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10 Untranslatable Turkish Words and Phrases

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Where would you place yourself on the Turkish-language proficiency scale? 

If you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, you already have a strong vocabulary and a good working knowledge of Turkish grammar and syntax. You might be tempted to think there’s not much more to learn…

Now, sit back for a moment and think about your own native language. 

Aren’t there any words or phrases that are almost impossible to translate into Turkish? Even if you could translate these terms, they wouldn’t retain their original meaning or feeling. Well, there are words like this in every language! 

Untranslatable Turkish words are the next stop on your language learning journey. Learning these terms will give you additional insight into Turkish culture and strengthen your language skills by allowing you to add flavor and nuance. 

Are you ready to learn the most important Turkish words with no English equivalent? Here are some beautiful untranslatable Turkish words I’ve chosen for you.

Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Turkish Table of Contents
  1. Kolay gelsin.
  2. Eline sağlık. / Emeğine sağlık.
  3. Geçmiş olsun.
  4. Vıdı vıdı etmek.
  5. Güle güle otur
  6. Sağlık olsun.
  7. Güle güle kullan. / Güle güle giy.
  8. Hoş buldum. / Hoş bulduk.
  9. Hayırlı olsun.
  10. Ölümü gör. / Ölümü öp.
  11. Learn More About the Turkish Language with TurkishClass101

1. Kolay gelsin.

1TurkishKolay gelsin
LiterallyMay it come easy to you.
Equivalent in EnglishGood luck. / More power to you.

This untranslatable Turkish phrase is said to someone who is working hard (either physically or mentally). Below is an example of how this phrase might be used in a conversation. 

A: I have to go home and cook.
B: Tamam o zaman. Kolay gelsin. / Tamam o zaman. Sana kolay gelsin. (OK, then. Good luck. / OK, then. Good luck to you.)

[Keep in mind that the formal version of the phrase in the example would be: Size kolay gelsin.]

2. Eline sağlık. / Emeğine sağlık.

These are other untranslatable Turkish phrases. They are also used frequently. 

2TurkishEline sağlık. / Emeğine sağlık.
LiterallyHealth to your hand. / Health to your effort.
Equivalent in EnglishGod bless your hands. / Good job. / Thank you.

Eline sağlık is used to compliment someone who has cooked something for you, or to say “good job” to someone who has made/produced something in general.  

Emeğine sağlık is used to congratulate someone on their efforts toward accomplishing something.

Here are some examples for you:

  • Eline sağlık yemek çok güzel olmuş. (God bless your hands, the food is very good.)
  • Yaptığın tabloyu çok beğendim, emeğine sağlık. (I liked the painting you made, good job.)

A Family Sitting Down to a Nice Dinner

Thank you for the meal.

3. Geçmiş olsun.

3TurkishGeçmiş olsun.
LiterallyMay it pass.
Equivalent in EnglishIt’s translated as “get well soon.”

This untranslatable Turkish phrase is often used as a “get well” wish when someone is sick, though it can also be used in other contexts. For example, you could say this to someone once they’ve completed a difficult task—in this case, it would mean “I’m glad it’s over.”

Below are some examples:

  • Dün hasta olduğunu duydum. Geçmiş olsun. (I heard you were sick yesterday. I hope you get well soon.)
  • Mezuniyet projeni teslim etmişsin. Hadi geçmiş olsun. (You handed in your graduation project. I’m glad it’s over.)

4. Vıdı vıdı etmek.

Hmmm, why does this one have reduplicative words in it? Let’s scroll down and see.

4TurkishVıdı vıdı etmek.
LiterallyVıdı vıdı is an untranslatable phrase in Turkish that actually doesn’t mean anything. Etmek is a helping verb, but even when it’s put together with the reduplicative, the phrase is not translatable. It just means something along the lines of “nagging.”
Equivalent in EnglishThe term refers to blabbing around in a way that annoys other people. In other words: to nag, to keep talking about and criticizing everything, or to not like anything. 

You can use this phrase whenever someone is nagging. Here’s an example for you:

  • Vıdı vıdı edeceğine, gel de yardım et. (Come and help me instead of nagging.)
Nagging

5. Güle güle otur

5TurkishGüle güle otur
LiterallySit by laughing
Equivalent in EnglishEnjoy your place/house.

These unique words in Turkish are used when someone buys a new house or moves into a new place.

Example: 

  • Yeni evinde güle güle otur. (Enjoy your new house.)

