Ottoman Turkish language

Ottoman Turkish (/ˈɒtəmən/; Turkish: Osmanlı Türkçesi), or the Ottoman language (Ottoman Turkish: لسان عثمانى‎, lisân-ı Osmânî, also known as تركجه‎, Türkçe or تركی‎, Türkî, "Turkish"; Turkish: Osmanlıca), is the variety of the Turkish language that was used in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows, in all aspects, extensively from Arabic and Persian, and it was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet. During the peak of Ottoman power, Arabic and Persian vocabulary accounted for up to 88% of the Ottoman vocabulary,[3] while words of foreign origin heavily outnumbered native Turkish words.[4]

Consequently, Ottoman Turkish was largely unintelligible to the less-educated lower-class and rural Turks, who continued to use kaba Türkçe ("raw/vulgar Turkish", as in Vulgar Latin), which used far fewer foreign loanwords and is the basis of the modern Turkish language.[5] The Tanzimât era saw the application of the term "Ottoman" when referring to the language (لسان عثمانیlisân-ı Osmânî or عثمانليجهOsmanlıca) and the same distinction is made in Modern Turkish (Osmanlıca and Osmanlı Türkçesi).

Ottoman Turkish
لسان عثمانى
lisân-ı Osmânî
RegionOttoman Empire
Erac. 15th century - developed into Modern Turkish in 1928[1]
Early form
Ottoman Turkish alphabet
Official status
Official language in
Beylik of Tunis
Cretan State
Emirate of Jabal Shammar
Khedivate of Egypt
Ottoman Empire
Provisional National Government of the Southwestern Caucasus
Provisional Government of Western Thrace
Turkish Provisional Government
Turkey (Until 1928)
Language codes
ISO 639-2ota
ISO 639-3ota


Poem about Rumi in Ottoman Turkish
A poem about Rumi in Ottoman Turkish.


  • Nominative case: كولgöl ("the lake", "a lake"), چوربهçorba ("Chorba"), گجهgece ("night").[6]
  • Accusative case (indefinite): طاوشان گترمشṭavşan getirmiş ("he/she brought a rabbit"). No suffix.
  • Genitive case: answers the question كمڭkimiñ ("whose?"), formed with the suffix ڭ–ıñ, –iñ, –uñ, –üñ. E.g. پاشانڭpaşanıñ ("the pasha's") from پاشاpaşa ("pasha").
  • Accusative case (definite): answers the question كمىkimi ("whom?") and نه يىneyi ("what?"), formed with the suffix ى–ı, -i: طاوشانى گترمشṭavşanı getürmiş ("he/she brought the rabbit"). The variant suffix –u, –ü does not occur in Ottoman Turkish unlike in Modern Turkish because of the lack of labial vowel harmony. Thus, كولىgöli ("the lake".ACC), but Modern Turkish has gölü.
  • Dative case:
  • Locative case: answers the question نره دهnerede ("where?"), formed with the suffix ده–de, –da: مكتبدهmektebde ("at school"), قفصدهḳafeṣde ("in a cage"), باشدهbaşda ("at the start"), شهردهşehirde ("in town"). As with the indefinite accusative case, the variant suffix –te, –ta does not occur unlike in Modern Turkish.
  • Ablative case: answers the questions نره دنnereden ("from where?") and ندنneden ("why?").
  • Instrumental case: answers the question نه ايلهne ile ("with what?").


