"Turkey" the bird named for "Turkey" the country.

As a youngster, I was taught that “tur-kee” is how the Hebrew word for “parrot” is pronounced. The Pilgrims, being well studied in Biblical matters, spoke Hebrew as well as Aramaic (the original Old Testaments was written in Aramaic). They saw turkeys, thought them to be large wild parrots and so gave them the name.

Comments encouraged.

I found this via Google:

Is this the column you’re referring to?

Is turkey (the bird) named after Turkey (the country) or vice versa?

I remember a morning in our writer’s group when Harlan Ellison told one young hopeful that he should blow up his high school for what they did to him. I recommend this course to the OP.

turkey (n.)

There is a bit of truth there about how the Hebrew word for “parrot” is pronounced, which is “TOO-kee”

Think about this critically for a moment. Even if the Pilgrims knew any Hebrew at all (already doubtful, but let’s go with it for the moment), they wouldn’t be conversational in it. At the time, nobody in the world, not even Jews, not even rabbis, was conversational in Hebrew. They knew it, if at all, for purposes of reading the Bible, and so they would have known only that portion of Hebrew which is used in the Bible. Parrots, unsurprisingly, are never once mentioned in the Bible, and so there would be no reason for any of them to know the Hebrew word for them. Most likely, none of them had ever seen a live parrot, and if they ever saw a drawing of one (even that would be unlikely, since they weren’t big on books other than the Bible), it would have been captioned in either English or Latin. And if they had ever seen or heard of a parrot in any form, they would have known that it’s about as unlike a turkey as it’s possible for a bird to be.

And even that pales before the fact that the Pilgrims did not stumble across an unfamiliar bird they tried to match up. Turkeys had been in England for a century and had already been named before a single Pilgrim was ever born. And the American wild turkey had its name before the Pilgrims landed.

This is called folk etymology. It’s a fairy story. Let’s stop it here. “He said, ‘Kill it before it grows’.”

Now there’s something I didn’t know, despite having seen the word “dinde” all my life paired with “turkey” in bilingual product labeling. But I dispute that “dinde” is Middle French circa 1600 since I see it all the time and it ain’t 1600 any more. “Dinde” actually refers to a turkey hen when speaking of the animal and generically to turkey as a food, while “dindon” AFAIK is only used to refer to the male animal. I’ve never seen it on a product label.

No, all but a few paragraphs of the OT are, and always were, written in Hebrew. The Aramaic bits are very late.

Wiktionary says that Hebrew word תֻּכִּי (in the sense of Psittaci) is “probably from Tamil” (except the Tamil word in question means something else), but another Hebrew dictionary I have says the etymology is uncertain.

Whether or not these Pilgrim types knew any Hebrew and/or Tamil, turkeys were known as such in English in Europe in the 16th century. In Modern Hebrew, as in French, they are named after India, not Turkey.

A minor correction: in linguistics, “folk etymology” refers to the process where an unfamiliar word from a another language that changes to a familiar word in English.

Clearest example is “turtle,” which originally referred to a bird. The French “tortue” was unfamiliar, so the name of the bird replaced it. The bird became “turtle dove.”

“Isinglass” is another example. So are “Jerusalem artichoke,” “andiron,” and “cockroach.”

What happened in this thread was an etymological urban legend.

Not in my experience.

And Merriam-Webster says the same thing.

It can be applied to foreign words, but doesn’t have to be. And it was the phrase used long before anything was called urban legends.