

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