The conjugation for the aorist tense is as follows:

Person Singular Plural
1 -irim -iriz
2 -irsiŋ -irsiŋiz
3 -ir -irler


Ottoman Turkish was highly influenced by Arabic and Persian. Arabic and Persian words in the language accounted for up to 88% of its vocabulary.[3] As in most other Turkic and other foreign languages of Islamic communities, the Arabic borrowings were not originally the result of a direct exposure of Ottoman Turkish to Arabic, a fact that is evidenced by the typically Persian phonological mutation of the words of Arabic origin.[7][8][9]

The conservation of archaic phonological features of the Arabic borrowings furthermore suggests that Arabic-incorporated Persian was absorbed into pre-Ottoman Turkic at an early stage, when the speakers were still located to the north-east of Persia, prior to the westward migration of the Islamic Turkic tribes. An additional argument for this is that Ottoman Turkish shares the Persian character of its Arabic borrowings with other Turkic languages that had even less interaction with Arabic, such as Tatar and Uyghur. From the early ages of the Ottoman Empire, borrowings from Arabic and Persian were so abundant that original Turkish words were hard to find.[10] In Ottoman, one may find whole passages in Arabic and Persian incorporated into the text.[10] It was however not only extensive loaning of words, but along with them much of the grammatical systems of Persian and Arabic.[10]

In a social and pragmatic sense, there were (at least) three variants of Ottoman Turkish:

  • Fasih Türkçe (Eloquent Turkish): the language of poetry and administration, Ottoman Turkish in its strict sense;
  • Orta Türkçe (Middle Turkish): the language of higher classes and trade;
  • Kaba Türkçe (Rough Turkish): the language of lower classes.

A person would use each of the varieties above for different purposes, with the fasih variant being the most heavily suffused with Arabic and Persian words and kaba the least. For example, a scribe would use the Arabic asel (عسل) to refer to honey when writing a document but would use the native Turkish word bal when buying it.


Historically, Ottoman Turkish was transformed in three eras:

  • Eski Osmanlı Türkçesi (Old Ottoman Turkish): the version of Ottoman Turkish used until the 16th century. It was almost identical with the Turkish used by Seljuk empire and Anatolian beyliks and was often regarded as part of Eski Anadolu Türkçesi (Old Anatolian Turkish).
  • Orta Osmanlı Türkçesi (Middle Ottoman Turkish) or Klasik Osmanlıca (Classical Ottoman Turkish): the language of poetry and administration from the 16th century until Tanzimat. It is the version of Ottoman Turkish that comes to most people's minds.
  • Yeni Osmanlı Türkçesi (New Ottoman Turkish): the version shaped from the 1850s to the 20th century under the influence of journalism and Western-oriented literature.

Language reform

In 1928, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, widespread language reforms (a part in the greater framework of Atatürk's Reforms) instituted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk saw the replacement of many Persian and Arabic origin loanwords in the language with their Turkish equivalents. It also saw the replacement of the Perso-Arabic script with the extended Latin alphabet. The changes were meant to encourage the growth of a new variety of written Turkish that more closely reflected the spoken vernacular and to foster a new variety of spoken Turkish that reinforced Turkey's new national identity as being a post-Ottoman state.

See the list of replaced loanwords in Turkish for more examples on Ottoman Turkish words and their modern Turkish counterparts. Two examples of Arabic and two of Persian loanwords are found below.

English Ottoman Modern Turkish
obligatory واجب vâcib zorunlu
hardship مشكل müşkül güçlük
city شهر şehir kent / il (also şehir)
war حرب harb savaş


Historically speaking, Ottoman Turkish is the predecessor of modern Turkish. However, the standard Turkish of today is essentially Türkiye Türkçesi (Turkish of Turkey) as written in the Latin alphabet and with an abundance of neologisms added, which means there are now far fewer loan words from other languages, and Ottoman Turkish was not instantly transformed into the Turkish of today. At first, it was only the script that was changed, and while some households continued to use the Arabic system in private, most of the Turkish population was illiterate at the time, making the switch to the Latin alphabet much easier. Then, loan words were taken out, and new words fitting the growing amount of technology were introduced. Until the 1960s, Ottoman Turkish was at least partially intelligible with the Turkish of that day. One major difference between modern Turkish and Ottoman Turkish is the former's abandonment of compound word formation according to Arabic and Persian grammar rules. The usage of such phrases still exists in modern Turkish but only to a very limited extent and usually in specialist contexts; for example, the Persian genitive construction takdîr-i ilâhî (which reads literally as "the preordaining of the divine" and translates as "divine dispensation" or "destiny") is used, as opposed to the normative modern Turkish construction, ilâhî takdîr (literally, "divine preordaining").

