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Habibullah's
Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire
AND HER TIMES
- B -
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Sultans and Concubines and Eunuchs, oh my...!

Site visitors may navigate the encyclopedia using the
Ottoman Empire Index
or the
Encyclopedia Sources Page.

B
Term Meaning Comments
Baba

Means 'father', usually, but may also have special meanings, like:
A name for the head of a Bektaşi lodge.
 
babaı

1) a dervish follower of Baba Işak, who led a revolt in Anatolia in 1241
2) a name given to 'melamı' dervishes
 
Bab-i Hümayun


Ruler's Gate3

Ruler's Gate, or Imperial Gate. Just before this gate on the left is Ayasofya [Church of Hagia Sophia (Santa Sofia), now a museum]. When there was still a formal, walled-in First Courtyard at Topkapı Palace, this gate led into it. Once through the gate, on the left, you see the Church of Irene. Over the door is an inscription giving the construction date of the portal as 1478 (883H). Under that is the tuğra, the imperial monogram, of Mahmud II. At certain times in history, the chambers flanking the gate were used to house the Public Treasury (Beytülmal).
Bab-i-Saadet (Bab-üs Saade)

Gate of Felicity -- also Gate of Akağalar (Gate [Door] of the White Eunuchs). The gate that leads to the Third Courtyard in the Topkapı Palace. The Third Courtyard was where the Sultan had his private quarters and Throne Room, where he met dignitaries and commoners alike -- but only on invitation!
Bab-üs Selam (also, Bebüs Selam)

[Sounds]


Close-up of the portal...


Both illustrations from
TOPKAPI Palace3

Gate of Salutations
(also 'The Sublime Porte', Middle/Central Gate, Ortakapı)
The large inscription over the portal is the 'Proclamation of Muslim Faith' and beneath it is the tuğra of Mahmud II. Huge hand-beaten iron doors are set into the gate, bearing the name of the blacksmith Giyas bin Mehmed who wrought them in 1524 (931H) -- near the beginning of the reign of Süleyman I, The Magnificent.
The gate which leads to the Second Courtyard in the Topkapı Palace. No one except the Sultan was permitted to ride horseback beyond this point. In the present day, the TOPKAPI Museum Admission tickets are collected after you pass through this gate.
Bağdad Köskü

[Sounds]

Pavilion of Baghdad. Built by Murat IV after his victorious campaign of 1639 in Iraq. Was a coffee house to Sultans. Located in the Fourth Courtyard of the Topkapı Palace.
Bahname [Sounds]

bahname
Page from a 19th Century Bahname.4

Ottoman sexology encyclopedia(s) The word Bahname is originally Arabic -- 'bah' means 'coitus, lust, concupiscence, desire, libido' and 'sexually related' and 'name' simply means 'book of'. So taken together Bahname means 'Book of (Sexually-related subjects)' -- or Book of Sexology. These types of books (which contain recipes for aphrodisiacs, recommendations for sexual health, contraceptive measures, and positions of intercourse) have a long history in eastern cultures (the Indian 'Kama Sutra' and the Arabic 'Perfumed Garden' are examples). And they were especially popular in Istanbul during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Bailo The title of the Venetian ambassador to Constantinople.  
Balık Hane kapısı Fish Gate, at Topkapı Palace.  
[The] Balkans,
[The] Balkan States,
[The] Balkan Peninsula
The land area in southeastern Europe, bounded on the east by the Black and Aegean Seas, on the south by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. This "boundary" includes the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, and European Turkey. The northern boundary is geographically defined as the Sava River; the lower Danube River from the point at Belgrade in Serbia, where the Sava joins it; and a line drawn arbitrarily from the upper Sava to the Adriatic near Rijeka, Croatia. This so-called boundary is recognizable on a map and, with a few exceptions, encompasses the countries generally defined as Balkan states, but it has no physiographical justification. It is historically justifiable because the region so defined (together with Romania and excluding Montenegro, Dalmatia, and the Ionian Islands) constituted most of the European territory of the Ottoman Empire from the late 15th to the 19th century.21
[First and Second] Balkan Wars First Balkan War (1912). Turkish forces were routed on three sides by Greek, Bulgarian, Montenegrin, and Serbian allied forces -- and Turkey lost all its European holdings.
Second Balkan War (1913) Balkan allies squabble over spoils of the First Balkan War, and Second Balkan War breaks out June 1913. Turks regain advantage and territory -- capturing Andrianopole (Edirne), and establishing Turkey's western boundary at the Maritsa River, where it remains today.
Turkish defeat in the First Balkan War was responsible for bringing down the liberal Turkish government of the time. It was replaced by a military triumvirate consisting of Talat Pasha, Cemal Pasha, and Enver Bey (Enver Pasha) -- The Young Turks, minus Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk). Atatürk, an original founding member of the Young Turk movement in 1907, had dissociated himself from the group after a series of disagreements with his rival, Enver. Atatürk believed the military should remain clear of politics and the administration of government once its revolutionary aims were achieved.51 Mehmed V, of whom not much is written, was the Ottoman Sultan at the time of these two wars. He was the aged and compliant brother of the unpopular Abdul Hamid II, who had been deposed in 1909 by the Young Turks.
Baltacı Halberdiers -- who wielded battle-ax and pike in battle. The sultan's personal guard(s).
Barbarossa, Hayreddin (1466-1546)
(also, Hayrettin, Khair-eddin, and Hızır)

