Turkish Names Delight and Inspire
Psst: Turkish names are quietly rising on the American charts. Take a peek into this beautiful, sometimes overlooked corner of the baby name world.
The most popular names in Turkey reflect the country’s rich cultural mix, with influences from several directions. Many come from the Turkish and/or Persian languages, such as Pembe (“pink” in Turkish) and Baran (“rain” in Persian). Turkey’s minority languages, like Kurdish and Zazaki, also have their own names.
Names from this tradition like this are used right across Central Asia, but are likely to look unfamiliar to people used to European name traditions — although there are some accidental similarities. For example, Deniz is nothing to do with Denis, but means “sea”.
The majority of Turkey's population is Muslim, so there are also plenty of Arabic names in use — sometimes in their best-known international form, like Muhammed, and sometimes the Turkish variation, like Mehmet.
A few popular names in Turkey come from Greek/Mediterranean traditions and feel more familiar to English-speakers, such as Atlas and Defne.
And because names are endlessly variable and creative, there are glorious mashups like Ayşegül, which combines Ayşe — the Turkish form of the Arabic name Aisha — with a Persian-origin word meaning “flower” or “rose” that is common in people's names.
Turkish names rank highly in some European countries, like Germany and the Netherlands, but they make less of an impact in the US, where the Turkish population is relatively much smaller.
But that could be changing, as many of the most popular baby names in Turkey are rising fast in the States too. Here, we take a closer look at the ones you might see sometime soon, or choices you might consider if you’re looking for a stylish name with Turkish connections.
Top Baby Names in Turkey
The number one baby names in Turkey in 2021 are both on a rising trend in the States. Yusuf, an Arabic form of Joseph, has been a steady presence in the US Top 600 since 2014. Zeynep, although much rarer, has also been more popular in the last two years than ever before. It was given to 82 girls in 2021.
In the top 5 boy names, Alparslan, Miraç and Eymen all debuted in the US in the last ten years — although none were used enough to rank in the charts in 2021. Turkey's number 4 name is actually the double name Ömer Asaf, meaning "flourishing collector", but it's difficult to see if this is being used in the States. America's charts don't count double names or diactirics, making it impossible to tell it apart from the Hebrew name Omer.
Some of the other Top 5 girl names are also making big leaps in the States. Elif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, is the most popular it has ever been: it was given to 85 girls in 2021. Defne, the Turkish form of Daphne, has been used more in the last decade than ever before.
Asya, which comes from Anastastia, is more rare, as is Asel, meaning "honey" — but both of these short, sweet names are waiting to be discovered.
International Turkish Names
Some popular Turkish names travel around the world with ease, because they are shared across cultures or have multiple roots in different languages.
Ada, which most baby name dictionaries will tell you comes from Germanic roots, also means “island” in Turkish. Atlas, one of the fastest-rising mythological names for English speakers, is in Turkey both the mythical figure and a word meaning “satin”.
And Arabic names like Leyla and Musa are well-used by Muslims all over the world (and, in Leyla’s case, non-Muslims too).
On the other hand, some names travel less easily. They include those where the pronunciation is not intuitive to non-Turkish speakers, such as Can (which means "soul" and sounds similar to John), and those whose sounds are very different from anything on the US charts, like Öykü (meaning “story”). We're not saying you shouldn't use them — but it explains why some Turkish names are more popular in the States than others.
If you're looking for a name that's Turkish and international, the following names are in the Turkey's Top 100, and also in the US Top 1000.
Honorable mentions to Aydin, Ayla and Idris, which are also cross-cultural names but not in Turkey’s Top 100.
Rising Turkish Names
Here are more Turkish names that have seen a notable rise — or have made their debut — in the States in the last decade. The raw numbers may be small, but together, over the years, they amount to thousands of American children with terrific Turkish names.
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