Writing system

Calendar Thessaloniki 1896
Calendar in Thessaloniki 1896, a cosmopolitan city; the first three lines in Ottoman script

Most Ottoman Turkish was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet (elifbâ الفبا), a variant of the Perso-Arabic script. The Armenian, Greek and Rashi script of Hebrew were sometimes used by Armenians, Greeks and Jews.


اون بر
on bir
اون ایکی
on iki



The transliteration system of the İslâm Ansiklopedisi has become a de facto standard in Oriental studies for the transliteration of Ottoman Turkish texts.[12] Concerning transcription the New Redhouse, Karl Steuerwald and Ferit Develioğlu dictionaries have become standard.[13] Another transliteration system is the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG), which provides a transliteration system for any Turkic language written in Arabic script.[14] There are not many differences between the İA and the DMG transliteration systems.

ب پ ت ث ج چ ح خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق
گ ڭ ل م ن و ه ی
ʾ a b p t c ç d r z j s ş ż ʿ ġ f q k g ñ ğ g ñ l m n v h y

See also


  1. ^ "Turkey - Language Reform: From Ottoman To Turkish". Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  2. ^ Ãgoston, Gabor; Masters, Bruce Alan (2010-05-21). Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-1025-7.
  3. ^ a b Bertold Spuler. Persian Historiography & Geography Pustaka Nasional Pte Ltd ISBN 9971774887 p 69
  4. ^ [1] Ottomans
  5. ^ Glenny, Misha. The Balkans - Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999, Penguin, New York 2001. p. 99.
  6. ^ Some words in Ottoman Turkish were spelled with the Arabic ك‎, normally pronounced as /k/, were pronounced as /ɡ/.
  7. ^ Percy Ellen Algernon Frederick William Smythe Strangford, Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe Strangford, Emily Anne Beaufort Smythe Strangford, “Original Letters and Papers of the late Viscount Strangford upon Philological and Kindred Subjects”, Published by Trübner, 1878. pg 46: “The Arabic words in Turkish have all decidedly come through a Persian channel. I can hardly think of an exception, except in quite late days, when Arabic words have been used in Turkish in a different sense from that borne by them in Persian.”
  8. ^ M. Sukru Hanioglu, “A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire”, Published by Princeton University Press, 2008. p. 34: “It employed a predominant Turkish syntax, but was heavily influenced by Persian and (initially through Persian) Arabic.
  9. ^ Pierre A. MacKay, "The Fountain at Hadji Mustapha," Hesperia, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1967), pp. 193-195: "The immense Arabic contribution to the lexicon of Ottoman Turkish came rather through Persian than directly, and the sound of Arabic words in Persian syntax would be far more familiar to a Turkish ear than correct Arabic".
  10. ^ a b c Korkut Bugday. An Introduction to Literary Ottoman Routledge, 5 dec. 2014 ISBN 978-1134006557 p XV.
  11. ^ Hagopian, V. H. (5 May 2018). "Ottoman-Turkish conversation-grammar; a practical method of learning the Ottoman-Turkish language". Heidelberg, J. Groos; New York, Brentano's [etc., etc.] Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ Korkut Buğday Osmanisch, p. 2
  13. ^ Korkut Buğday Osmanisch, p. 13
  14. ^ Transkriptionskommission der DMG Die Transliteration der arabischen Schrift in ihrer Anwendung auf die Hauptliteratursprachen der islamischen Welt, p. 9 Archived 2012-07-22 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Korkut Buğday Osmanisch, p. 2f.

