The Turkish Phrases I’ll Most Miss from Türkiye

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After spending three months in Türkiye (formerly known in English as Turkey) and developing a basic command of Turkish — enough to get around, order food, and generally blend in — I grew to really like some aspects of it, including this selection of Turkish phrases.

Initially, I didn’t think I’d learn any Turkish. But I quickly came to appreciate the rich culture in the language. It reminded me of parts of my own cultural background, as well as parts of other regional cultures — but much of Turkish language and culture is just its own thing.

See here for my thoughts on why learn Turkish.

Here are a bunch of Turkish phrases that I’ll really miss. They show character and colour to a place that I knew little about before visiting, but which I grew to appreciate.

Istanbul turkey turkish phrases artwork
Illustration of Istanbul old town, Turkey

Hoş Geldin! / Hoş Bulduk!

Hoş geldin! and its response, Hoş bulduk!, are more than just casual greetings in Turkish culture; they embody the warmth and hospitality intrinsic to Turkish society.

“Hoş geldin” or “Hoş geldiniz,” which is the equivalent of “Welcome,” is something I heard every time I entered a store, or even when I showed up to the gym. It’s a way of making the guest feel valued and appreciated.

The customary response that you say, “Hoş bulduk,” means “It is nice to be here,” but literally means “I found it well!”

As a foreigner, people may just say “Welcome” to you when they see you. When they do, acknowledging them and saying hello is a good way of returning the warmth.


“Buyrun” is a versatile phrase in the Turkish language, used in various contexts, ranging from inviting someone to take a seat to offering help in a store.

Literally meaning “please” or “here you go,” “Buyrun!” is a polite way to address others, showcasing the emphasis on courtesy in Turkish interactions. It’s what I call a “general politeness phrase” (see that article for similar phrases in other languages).

The beauty of “Buyrun” lies in its simplicity and its ability to convey respect and kindness. It’s a phrase that you’ll frequently hear, whether in a bustling bazaar or a quiet café.


“Efendim?” is a common phrase used in Turkish to politely get someone’s attention or ask for clarification. It’s equivalent to saying “Excuse me?” or “Pardon?” in English.

This phrase is also often used in formal situations or when speaking to someone you don’t know well. What I like about “Efendim?” is that it sounds so formal — it derives from the word efendi, a word for “sir”, which has roots in Byzantine times. It literally means something like “My good sir?” which is a hilariously formal way of saying “Pardon me?”

But despite these formal roots, you’ll hear “Efendim” all the time in Turkey — when people answer phones, or just misheard what someone said and wand them to say it again.

Afiyet Olsun

Afiyet olsun” is a heartfelt phrase used in Turkish to wish someone a pleasurable meal, similar to “Bon appétit” in French.

The phrase “afiyet olsun” It translates to “May it be healthy!” Even though its phrase seems to go beyond eating, it’s mostly used for eating situations.

Unlike bon appétit, “afiyet olsun” is used both before and after a meal. In fact, someone might wish you it when leaving a restaurant! I suppose this recognises the fact that the effects of a meal may be felt significantly after eating…

The roots of the word afiyet are in Arabic. You can find it in various Arabic phrases, including the word عفواً (‘afwan), a common way of saying “You’re welcome” in some dialects.

There’s also a similar Persian phrase, “عافيت باشه” (“afiyat bashe“), which also means “may it be healthy” — but which is used after someone sneezes, like “bless you”.

Sıhhatler Olsun

“Sıhhatler Olsun” is a Turkish phrase used to wish someone good health in a very specific circumstance — after someone takes a bath or gets a haircut.

Literally, the Turkish phrase “sıhhatler olsun” also means “may it be healthy”, much like “Afiyet olsun“. There may be a subtle difference between “afiyet” and “sıhhat”, but context is more important here for determining which phrase to use.

You probably won’t use this Turkish phrase until you’re around an intermediate level in Turkish. But if you get a haircut (an experience I highly recommend!) or visit a Turkish bath, then someone may wish you sıhhatler olsun on the way out.

Elinize Sağlık

Elinize sağlık” is a phrase used to thank someone for their effort, particularly in cooking or crafting. It translates literally to to “health to your hands,” recognizing the skill and effort put into creating something.

This expression is deeply rooted in Turkish culture, where craftsmanship and culinary skills are highly valued. But any time you appreciate someone’s help in doing something, you say “Elinize sağlık” out of appreciation for their efforts.

A good situation in which to use the Turkish phrase “Elinize sağlık” is to a chef or cook serving you a meal. They’ll love it!

Kolay Gelsin

I’m my favourite Turkish phrase for last — “Kolay gelsin“.

The phrase “kolay gelsin” means “May it come easy”. But it’s super versatile, and has uses far beyond what you might guess.

You can use it in Turkish to mean anything from

  • Keep up the good work!
  • Thanks, buddy!
  • Take it easy!

I like to use “kolay gelsin!” to appreciate the cleaner who’s mopping the stairs of my apartment, the server who dishes out the food at the local lokanta or pilavcı (two kinds of local eateries in Turkey worth checking out), or to shopkeepers or shop attendants. Everyone loves it. The more manual the work, or the harsher conditions in which they’re working (e.g. outdoors, in the rain, or in the cold), the better!

Wrap up

Many languages have their unique assortments of pleasantries and polite phrases. But despite having learned 10 odd languages so far (always a couple rusty, I usually disclaim), I was surprised by the Turkish phrases I learned which didn’t have parallels in other languages.

Even if you don’t have a high level of Turkish, knowing just a few of these Turkish phrases has a high return on investment. In fact, if you just know “kolay gelsin”, you’ll be able to make a lot of use of it.

Happy learning!

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