However, if you really want to impress the Turks you talk to and with, it is also a good idea to learn some of the most common Turkish slang words. This shows that you not only know the language but you know and understand more about the culture.
Slang words are popular in every language. While they may be less formal that regular words, used correctly, they communicate a warmness and approachability that is endearing to Turks.
Of course you don’t want to devote all your time to learning slang lest your Turkish ends up sounding awkward. But once you have reached a certain level of proficiency, brushing up on some of the most common Turkish slang is a great idea to make you sound more like a Turk.
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Slang Grammar: Create Your Own Words
While just about every language has slang, not every language has its own slang grammar. The fun thing about Turkish is that it does.
To use this grammar you take a word and say it twice. What makes the phrase slang is that you replace the first letter of the second word with the letter “m.”
Here is an example:
- Param maram yok ki. (I don’t have any money.)
The English translation gives you the idea of what the Turkish sentence is trying to communicate but it is far from a literal translation.
Notice that “maram” looks the same as “param” (para which means money plus the “m” at the end to signify it is mine) but it starts with an “m”.
Maram is not a word in Turkish, but when used in this way (with an exasperated tone) communicates you emphatically don’t have any money.
You can create your own slang words with this grammar. Have some fun with it and try it out with your Turkish friends.
Tuz is the Turkish word for salt and when you add the “lu” suffix it means literally with salt. It is the way in Turkish to say something is salty.
But when it is used as a slang word it means something different. Here is an example:
- O lokantaya gitmeyelim, çok tuzlu. (Let’s not go to that restaurant, its very expensive.)
As a slang word, tuzlu means expensive. Notice in the example we are talking about a restaurant so make sure you pay attention to context. Is the food at the restaurant salty or is it expensive? Either way, you could say its tuzlu.
A common way to make up slang words in English is to shorten words. Totally becomes “totes” and adorable “adorbs.” One example of the same type of thing in Turkish is the word efso which is short for efsane meaning legend.
- Efso geliyor! (Here comes a legend.)
This might be used among friends as they joke around about each other being legendary.
In Turkish the word inek means cow. For some reason, the same word is also used to describe a person or student who is bookish and studies all the time. Basically, as a slang word it means nerd.
- O çocuk gerçekten bir inek. (That child really is a nerd.)
You probably already know that the word çocuk means child. It can also be used as a slang word. And while it still really means child, it could be considered slang because the person you are calling a child is clearly not a child!
It might be used by friends and they are “ribbing” each other.
- Bu çocuğa bak ya, ne yapıyor? (Look at this child, what is he doing?)
Another example of shortening a word to create a slang word is kanka which is short for kankardeş which means blood brother. It is used between close friends.
- Nasılsın kanka? (How are you bro?)
Similar to kanka and a word that you should only use with your close friends is lan. It is really a place holder word and might mean friend or it might just be a way to start or end a sentence.
It is on the verge of being overused by many Turks so be careful with it.
- Ne yapıyorsun lan? (What are you doing man?)
The word kıro is fairly derogatory and loosely means something like redneck. It is someone who is uneducated and backwards.
- Kıro gibi davranma ceketini giy. (Don’t act like a redneck, put on your coat.)
As a noun ekmek (bread) is one of the most basic words in Turkish. As a verb ekmek means to plant or sow. But as slang it means to stand someone up or to ditch your plans with them.
- Yarınki sınavı ekmek çok istiyorum. (I really want to skip my test tomorrow.)
In Turkish there are a few words that can mean something is free. Bedava, ücretsiz, and ikram can all do the job depending on the situation. The slang word beleş (which is derived from bedava) can also mean free.
- Yeni saatim beleşti. (My new watch was free.)
The slang word sayko is actually just the Turkish way of saying and writing the English word psycho. It has the same meaning as its English counterpart.
- Adam bir sayko. (The man is psycho.)
The word vallah is a holdover from Turkish’s Arabic past and means something along the lines of “really” (as in Really?)
- Vallah bilmiyorum. (I really don’t know.)
The word matrak is used to describe people or things that are fun or amusing.
- Yeni arkadaşın matrak mı? (Is your new friend fun?)
When you feel like you are done for or doomed you can use the word yandık (literally meaning we are burned).
It might come in handy when a mad situation occurs like when you haven’t studied for a test or you have unexpected guests coming and you are unprepared for them.
- Yandık, o takım bizden çok daha iyi. (We are done for, that team is way better than us.)
A çakal is a coyote (or weasel) and is used as the slang word for someone who is deceitful or tricky.
- Ona güvenmiyorum, bir çakal. (I don’t trust him, he’s a weasel.)
Dandik is a simple slang term that is used to describe things that are of low quality. If you are fed up with your computer or phone because it is old or not working well, this term would clearly communicate your frustration.
- Bu dandik bilgisayar neden hala kullanıyorum? (Why am I still using this piece of junk computer.)
If you or someone you know is keriz it means you or they are a bit naive or easily tricked. Because of the culture of haggling for prices in Turkey the term can be helpful.
- Bir keriz olma! Alma onu çok pahalı. (Don’t be a fool. It’s way too expensive, don’t buy it.)
Sazan is a type of fish (carp) but when it comes to slang it means a person who believes everything they hear.
- Gerçekten sazan gibisin. (You really do believe everything.)
#18 Hadi oradan!
This slang phrase is interchangeable with the English Are you kidding me? (Said in a rhetorical, frustrated way). It means you don’t like what you're hearing.
- Hadi oradan! Neden bana haber vermedin? (Are you kidding me, why didn’t you tell me?)
#19 Beş parasız
The term beş parasız means broke or penniless (literally without five dollars).
- Neden beş parasız bir adamdan para istedin? (Why did you ask for money from someone who is broke?)
Using Turkish Slang (Argo) Carefully
When you are new to a language you are sure to make mistakes. The same is true when it comes to Turkish slang.
While using these terms and others like them can be endearing and make you sound like a native, they come with some risk. If you use them at the wrong time or with the wrong person you could end up offending someone (which is a big deal in Turkish culture).
Your best bet is to practice them on your own, get them down, and then try them out with a trusted friend who will be gracious with your mistakes. Only then can you use them in your everyday interactions without worrying about saying the wrong thing.
You can also apply the StoryLearning® method and use immersion in Turkish through stories as a way to internalise the most common slang words so you can use them the right way.