The Shared Name of Turkey (Animal) and Turkey (Country)

The term “Turkey” takes on a dual role as both a bird species and a country’s name. This linguistic coincidence stems from historical confusion. European explorers misidentified the American turkey as a type of guinea fowl from Turkey. Thus, the bird inherited the name “Turkey.” Meanwhile, Turkey, the nation, gained its name from the medieval Latin term “Turchia.” This shared nomenclature showcases the intricate interplay between language, culture, and mistaken identity.

APA 7: ChatGPT. (2023, August 27). The Shared Name of Turkey (Animal) and Turkey (Country). PerEXP Teamworks. [Article Link]

The interplay between the term “Turkey,” representing both a bird and the country Turkey, has its roots in historical misunderstandings. Importantly, it’s crucial to recognize that Turkey does not derive its name from these avian creatures; rather, the nomenclature stems from a different context entirely. Interestingly, the bird’s name has connections to Turkey due to a historical twist, demonstrating the intricate nature of language evolution.

Turkey, as commonly understood, signifies the homeland of the Turkish people. However, the puzzling aspect emerges when examining the nomenclature of the bird. Although turkeys are native to the American continent, they bear the name of a country on a completely different landmass – Europe.

Turkey (Animal)
Turkey (Country, Turkish flag)

The journey of this linguistic anomaly begins with a historical mix-up. In the past, when the bird was introduced to European explorers, it bore a resemblance to the guinea fowl, an animal that Europeans were familiar with through trade routes passing through the Ottoman Empire, known as Turkey. This misidentification led to the bird being dubbed a “Turkey,” originating from the region of Turkey.

Interestingly, the notion that turkeys are emblematic of Thanksgiving in America adds another layer of complexity to their story. While historical records indicate that geese and ducks were likely featured during the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, it’s the turkey that has become synonymous with this American tradition.

Adding to the linguistic intrigue, the Turkish term for turkey is “Hindi.” This term has an interesting origin, as Turkish merchants reportedly acquired turkeys from India. This association explains why the Turkish term for the bird recalls India. Similarly, in European languages, including English, the bird is referred to as “Turkey” due to the European traders’ purchase of the bird from Turkish merchants.

In Portuguese, the term “Peru” is employed to describe the same bird. This naming arose because European traders were able to procure the bird from the American continent, indicating its origin in those lands.

In essence, the intricate tapestry of history, trade, and linguistic evolution has woven the term “Turkey” into a multi-layered phenomenon. From historical misunderstandings to the adoption of names based on trade routes, the naming of the bird and its connection to the country Turkey is a testament to the complexities of language and cultural interaction.


  1. WEBSITE Eplett, L. (2015, November 25). Talkin’ “Turkey”: the linguistic link between the bird and the country. Scientific American Blog Network. [Scientific American]
  2. WIKIPEDIA ENTRY Turkey (bird). (2023, August 27).  In Wikipedia. [Wikipedia English]
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