Why has Turkey changed its name to Türkiye?

Turkey's re-branding is both culturally-inspired and a way to dissociate itself from the North American bird eaten on Thanksgiving.

Turkish flag flutters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, (photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR)
Turkish flag flutters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium,
(photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR)

The United Nations has agreed to a request filed by the Turkish foreign minister on Thursday to officially change his nation's English-language and internationally-recognized name from "Turkey" to "Türkiye."

While the two names are pronounced similarly, Türkiye features a third syllable, which is pronounced something like "yay."

Erdogan's preferred pronunciation

The UN's agreement comes after months of preparation for the change by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made the move official in December 2021 when he announced in a statement that the government will use "Türkiye" in all official forms of activities and correspondence.

For example, all exported products are now promoted by a "Made in Türkiye" sticker and a "Hello Türkiye" tourism campaign was launched by the government in January.

"Türkiye represents and expresses the culture, civilization, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
 TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey recently condemned terrorism against Israel, despite years of support for Hamas terrorists. (credit: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters) TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey recently condemned terrorism against Israel, despite years of support for Hamas terrorists. (credit: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Despite many within the country still referring to it as Turkey, Erdogan's preferred pronunciation is the official one in the Turkish language and has been since the declaration of the Republic of Turkey, or Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, in 1923 following the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Türkiye is also set to replace other variations of the word used around the world, such as Türkei in Germany and Turquie in France.

 Norfolk black turkeys hatched in June and raised free range for Christmas are seen ready for market on David McEvoy's Turkey farm in Termonfeckin, Ireland, November 26, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/CLODAGH KILCOYNE) Norfolk black turkeys hatched in June and raised free range for Christmas are seen ready for market on David McEvoy's Turkey farm in Termonfeckin, Ireland, November 26, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/CLODAGH KILCOYNE)

Türkiye and Turkey: Birds of a feather

According to Turkish state-owned media TRT World, the name change has not only been done to strengthen the country's brand but to also dissociate itself from the North American bird Meleagris, usually eaten in Thanksgiving dinners.

The reason for its name is due to the turkey's similarities to the guinea fowl, which were imported via the Ottoman Empire at the time European colonizers discovered the Americas and, subsequently, the Turkey bird.

Other name changes in recent times

Türkiye is the fourth nation to officially change its name in the last four years, making the move not as unusual as it might seem.

In 2018, Swaziland changed its name to Eswatini. In Europe, the Netherlands officially ended the confusion over the "Holland" name by removing it from its internationally recognized name in 2020 and North Macedonia also recently changed its name from "Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia" due to a political dispute with neighboring Greece.