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Türkic and Greek Languages


Valentyn Stetsyuk
Research of Prehistoric Ethnogenetical Processes in Eastern Europe
Book 2
Lviv 2003
Traces of Linguistic Contacts in Türkic and Indo-European Vocabularies




The reconstructed Herodotus World Map ca 450 BC shows the world as it was known to the Greeks at the time. A major portion of the tribes listed by Herodotus north-east of the Greek world constitute tribes that either have direct Türkic names (Budini = People, Gelones = Snake, Iurcae = Nomads, Arimaspi = Half-Eyed, Sauromatae = Saddlebagged, Agathyrsi = Tree People, Scythians = As-Guzes), or the tribes whose Türkic affiliation can be reasonably reconstructed (Neuri, Issedones, Saspirians, ) or at least suspected (Androphags, Melanchlaeni, Argippaei). It is quite possible that somewhat derogatory connotations of some names (like Budini, Iurcae, Arimaspi,  Agathyrsi) indicate exoethnonyms of Türkic origin, and the peoples themselves may have been non-Türks, and conceivably Finno-Ugrian, Germanic or Baltic tribes. The Greeks, a confederation of maritime tribes, by the Herodotus time had about a millennia of the coastal colonization, and they had inevitably absorbed voluminous word loans from the aboriginal populations of the coasts and the adjacent lands. These borrowings were profound and documented in the religious area, where the majority of the deities are from the known non-Greek extraction. The Greeks, widespread along the coasts of the Mediterranean, Marmora, Black and Azov seas, with their intrinsic material and spiritual culture, and trading contacts across all the waterways of the Mediterranean, were a powerful force in spreading its borrowings throughout the western and the eastern Europe. In the word list assembled by V. Stetsyuk in his book, a number of the Türkic borrowing words were further propagated by the Greeks into Romance and Slavic languages directly, and into Germanic languages via the Latin intermediaries.

Not all Türkic loan words were documented in the Greek written sources, and not all of the documented words were analyzed for a possible source, so the following list is only a part of a prospective complete listing. We know some other evident borrowings which were not included in the list below, the borrowings which clear Türkic etymology contrasts highly with the absence of any believable IE etymology, like Hercules and taur and Taurus and Scyth and many others. However, even this partial list can be a first stepping stone for a statistical re-evaluation of the etymological sources of the Greek language.

In this miniscule sampling, the semantical depth and width are astounding. The hippodromes operated in Kentucky and California come from the Greek ippodromos  that came from the Türkic jabu, horse. The kaleidoscope of the names for a horse in the IE languages, aspa/horse/loshad etc. indicates a clear borrowing, and the unity of the term jabu in the Türkic languages indicates as clearly the source. We are so mush ingrained with the knowledge that a horse in Greek is ”ippo”, that neither the Greeks, nor us can even imagine the time when the Greeks did not have this word. Even though some words may be alleged to be late borrowings, there are those that exclude that possibility, like the  ”ask”, ”barley”, ”bile”,... ”horse”...,etc. These are the terms without which not a single agricultural and pastoral society can exist at any stage of their development.

The etymology of the name ”Greece, Greek” is enigmatic. The Greek general endoethnonym is ”Hellenes”, which has no phonetical connection to the word ”Greeks”. The Greek tribes used a number of tribal ethnonyms, Dorians, Achaeans, Ionians, Tyrians and others. The common Türkic name for the Greece is Yananistan, for the Greeks is Yananli, Yanan being a dialectal pronunciation for Ionia. It is probably clear, that the origin of the name Yanan dates back to the times when the Greek tribal names predominated, prior to the expansion of the Alexander the Great. In the Greek sources it was Aristotle (384-322 BCE), who in his ”Meteorologica” I, xiv, first used Graikhos as synonymous to Hellenes, Aristotle wrote that Illyrians originally used the name Graikhos for the Dorians in Epirus, from Graii, the native name of the people of Epirus, in the north western corner of Greece on the Ionian Sea and west of Thessaly. Naturally, the modern scientists take that statement with a grain of salt, because the widespread usage of this exoethnonym between completely unrelated languages would hardly originate from such a single center. On the other hand, this classical evidence might confirm that the exoethnonym came from the Balkan populace, which at that time had Scythians bordering on the Macedonia. It would be natural for the Scythians to use both terms, ca. Yanan and Kresh for their Ionian neighbors and the Hellenes at large.

