Why do Turks use Family Words for friends?

This little article is in response to a readers question about why Turks use, Teyze, Amca, Yenge, Able, Abi and so on for people who are not family members. So why do Turks use these terms for non family members and what meanings do they take on?

turkish family words

The reason behind their use for outside of the family is a way to be polite and respectful instead of hey you! And they are also used to call close friends and their family members again another sign of respect.

If you are in a situation where you don’t know someone’s name and most likely in an official situation like in an office or government building you can use the following words.

Hanımefendi = ma’am, madame (for ladies)

beyefendi = sir, mr (for men)

If you know the persons name and want to call them in an official way, then you can use,

Bahar Hanım = Ms Bahar

Murat Bey = Mr Murat

Memur Bey, is used to speak to a public offical like a police officer.

However you would not use either of the above examples for speaking to children.

The use of first names is still common as surnames where only introduced in 1934 when Turkey became a republic and began to use surnames as well as first names.

Teyze, means aunt on the mothers side of the family, but it is also used to address older ladies you meet probably most likely in their 60’s and certainly more likely to head of the family. I think most women dread the moment a stranger being polite uses the term Teyze to address them.

Abi means brother and Abla means sister. Not only are these two words used to describe your close relatives but can be used to call your close friends as an endearment or sign of respect who are around the same age as you. For example if I was a close friend or neighbour you might address me as Kerry Abla or for a man, Murat Abi.

Another use is of Abi and Abla is when you might be speaking with your brother or sister-in-law’s, is to use their first name and add Abi of Abla after. For example when I speak with my sister-in-law’s I always use something like this, Edibe Abla as a sign of respect and it also save getting muddled up with the different forms of sister in Turkish!

Yenge is also another word used for Sister-in-law and will also be used by the younger members of the family to address you. You may also find yourself addressed as Yenge by friends of your partner as a sign of respect. You might even hear a friendly waiter or worker also using the term.

Amca is also used in the same way as Yenge is used for men.

Efendim is a gender-neutral way of addressing a man or a woman, a polite way of saying Sir or Madam. You may also hear Turkish people answering the telephone using this form of address.

Hoca, means teacher but may also be given to a an Imam of the mosque or elder member of the community who is thought highly of.

I hope you like my little lesson on the use of some of the family words in Turkish for non family members. This link takes you to my learn Turkish page where you can read a full list of family words as the list is extensive unlike in English.  Turkish Family Words Article

If I have missed any out or you have had fun using any of the above or any other family words then please let me know.

© 2014 – 2015, Kerry Arslan. All rights reserved.

Print Friendly

Recent Posts

Author Description

One Response to “Why do Turks use Family Words for friends?”

  1. 5th November 2014

    Laura Santiago Reply

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply