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LPT SymbolThe Plain English Meanings of
Turkish Idioms

House Favorites...

If you've ever felt lost trying to follow a Turkish conversation,
it may be because of these
'comprehension killers'

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Idioms beginning with 'A'
Idioms beginning with 'B'

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Featuring some of our special Turkish idiom favorites that just can't wait for their turn to come round in alphabetical order...

And don't overlook the clickable links for
voice recordings [Sounds] and for
the sidebar entries entitled,
The Rest of the Idiom Story
which cover interesting 'origins' of the idioms
found in the following table ...

Click Here!

Favorite Turkish Idioms
[C] [Ç] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [i] [L]
and more to come !!

The Turkish

The Literal English Meaning

The 'Plain' English Meaning

Comments and Examples

cami yIkIlmIs ama mihrabI yerinde

the mosque has been toppled but the mihrab is still in place.

Note: the 'mihrab' is the niche in the mosque wall that indicates the direction of Mecca.

she may have aged but she's still good-looking

YaslI, ama dinç kalmIs; cami yIkIlmIs ama mihrabI yerinde.


She's older but vigorous and active. And she's still good-looking in spite of her age.

çIktI dokuza inmez sekize

(available on CD)

he/she/it went up to nine, he/she/it won't come back to eight

She increased her good/bad standing (to a level of nine), and now she can't regress (back to a level eight).

Çok gururlu; çIkmIs dokuza, inmez sekize.

He's so vain; he rose to a certain level and now he can't go back to what he was before.

AdI kötüymüs; çIkmIs dokuza, inmez sekize.

She's got a bad reputation, and she can't get her good name back.
[Her bad reputation reached a (high level of) 9, it can't descend back to 8]

Dimyat'a pirince giderken evdeki bulgurdan olmak

to be without bulgur at home when you go to Damietta for rice…

Note: Damietta (a.k.a. Dumyat or in ancient times, Phatnitic) is the Egyptian port at the mouth of the Nile whose market has always featured high quality rice.

to lose what one already has in the pursuit of what one presumes to be better

Ölçüsüz davrandI; Dimyat'a pirince giderken evdeki bulgurdan oldu.

(available on CD)

He acted imprudently; he lost what he had in pursuit of what he thought would be better.

Click for, The Rest of the Idiom Story!

el kesesinden sultanIm, develer olsun kurbanIm

(available on CD)

I am the sultan taking from the money-bags [of others], so let camels be the sacrifice.

Note: The bigger the sacrificial animal the more money the sultan could collect.

someone who spends a lot of money and who lives an ostentatious life with the money of others.

ParasI yok, onuru yok; el kesesinden sultanIm, develer olsun kurbanIm, diyor.

He doesn't have any money or honor. He says that he uses other people's money to live the ostentatious life.

fare delige sIgmamIs, bir de kuyruguna kabak baglamIs

(available on CD)

to not fit into a mouse hole, to fasten a pumpkin to the tail

  • for someone to take on new responsibilities when he can't handle the ones he has
  • for someone to not be welcome herself, and for her then to bring somone along with her

ArkadaslarInI da getirmis, fare delige sIgmamIs, bir de kuyruguna kabak baglamIs, demeli oldu.

[Can you believe] He also brought his friend with him? Why, he himself wasn't welcome -- and for him then to bring someone else along, well, it was really too much!

gecti Bor'un pazarI (sür essegi Nigde'ye)

(available on CD)

the pazar at Bor is over (drive the stupid donkey to Nigde)

you missed your chance, it's too late to do anything (about it) now

O mal çoktan satIldI, gecti Bor'un pazarI.

That merchandize was sold a long time ago, you missed your chance to buy it…

Click for, The Rest of the Idiom Story!

görüp görecegi rahmet bu

(available on CD)

This, with God's mercy, he sees and he will see

this is all he will ever get

OlanaklarI çok iyi degenlendir; görüp görecegin rahmet budur.

He gets the most out of situations considering the possiblities; you won't see any more.

hamamda deli var

there's a madman in the Turkish bath

there's a dangerous commotion in an area of interest to you so protect youself from wilfully destructive people

Dikkatli olun hamamda deli var, isimizi baltalIyor.

(available on CD)

Be careful, there's trouble brewing and it (someone) can wreck our business.

hem kel, hem fodul

(to be both) bald and vain

said of someone who makes great claims for himself, but who lacks competence in reality

BIrak böyle konusmayI, yaptIklarIn ortada, senin gibilere hem kel hem fodul derler.

(available on CD)

Quit talking like that, the things you do are [no more than] average. They call people like you "both bald and vain"…

IsItIp IsItIp önüne koymak

to warm and warm and put to the front

to continuously repeat stories about the past to the point of weariness

Çocuklugunda geçirdigi o olayI IsItIp IsItIp önüne koyuyor.

(available on CD)

He keeps repeating that boring story about what happened in his childhood.

  • iki cami arasInda kalmIs beynamaza dönmek
  • iki cami arasInda kalmIs beynamaz gibi
  • iki cami arasInda kalan bi namaz

to fail religious duties between two mosques

  • said of someone who can't choose between two or more alternatives
  • to be confused, perplexed
  • to not know what you will do -- this or that thing. Not to know which side to appproach from.

Uzun süredir iki cami arasInda kalmIs beynamaza döndü.

(available on CD)

He took a long time -- unable to make up his mind which choice to make.


Majnun...Leili (Leyla, Layla, Leyli, Leila)
Leili (Leyla, Layla, Leyli, Leila)...Majnun

The star-crossed lovers of eastern literature were the fair Leila [Layla, Leyli, Leili] and her gentleman-friend Majnun [Qays] -- who swooned 1000 years before Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet. In Turkish, they are 'mecnun' and 'leyla', shown in lower case because their names have become part of the Turkish vernacular. And when they appear together, it denotes a love that verges on madness.

Biz mecnunuz biz leylayIz.


We are madly/crazily in love.
(We are Mecnun, we are Leyla.)
These legendary Arabian lovers were 'featured' in Turkish Pop-singer Kayahan's 1999 hit single, Yine sise bitecek (Another bottle will be emptied). Click here to see the song lyric, and here to hear a song-clip.

The Unromantic Lout
Right click for options to 'View' larger image...
Loutish movie-goer: Would you give me two tickets for the movie?
Chirpy ticket-seller: Will that be for (a romantic couple like) Leyla and Mecnun?
Loutish movie-goer: Nah. It's just me and the wife.

Thanks to:
Gözcu/Asabi Gazetesi, Gerçek YayIncIlIk A. S.
(Mehmet Ali YalçIndag, Owner)
and Volkan Atalay, creator of 'Maganda, The Lout'
for this excellent illustrative example of the idiom above...
Ankara (14 January 2001)

Idioms beginning with 'A'
Idioms beginning with 'B'

We wish to extend thanks to
Emin Özdemir, Osman Çizmeciler, Ömer AsIm Aksoy, and Ali Uslu
for their Turkish source material -- on which this page is based.
And, to our dear friend Nursen Çetin
-- for her exquisitely pronounced voice recordings --
we extend our jealous thanks...

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