Grand Admiral of the Turkish Fleet5
---


Barbarossa --
Ruler of The Mediterranean Sea --
and all its adjoining seas!
72
---


A famous 'miniature' likeness of an aging Barbarossa56[Available on Turkish postage stamps, for collectors.)

The greatest, most greatly feared, and most successful of all the Ottoman Naval warriors. Originally from Mytilene, aka Midilli (Lesbos), he and his brother Oruç had established themselves as successful privateers against Christian targets by 1512, when Sultan Selim I came to power. Hayreddin had two memorable naval encounters with the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria -- and, although under somewhat unclear circumstances, Hayreddin bested the Italian both times. He died in 1546 (of natural causes) and was succeeded as Kapudan Paşa by Turgut Reis (Turgut Paşa). Piri Reis was a nephew...
His father was Yakup Ağa (formerly from Vardar near Selanik), one of the guardians that Sultan Mehmed II left after he conquered Midilli (Lesbos) in 1462. His mother was a spoil of war from among the inhabitants of the conquered island -- granted to Yakup by Sultan's decree. Four sons resulted from their union -- Ishak was the oldest, next came the firebrand Oruç (Aruj), then HIZIR [Hayreddin's given name], and then Ilyas.
Originally, he and his older brother, Oruç (who was also Hayreddin's mentor), joined forces successfully with Selim I (The Grim) in about 1515, but he really came to glory under Selim's son, Süleyman I, The Magnificent. Barbarossa was virtually unstoppable in the Mediterranean during his Ottoman lifetime -- first as an ordinary Commander and then as Grand Admiral of the Fleet (Kapudan Paşa) between 1534 to 1546. The following personal description of Barbarossa comes to us from Captain Muhlis Ergin of the Turkish Naval Museum (Ankara, December 1998)....
Hayreddin was clever, and bright as a youngster though he had a tendency to mock his contemporaries. When he was a young man, he was noted for his impressive way of speaking, and he was brave but prudent -- a strong willed person. He was born with the fighting instinct and he had a bold manner. As an adult, he was a successful Mediterranean commander because of his cleverness and speed of comprehension. He took care to educate his subordinates, several of whom became admirals. He treated his colleagues nicely, politely -- and was loved by them. In private affairs, he was cheerful, elegant, and a teller of jokes. Once, Hayreddin Paşa publicly complimented his subordinate Turgut; "Turgut is more advanced than I". With this he showed his humility and nobility. Physically, he was dark-skinned, of an average height, and had a massive bone and body structure. His hair, beard, eyebrows and eyelashes were luxuriant (some reports say he was red-haired) -- and his eyebrows touched each other. Turgut Reis' daughter was married to his son. According to this information we may assume that he was married, but there is no source indicating the factual details. He spoke all the main Mediterranean languages -- Greek, Arabic, Spanish, Italian and French. And he loved music.
Barbarossa, Oruç (Aruj) Older brother of Hayreddin Barbarossa... See Oruç Barbarossa for more detail.
başkatibe
[Sounds]

The head secretary. The first secretary responsible for discipline and order in the harem.
baş kadın
[Sounds]

First Lady (literal meaning is 'head woman'). Mother of the first born male and heir presumptive to the throne.
baş musahib
[Sounds]

Chamberlain Provided liaison between the Sultan and the Sultana's staff.
Başak The modern Turkish astrological sign -- equivalent to Virgo in English.
Also means 'ear (of grain) or spike' in modern Turkish...
See the Osmanlı (Ottoman) entry Sünbüle -- for illustration. See burçlar for complete list of Osmanlı (Ottoman), Modern Turkish, and English astrological signs.
başlık


An Ottoman women wearing a fur başlık -- from a miniature painting (nakış) by Abdullah Buhari (dated 1745). The painting [now on view in the Istanbul University Library] has led experts to conclude that wearing fur headgear was a high fashion statement for Istanbul women of the time. 86

Headdress, headgear, a covering for the head.  
Batinite 1) one who seeks hidden, esoteric meanings in the Koran (Kuran, Qur'an, Quran).
2) one who holds that the Koran, besides its obvious meaning, has an esoteric meaning, to be learned only from the shiite imam.
 
