5 Turkish Sayings that will give you an insight to Turkish culture (2023)

Looking for a few Turkish sayings so you can fit in a bit more when you visit Turkey? Great! This is the post for you then.

Every culture has its own idioms, sayings, and proverbs.

Often the same sayings are claimed by many different cultures and thus can be really hard to give credit where credit is due.

That being said, some of these Turkish sayings, or deyims, may in fact come from other cultures but as this is how the Turks say them in the least.

What I love about these types of sayings is it is often a look into what is important within a culture. It often shows a culture’s values and experiences.

What’s even better is when you use them correctly, Turks will think it is the best ever.

For a foreigner to use their idioms correctly is a high honor given because not only did you learn Turkish to speak but you sought to understand.

I have been learning Turkish for years. I know, give me a break. There was a pandemic in there. In my time learning Turkish, learning idioms and the way Turks talk is my favorite.

Let’s check out 7 Turkish idioms and what they mean.

5 Turkish Sayings

Pİreyİ deve yapma

Pİreyİ deve yapma

Literal meaning: Don’t make a flea a camel

English equivalent: Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

Meaning: Don’t exaggerate. Don’t take something that is small and insignificant and make it into something bigger than it actually is.

It could be used in a context where someone isn’t accepting your small flaws, you’re a few minutes late, or even when someone is planning something and looking at even the smallest detail.

Lafla peynİr gemisi yürümez

Lafla peynİr gemisi yürümez

Literal definition: The cheese ship won’t move with words.

English Equivalent: Actions speak louder than words.

Meaning: Words aren’t what makes something happen. The action is the important thing. People often talk about all the things they will do or want to do or even need to do but then don’t do them.

If you never take action, the thing will never get done.

In Turkish culture, the saying comes from a story about a captain and a merchant. The merchant didn’t want to pay the necessary fees upfront and would always delay.

Eventually, the captain told him that the ship (full of cheese) wouldn’t run on words alone.

The ship needed oil and coal. He eventually paid and the captain shipped the cheese.

Doğru söyleyenİ dokuz köyden kovarlar

Doğru söyleyenİ dokuz köyden kovarlar

Literal meaning: Those who speak the truth are expelled from nine villages.

English equivalent: All truth is not always to be told.

Meaning: Especially in an honor-shame culture it is important to note that the truth and rightness are not always the most valued thing unlike in many Western cultures.

If truth is said for a situation that is contrary to the interests of the other person, then he will probably be accused of being “bad”.

People who tell the truth are excluded from the society they live in if they go against the interests of the people.

If someone is always speaking the truth on every subject and is constantly contradictory it is hard to get along with that person. This saying is about this type of experience.

Maydanoz Olma

Maydanoz Olma

Literal meaning: Don’t be parsley.

English equivalent: Don’t stick your nose in everything.

Meaning: In Turkey, parsley is used in all the foods. We put it in soups, meatballs, main dishes, salads, etc. Whatever is going on, there’s a good chance that parsley will be a part of it.

That being said, this saying is about someone who goes around sticking their nose in everything.

Asking questions about things you don’t want to talk about or the like. You can say it in response to them.

Ayağını yorganına göre uzat

Ayağını yorganına göre uzat

Literal meaning: Stretch your feet according to your quilt.

English equivalent: Don’t spend more money than you have.

Meaning: This phrase is usually used in relation to someone who has a lot of debt with high interest or doing something that is beyond what their means would allow.

For example: If you are going to buy a house/car/major purchase, stretch your feet according to the quilt.

“So do not buy a house/car/major purchase by getting into unnecessary debt.”


Balık kavağa çıkınca

Balık kavağa çıkınca

Literal meaning: When fish climb trees.

English equivalent: When pigs fly. When hell freezes over.

Meaning: I just love this Turkish saying. Of course, in English, we have something similar but I definitely think it is a funny picture thinking of fish climbing trees.

Essentially it is encouraging someone to not have expectations for something to happen when it is nearly impossible for that thing to happen.

I hope you loved those as much as I do!

It is interesting to me how much these are used within a culture. This website has created a pretty epic list of Turkish sayings.

If you scroll toward the end, there is a section of them in Turkish, English counterparts and what they actually mean.

Even with English sayings can be difficult to understand.

Within British and American English the phrases are completely different and are most time not understood by the other.

Then there are other languages with their own cultures and it adds a whole new mix! I hope these helped you gain a little insight into Turkish culture.

When you visit you can dazzle a local with your savvy knowledge of their language.

What is your favorite of these Turkish sayings? Either in English or Turkish?

Read more:

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Kayak and WayAaway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airlo has been easy and cheap! Use code “SEP15” to get 15% off on one booking.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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