Further reading

External links


The akçe (Ottoman Turkish: آقچه‎) (Turkish pronunciation: [aktʃe]) was the chief monetary unit of the Ottoman Empire, a silver coin. Three akçes were equal to one para. One-hundred and twenty akçes equalled one kuruş. Later after 1687 the kuruş became the main unit of account, replacing the akçe. In 1843, the silver kuruş was joined by the gold lira in a bimetallic system. Its weight fluctuated, one source estimates it is between 1.15 and 1.18 grams. The name akçe originally referred to a silver coin but later the meaning changed and it became a synonym for money.

The mint in Novo Brdo, a fortified mining town in the Serbian Despotate rich with gold and silver mines, began to strike akçe in 1441 when it was captured by the Ottoman forces for the first time.The Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul is said to have cost 59 million akçe when it was constructed in the 1550s. This amount is said to have equalled 700,000 ducats in gold (probably Venetian).

Baghdad Eyalet

Baghdad Eyalet (Ottoman Turkish: ایالت بغداد; Eyālet-i Baġdād‎) was an Iraqi eyalet of the Ottoman Empire centered on Baghdad. Its reported area in the 19th century was 62,208 square miles (161,120 km2).


A chartaque (Ottoman Turkish: چارطاق‎, from Persian: چهارتاق‎ chahartaq, literally "having four arches"; in German: Tschartake, in Turkish: Çardak) is a watchtower and important element of the fortification systems in the time of the Ottoman Empire.


A dunam (Ottoman Turkish: دونم‎; Turkish: dönüm), also known as a donum or dunum and as the old, Turkish, or Ottoman stremma, was the Ottoman unit of area equivalent to the Greek stremma or English acre, representing the amount of land that could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day. The legal definition was "forty standard paces in length and breadth", but its actual area varied considerably from place to place, from a little more than 900 m2 in Ottoman Palestine to around 2500 m2 in Iraq.The unit is still in use in many areas previously ruled by the Ottomans, although the new or metric dunam has been redefined as exactly one decare (1000 m2), which is 1/10 hectare (1/10 * 10,000 m2), like the modern Greek royal stremma.

Hadım Suleiman Pasha

Hadım Suleiman Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: خادم سلیمان پاشا‎; Turkish: Hadım Süleyman Paşa; c. 1467 – September 1547) was an Ottoman statesman and military commander. He was the (viceroy) of Ottoman Egypt in 1525–1535 and 1537–1538, and Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire between 1541 and 1544. He was a Hungarian eunuch, his epithet hadım meaning "eunuch" in Turkish.

As governor of Egypt, he was ordered by the sultan on an expedition to the Indian Ocean, where he led the capture of Aden and the Siege of Diu in 1538. Suleiman Pasha was a benefactor of his long-serving successor for Egyptian governorship, Davud Pasha (served 1538–1549), who he championed for the role to spite his rival and colleague, Rüstem Pasha.

Halime Hatun

Halime Hatun (Ottoman Turkish: حلیمه خاتون‎) was the wife of Ertuğrul Bey, and possibly the mother of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Hatice Sultan (daughter of Ahmed III)

Hatice Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: خدیجه سلطان‎; 4 October 1710 – c. 1738) was an Ottoman princess, the daughter of Sultan Ahmed III.

Ibşir Mustafa Pasha

Ibşir Mustafa Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: ابشير مصطفى پاشا‎) was an Ottoman statesman of Abkhazian origin, nephew of the governor and rebel Abaza Mehmed Pasha, and prominent Celali rebel. He was grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 28 October 1654 to 11 May 1655. He was also the Ottoman governor of Damascus Eyalet (province) in 1649. He was a damat ("bridegroom") to the Ottoman dynasty, as he married an Ottoman princess.