A Family of 5 That Has Just Moved into a New House

Enjoy your new house.

6. Sağlık olsun.

6TurkishSağlık olsun.
LiterallyMay it be health.
Equivalent in English

The word sağlık means “health.” This phrase is used to console someone who has endured a sad situation or suffered harm. It can also be used as a general phrase of motivation or reassurance after something bad has happened. 

Below are a couple of sample conversations using this phrase.

A: Özür dilerim, bana verdigin kalemi kaybettim. (I apologize, I lost the pen you gave me.)
B: Sağlık olsun. (No problem.)

A: Sana kek yaptım ama yandı. (I made a cake for you, but it’s burnt.)
B: Sağlık olsun. (No problem.)

7. Güle güle kullan. / Güle güle giy.

7TurkishGüle güle kullan. / Güle güle giy.
LiterallyUse it by laughing. / Wear it by laughing.Güle güle is also used to say goodbye.
Equivalent in EnglishEnjoy it.

You can say these unique Turkish words after someone thanks you for something you gave him/her as a gift or when someone shows you something he/she has bought. 

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Yeni bilgisayarını çok beğendim, güle güle kullan. (I liked your new computer, enjoy it.) 
  • Bu elbise yeni mi? Çok şık, güle güle giy. (Is this dress new? It’s stylish, enjoy it.)

A Woman Trying on a New Red Dress

Enjoy your new dress.

8. Hoş buldum. / Hoş bulduk.

8TurkishHoş Buldum / Hoş Bulduk
LiterallyI / We found pleasant.
Equivalent in English

When someone welcomes you to their home, you say hoş bulduk to thank them and to let them know you’re glad to be there.

Examples: 

A: Hoşgeldin! (Welcome!) [This is singular.]
B: Hoş buldum. / Hoş bulduk. (Thank you. / Good to be here.)

[Although only one person is welcomed, the answer can be either singular or plural.]

A: Hoşgeldiniz! (Welcome!) [This is plural, a.k.a. the polite form.)
B: Hoş bulduk. (Thank you. / Good to be here.) [The answer is plural.]

Welcome

9. Hayırlı olsun.

Hayırlı olsun is a phrase that can be used in many different situations. It’s used, for example, when someone…

  • …buys something new.
  • …gets a new job.
  • …gets engaged.
  • …gets a promotion.

9TurkishHayırlı olsun.
LiterallyMay it be good.
Equivalent in EnglishCongratulations. / Good luck with it.

Examples:

A: Pazartesi yeni bir projeye başlıyorum. (I’m starting on a new project on Monday.)
B: Hayırlı olsun. (Congratulations.)

A: Kızım bugün ilkokula başladı. (My daughter started elementary school today.)
B: Hayırlı olsun. (Congratulations.)

10. Ölümü gör. / Ölümü öp.

Most foreigners find this one interesting. That doesn’t surprise me—I personally wonder why and how someone came up with it, too. It sounds pretty weird when translated…ready to see what I mean? 

10TurkishÖlümü gör. / Ölümü öp.
LiterallySee my dead body. / Kiss my dead body.
Equivalent in EnglishTo insist that someone does a certain thing

This phrase is used to convince an unwilling person to do something. For example, when you want someone to tell you a secret he/she knows about or when you want someone to eat more of the food you’re offering.

Examples:

  • Bu tatlıyı tatmazsan ölümü gör. (The person insists that the other person should taste the dessert.) 
  • Ölümü öp, neler olduğunu söyle. (The person is forcing the other person to tell him/her what had happened.)

11. Learn More About the Turkish Language with TurkishClass101

You just learned 10 untranslatable Turkish phrases! That means it’s time to start practicing, so you can use them with confidence when the time comes. 

Before you go: I’m curious to know your “mosts.” What did you think was the most interesting one? Most useful? Most unguessable? Let us know in the comments and see what other Turkish learners thought! 

If you want to add more untranslatable Turkish words to your vocabulary, then you should visit TurkishClass101.com and start benefiting from our numerous audio recordings, vocabulary lists, blog posts, and free resources (including this dictionary).

Don’t forget that there’s also our Premium PLUS MyTeacher service, which allows you to study and practice the language with a private teacher. Your tutor can provide you with personalized assignments, record audio pronunciations for you, give you extra insight on Turkish culture, and more. 

Do you know what else is good about it? You can download the app for free and use it wherever you are.

Happy learning. 

Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

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