 The modern theory of the German historian Georg Busolt, 1850-1920, derives ”Greeks” from Graikhos ”inhabitant of Graia” (from ”gray”), a town on the coast of Boeotia, the central area of the ancient Greece around the city of Thebes, which was the name given by the Romans to all Greeks, originally to the Greek colonists from Graia who helped found Cumae (9th c. B.C.E.), an important city in the southern Italy where the Latins first encountered the Greeks. In accordance with this theory, the name was re-borrowed in this general sense by the Greeks. Considering that the Greeks were already colonizing the Apennine peninsula for a  few centuries prior to the 9 c. B.C.E.,the Greeks' widespread presence in the Mediterranean before that,  and the 4th c. BC statement of Aristotle, this theory ascribes too much weight to the 9th c. BC pre-Roman Latins in spreading the term, and to the Greeks for universally adopting it from a minor neighbor of the times, even to pretend to reflect the real etymology.

The Scythians had a long history of contacts with the Greeks (see Kurgan Culture in Neo- & Mesolith), their symbiosis already had a millennia by the time of the Romans'  arrival to the world scene. The huge steppe and forest-steppe zone settled by the Scythian tribes would help the moniker for the Greeks to be spread, if they had one, over great distances and many vernaculars. And it just happened that the Hunno-Bulgars give us a hint, calling the Greece: ”Kryash”, the same name as they call Crete, Kresh. That the name Kryash was deeply entrenched in the Scythian culture is confirmed by the name of the Crete, Kresh, and the name of a street and a plazza in Kyiv, Kresh (Slavicized ”Kreschatik”) both ascend to the Türkic Bulgarian term for wrestling. And it would be possible to accept that the Cretans' name has spread to all the Hellenes, propagated by the Scythians from the outside of the Greece, and as well from the inside of the Greece, Persia and Rome, each of these powers employing Scythian mercenaries en mass and for centuries on.

Evolved in the Apennine peninsula, the initial Latin root of the Romance group of languages evolved from the Greek and Tyrrhenian (Etruscan) environment absorbed in the proto-Latin dialects of the Apennines. In later times, when the Rome power extended way beyond the Apennines, the Türkic, or, using the terminology of the times, Scythian borrowings could have found a way to be absorbed into the mainstream Latin from the Scythian mercenaries documented as serving in the Roman army, but the initial borrowings must have come from the the Greek and Etruscan, and the tribes absorbed into the Roman local population, and from the trading contacts with the carriers of the Türkic languages of the time.

The legacy of the Latin lasted for another millennia after the disintegration of the Roman Empire. As a universal lingua franca, the Latin was the language of state administration, jurisprudence, culture, science, literature and religion in most of the countries of the western and central Europe, with some vestiges extending into the New Times. Thus, Latin was instrumental in spreading its Türkic via Greek borrowings throughout not only the western, but also the eastern Europe. And the Latin disseminated its Türkisms deep and wide, dispersing them into Germanic, Celtic, Scandinavian, Baltic and other languages, where they can be discerned by their etymological roots ascending to the Latin language (like the borrowing of the word ”use” in English).

Herodotus World Map ca 450 BC

A very important aspect is the direction of the borrowing. The first criteria is usually the etymology, when a word has a clear meaning in one family and as clearly does not have a meaning in another family, like the Agathyrs, Budini and Iurks in the example above. Another direct evidence is the tracing in the literary sources. With the absence of the direct evidence, the accepted criteria is the distribution of the word in the compared source families of languages. For example, if the word ”casa” = ”house, home” and its derivatives are found in the majority of the Indo-European family of languages (say, in 50 out of approx. 70, or approx. 75%), and only in a few non-IE languages (say, in 2 out of 20, or approx. 10%), the preponderance of the evidence justifies assumption of the direction of borrowing from the Indo-European to the non-IE languages, and not in the opposite direction. Thus, each found borrowing has to be assessed for the direction of the borrowing. Naturally, this assessment frequently shatters the settled conceptions, which in the remote past boldly assumed that the direction of the borrowing was from the language family of the researcher to the other families. Another accepted indicator of the direction is the semantical direction from a general to a more specific, or from a specific concept to a general concept, like the generic Türkic ”tree”, agach, becoming a name of a tree species, acacia, apparently by the same way as the generic ”maize” became a type of corn in the borrower languages. An opposite example is the conversion of the specific name into a category name, like the proper name Caesar becoming Kaiser in German and Tsar in Slavic.

