We explain some of them here.
Surnames only became compulsory in Turkey as recently as 1928, one of the many modernisations introduced by Ataturk following the establishment of the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923. People were allowed to choose surnames and, just as in England many centuries earlier, went for names that reflected their professions or familial status. In England ‘son of John’ gave us ‘Johnson’ and in Turkey the suffix ‘oğlu’ means ‘son of’ so ‘Canoğlu’ would be the Turkish ‘Johnson’.
Once you know some Turkish you can have great fun translating surnames – here are a few, with translations, taken from the Fethiye Business Telephone Directory:
Yıldırım – Lightning Yaralı – Wounded Gökoğlan – Skyboy
Mimaroğlu – Son of the architect Aktaş – White stone
Karabulut – Black cloud Candemir – Iron soul
The Mayor of Fethiye’s surname ‘Saatcı’ means ‘clockseller’.
Finally one from the village where I live which fascinates me: ‘Karaisaoğulları’ translates as ‘Sons of black Jesus’ and seems more suited to a West End musical than the surname of a vast extended family in a Turkish village.
If you come across other names that are really strange when translated, let us know. If you’d like a name translating send it in and we’ll tell you what it means.
Links to other articles on Turkish surnames on www.fethiyetimes.com