Vol. 51 No. 3 (2003)
Research Article

The Sultan's Journey and other Turkish Placename Stories

Published 2003-12-01



This article looks at the origin of Turkish placenames from the starting point of an assignment given to a class of students at a university in Turkey. The students' stories have been grouped thematically into 1) Names from antiquity, 2) Ottoman or Turkish origin names, 3) City districts, and present a broad spectrum of examples· from across the country including cities, towns, and villages. The sources the student used, and the reliability of those sources, is discussed. As far as possible, the contributions have been verified or varying interpretations noted. Additional sections give information on Turkish pronunciation, cultural aspects, historical developments, and folk etymology. It was found that where there was an absence of written sources, a tendency exists to explain names by means of stories based on age-old Turkish traditions and beliefs.


  1. The following reference sources are all in Turkish, listed by title, author, publisher, and year. Sources other than in Turkish are few. For anyone interested, the first stop would logically be the first on the list.
  2. Türk Adbilimi Bibliyografyasi (Deneme), A. Esat Bozyigit, Ayyildiz Yayinlari, Ankara, 1995. A bibliography of Turkish Onomastics listing 947 books, articles, papers and theses on every aspect of the subject. Only translations of non-Turkish works are included.
  3. Osmanli Yer Adlari Sözlügü, Tarih Vakfi, Yurt Yayinlari, 2002. A dictionary of Ottoman placenames published by the History Foundation in Istanbul.
  4. Genel Nufus Sayimi, 1975. Census report published by the State Bureau of Statistics giving old village names.
  5. Türkiyede Meskun Yerler Kilavuzu, içiçleri Bakanligi Yayinlarindan, Seri 2, Sayi 2, 1946-47. A guide published by the Ministry of the Interior to inhabited areas in Turkey.
  6. Son Teşkilat-i Mulkiyede Köylerimizin Adlari. Dahiliye Vekaleti, 1927. Literally, The most recent names of our villages in civil administration/ Useful for village names, apparently. Ankara’nm Tarihi Semt isimleri ve Öyküleri, Çeref Erdogdu, Kültür Bakanligi Yayinlari/2292, Kültür Eserleri Dizisi/245, 1999. A readable book telling the stories behind the names of Ankara districts. The author, Çeref Erdogdu, who died in 1997, worked for the Ministry of Finance Budget Control General Directorate and was Assistant Accounts Director at the Ministry of Employment before he retired and devoted his life to cultural activities.