The unfortunate double/triple translation in the list below (for example, Greek => German, German => Russian, Russian => English, or Cyrillicized Tatar => Russian, Russian => English) may lose some semantical precision, but still would preserve the meaningful essence of the words.

The spelling of the Cyrillicized  Türkic words in the Russian sphere of domination is transcribed from the Greek-based quasi-Cyrillic to English, performed by V. Stetsyuk in his original work. The accuracy of all these transformations would suggest a possibility of alternate spellings for the most of the cited words.

Greek letter ”xi, ksi” is replaced with its phonetic equivalent ”ks” to avoid misinterpretation. Both w (o-mega, or omega, large o) and o (o-micron, or omicron, little o) are transcribed with English ”o”.


 a.o. - and others
Arm - Armenian
Balk - Balkar
Chuv - Chuvashian
CTür - common for all Türkic
Dt - Dutch
Eng - English
etc - and other derivatives
Gag. - Gagauz
Gil - Gilan
Got - Gothic
Gr - Greek
IE - Indoeuropean
Karach - Karachay
Kaz - Kazakh
Kirg - Kirghiz
Kr-Blk - Karachay-Blkarian
Lat - Latin
Lit - Lithuanian
Norw - Norwegian
OE - Old English
OG- Old Germanic
OI - Old Indian
OIcl - Old Icelandic
OT - Old Türkic
Pers - Persian
Sl - Old-Slavic
Sw- Swedish
Tat - Tartarian
Tur - Turkish
Turkm- Turkmenian
Uzb - Uzbek
Yak - Yakut


Examples of the Türkic - Greek lexical parallels coming from the time preceding the Greek and Roman ”classical” periods are shown below. Additional entries to the author's text are shown in blue.

