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 baby 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, such as Deniz, which is nothing to do with Denis, but means “sea”.
Turkey is a majority-Muslim country, 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.
And because names are endlessly variable and creative, there are glorious mashups like Ayşegül, which combines Ayşe — the Turkish version of the Arabic name Aisha — with a Persian-origin word for “flower” or “rose” that is common in 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 when we home in on them, 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 2020 are both on a rising trend in the States. Arabic all-rounder Yusuf has increased 400% in the last 20 years, while Zeynep, although much rarer, more than doubled in numbers from 49 girls born in 2019 to 113 in 2020.
The rest of the top five girl names have also made big jumps. Elif and Azra are the most popular they’ve ever been, Defne was used more in the last decade than ever before, and Asel, meaning “honey”, made the US charts for the first time in 2020.
The number two and three boy names, Miraç and Eymen, also debuted in the US in the last ten years. Ömer may also have risen, but because the US statistics don’t include diacritics, it’s impossible to tell it apart from the Hebrew name Omer. Similarly, because Turkey’s charts include double names whereas America’s don’t, we can’t tell how many American boys were named Ömer Asaf.
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. (Now I know that, I’m a bit in love with Ada and Isla for twin girls.) Atlas, a fast-rising mythological name for English speakers, is in Turkey both the mythical figure and a word meaning “satin”.
Conversely, names less likely to travel easily include those where the pronunciation is not intuitive to non-Turkish speakers, such as Can (which sounds similar to John, meaning “soul”) and names whose sounds are very different from anything on the US charts, like Öykü (meaning “story”).
The following names are in the Turkish 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.
Fast-rising Turkish Names
In 2020, 39 girl names and 56 boy names in the Turkish Top 100 ranked in the US, meaning they were given to at least five children of one gender.
Out of those, we’ve found the ones that have seen a notable rise in the States in the last decade. The raw numbers are mostly small, but together, over the years, they amount to thousands of American children with terrific Turkish names.
Names not in the Turkish Top 100, but still rising in the US, included:
Cennet — meaning “paradise” in Turkish, this was the title and main character of a Telemundo remake of a Turkish show. Cennet was the second-highest new name in the US in 2020 (thanks to Nancy’s Baby Names for this).
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