Qaim Maqam, Qaimaqam or Kaymakam (also spelled kaimakam and caimacam; Ottoman Turkish: قائم مقام‎, "sub-governor") is the title used for the governor of a provincial district in the Republic of Turkey, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and in Lebanon; additionally, it was a title used for roughly the same official position in the Ottoman Empire.


A kaza (Arabic: قضاء‎, qaḍāʾ, pronounced [qɑˈd̪ˤɑːʔ], plural: أقضية, aqḍiyah, pronounced [ˈɑqd̪ˤijɑ]; Ottoman Turkish: kazâ‎) is an administrative division historically used in the Ottoman Empire and currently used in several of its successor states. The term is from Ottoman Turkish and means "jurisdiction"; it is often translated "district", "sub-district" (though this also applies to a nahiye), or "juridical district".


The term Khedive (Ottoman Turkish: خدیو‎ Hıdiv) is a title largely equivalent to the English word viceroy. It was first used, without official recognition, by Muhammad Ali Pasha (Turkish: Kavalalı Mehmet Ali Paşa, General Muhammad Ali of Kavala), the governor of Egypt and Sudan, and vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The initially self-declared title was officially recognized by the Ottoman government in 1867, and used subsequently by Ismail Pasha, and his dynastic successors until 1914.

Muazzez Sultan

Muazzez Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: معزز سلطان‎; died 12 September 1687) was the second consort of Sultan Ibrahim and the mother of Sultan Ahmed II.

Mustafa IV

Mustafa IV (; Ottoman Turkish: مصطفى رابع‎ Muṣṭafā-yi rābi‘; 8 September 1779 – 16 November 1808) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1807 to 1808.

Osman III

Osman III (Ottoman Turkish: عثمان ثالث‎ ‘Osmān-i sālis;‎ 2/3 January 1699 – 30 October 1757) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1754 to 1757.

Raziye Sultan

Raziye Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: راضیہ سلطان‎, also known as Tasasız Raziye Sultan (Tasasız meaning "Carefree") was an Ottoman princess, the daughter of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She may have died along with most of her brothers of smallpox, in 1522, as there is no record of her in the privy purse during the reign of her father. She is buried in the Yahya Efendi Tekkesi in Beshiktash, Istanbul.


Sanjaks (; Ottoman Turkish: سنجاق‎; Modern Turkish: Sancak, pronounced [sanˈdʒak]) were administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire. Sanjak, and the variant spellings sandjak, sanjaq, and sinjaq, are English transliterations of the Turkish word sancak, meaning district, banner, or flag. Sanjaks were also called by the Arabic word for banner or flag: لواء liwa.

Ottoman provinces (eyalets, later vilayets) were divided into sanjaks (also called livas) governed by sanjakbeys (also called Mutesarriff) and were further subdivided into timars (fiefs held by timariots), kadiluks (the area of responsibility of a judge, or Kadı) and zeamets (also ziam; larger timars).

The unofficial, geo-political region of Sandžak in Serbia and Montenegro derives its name from the former Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar.

State Hydraulic Works

The State Hydraulic Works (Turkish: Devlet Su İşleri) is a state agency organized under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Turkey responsible for the utilization of all the country's water resources. The institution's four major functions are energy, agriculture, services and environment.

Sublime Porte

The Sublime Porte, also known as the Ottoman Porte or High Porte (Ottoman Turkish: باب عالی‎ Bāb-ı Ālī or Babıali, from Arabic: باب‎, bāb "gate" and Arabic: عالي‎, alī "high"), was a synecdochic metonym for the central government of the Ottoman Empire.

Trebizond Eyalet

Trebizond Eyalet (Ottoman Turkish: ایالت طربزون; Eyālet-i Ṭrabzōn‎) or Trabzon Beylerbeyliği was an eyalet of the Ottoman Empire.

Established in 1598, it remained a primarily Christian region into the 17th century, well after the rest of Anatolia had been converted to Islam. Its reported area in the 19th century was 10,507 square miles (27,210 km2).

Languages of the Maghreb

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