English Greek Latinized Greek Türkic Phonetic Türkic Semantic Other IE


acacia akakia akakia agač CTür tree Lat acacia “acacia”
2 ask aitew aiteo ajit OT
vitěn Chuv
ötünmek Tur
entreat (v)
ask (v)
solicit (v)
question (v)
3 barley alji alfi arpa CTür barley  
4 barley porrige aljh alfe arpa CTür barley  
5 bend (v)     bükmek Turkm, Tur
bögü Tat
bügerge Kr-Blk a.o.
bend Goth biugan, OE bugan, OI bhujati, Sl bgati
6 bile, gall colh   xăla Chuv light-yellow The root is IE. The source of loan in Chuvashian is unknown.
7 bring (v)
take (v)
jerw fero be:r CTür
bermek Turkm
vermek Tur
berirge Kr-Blk a.o.
give Lat fero, Sl bürati, etc.
8 bridge
γεξuρα gejura köpür CTür
kěper Chuv
köpürKarach, Balk
küper Tat a.o.
bridge Arm kamurj’
9 beat (v)
split (v)
çapa Tur
çap Chuv
čabu Tat  a.o.
Lat scapula, Lit kapoti a.o.
36 ouzel (n)   kossufos kos ouzel  
10 cave
kaiata kaiata govak Turkm
kovuk Tur
xăvăl Chuv a.o.
Lat cavea, OI  kevata a.o.
11 curved skolios skolios čalaš Chuv
çalîk Tur
Arm šeł “slant, curved”
12 cut (v)
split (v)
skallw skallo čalmak Turkm
čalyrg’a Karach, Balk
čalgy Tat
šalgy Kaz  a.o.
cut (v)
mow (v)
scythe (v)
Goth skilja, Lit skelti a.o.
13 cut keazw keazo kes CTür
kesmek Turkm, Tur
keserge Karach, Balk
kesu Kaz a.o
cut Lat castrare, Sl kosa, kositi, Lit gabenti, a.o.
14 dark karumon karumon qara CTür
kara Tur, Gag., Tat
qara Karach, Balk, Kaz etc.
38 forest δρυμός drumos (drymos) urman Tat.+ forest  
15 furrow alox alox oluk Tur
valak Chuv
uuaq Karach, Balk
Arm alik’  “wave”, “billow”
16 hang artaw artao urtăn Chuv
art Tur, Tat, Kaz a.o
hang up
hang on
17 horse ippos ippos jaby, jabu CTür
jupax Chuv
horse Arm ji
35 bay, liman λιμνη limne liman estuary
sea bay
brine bay of a sea
Russ, Ukr liman, Eng. liman
18 magic power khlhsis kelesis kělě Chuv prayer  
19 man arshn arsen arçyn Chuv man  
20 medicine iama iama em CTür
em Turkm, Gag., Tur
21 pit lakh lake lakăm Chuv pit  
22 right dexios deksios dik/dek CTür
dikan Turkm
dik Tur
tikěs Chuv
tekis Uzb
Lat dexter, Sl desn a.o.
23 scratch (v) keskeon keskeon gašamak Turkm
kaşîmak Tur
qašyrg'a Karach, Balk
scratch etc. Sl česati, Lit kasyti a.o
37 scribe πιθακιον pithakion betkeèi OT, CT scribe Syrian petga - ”table”, no Pers. or Sogd., Sl pisec
24 sieve hqmos ethmos atma Chuv fishnet  
25 skin, pelt dera dera deri CTür
tir Chuv
skin, pelt
26 shine (v) jlegw fleyo balku Tat
balkir  Tur  a.o.
belgi CTür
Lat fulgeo, Lit blykšti, Sl blikati, blesk etc.
27 spear, lance palton palton balta CTür axe  
28 terribble
gorgos gorgos gorky Turkm
korku Tur
korku Gag a.o.
Arm cŕuk "muzzle, mug, snout"
29 tie (v)
bind (v)
dew deo düv CTür
düvün Turkm
těvě Chuv
30 turn (v) jurw furo bur CTür
burmak Turkm, Tur
boru Tat
buramoq Uzb a.o.
turn Lat forare, OE borian
31 turn (v) eilew eileo ejlenderu Tat
ajlantirmoq Uzb
ajlanyu Kr-Blk
Lat volvo, Sl val- etc
32 wax
khros  keros karas Chuv honeycombs The root is IE. The source of loan in Chuvashian is unknown.
33 weave (v)
spin (v)
tukos tukos doqa CTür
dokumak Tur
dokamak Turkm
toqu Kaz  a.o.
weave Lat texere,  Sl tъkati, Arm t’ek’em a.o.
34 wheat puros  puros pări Chuv spelt, a species of wheat The root is IE. The source of loan in Chuvash is unknown.
            (Etymology Dictionary: ”Old L. oeti ”use, employ, exercise, perform,” of unknown origin.” Etymologies do not have a clue where the Latins took it from - Translator's Note)


Gr. Boreal = Northern wind < from Türkic ”Purga, Buran, Burya” from verb "pur/bur" = "turn, twist" = Snow storm. Derivative of it is Türkic ”poiraz” = ”North-Eastern wind, Northern wind”, which is semantically and phonetically identical to Greek ”poyraz, boreal”. This borrowing dates to before 5 c. BC

Gr. Teremnon, teramnon= Home, Abode < from Türkic (Kipchak) ”Tarma” = Women's Quarters”, Mong  ”Terme”

Gr. Foresia, Forema = outer garment < from Türkic ”Feredze” =  Outer garment


In Russian
Contents Türkic languages

Türkic in English
Türkic in Romance
Alans in Pyrenees

Ogur and Oguz
Türkic languages
Türkic in Greek
Türkic, Slavic and Iranian

Alan Dateline
Avar Dateline
Besenyo Dateline
Bulgar Dateline
Huns Dateline
Karluk Dateline
Khazar Dateline
Kimak Dateline
Kipchak Dateline
Kyrgyz Dateline
Sabir Dateline
Seyanto Dateline
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