Bayezid I, The Thunderbolt (1360-1403)
(also seen as Beyazıd, Beyazıd, Bayezit)
The 4th Ottoman Sultan, reigned 1389 -- 1402. He was called 'The Thunderbolt' (Yıldırım) because of his lightening fast attack strategy. He overstepped himself, however, and his forces were routed, at the Battle of Ankara, by Tamerlane in 1402. Bayezid was captured and humiliated to the extent that he committed suicide in captivity. The 'Interregnum', an eleven year gap in Ottoman rule, followed -- in which the sons of Bayezid fought it out to see who would resume the Ottoman Sultanate.
Bayezid/Bayezit/Beyazıd II
(aka Bayezidi Veli)
(reigned 1481-1512)

The dates in the picture are Bayezid's birth and death dates.
The son and successor to Mehmed II (The Conqueror). Bayezid was the brother of Prince Cem, who he defeated in a short war of succession. Cem escaped to live in Europe...for a while. When in 1492, Jews were forced from Spain due to the Inquisition, Bayezid II openly accepted them into the Ottoman Empire. Ancestors of those immigrants still live in significant numbers in and around Izmir, Turkey.
bayrak A flag.  
Bayraktar [or Bayrakdar] A standard bearer, a flag bearer.

Uniformed Ottoman standard bearer90
Bayramı Order A dervish order founded by Hacci Bayram (d. 1430).  
Bazam-dil-siz Deaf mute eunuchs... ...were members of the Bostancı who invented an unofficial sign-language, called 'ixarette'95, that was adopted throughout the Palace during the reign of Süleyman The Magnificent.
Bebüs Selam see Bab-üs Selam  
Beç Vienna [ancient name]  
Bektaşi A mystical sufi (heterodox) denomination of Islam or a member of such a denomination. The Bektaşi dervish order was founded by Hacci Bektaş Veli (in the second half of the thirteenth century). The Bektaşi denomination was a favorite of the Janissary Corps. Followers of the order abolished the veiling of women.
ben- Hebrew word for 'son' or 'son of'. It is used frequently as the first part of a person's surname, such as Akiba ben Abraham or Akiba, Son of Abraham. This prefix functions in the same way as the Arabic prefix ibn-. See also, Abd-, al-, bin, bint, ibn-, and Arabic Names. To find encyclopedia entries for Arabic-named persons beginning al- or ibn- see the second part of the name. For example to find the entry for the "Father of the Church of Islam" whose name was al-Ghazali, look under the letter 'G'. For Arabic names beginning Abd-, see the letter 'A'. For names beginning ben-, bin, bint, see the letter 'B'.
berber usta Master barber Woman in charge of shaving the sultan who directed the female barbers.
bey Gentleman, Sir, Mister Also:
  • Turkish Movies - Best-Looking Bad Girl of the 1970s, Sevda Ferdağ
  • Bad Girls of the 1970s Turkish Cinema, Aliye Rona

  • 1) prince, ruler of an independent principality.
    (2) governor of a district (see sancak, sancak beyi).
    beylerbeyi The 'bey of beys'; the governor of a beylerbeyilik, the highest rank in the provincial government of the Ottoman Empire.  
    beylerbeylik
    1. A province, the largest administrative unit in the Ottoman Empire, and governed by a beylerbeyi.
    2. The office/rank of the beylerbeyi.
    3. governor-general
     
    beylik
    1. A principality governed by a bey.
    2. The office/rank of the bey.
     
    beytülmal The Public Treasury in Ottoman days (located near the Imperial Gate). This treasury paid the Ottoman State's expenses. The sultan had a separate treasury to pay for his personal expenses.  
    Bezmialem (Bezm-i Alem) Sultan Abdülmecid I's mother (by father Sultan Mahmud II).
    The name 'Bezm-i Alem' means 'Feast of the World' in Turkish.
    Bezmialem was the name given her when she became a kul of the Ottoman Court. At birth, she had been named Suzi by her Russian Jewish father, Leon.
    bin Arabic word for 'son' or 'son of'. It is used frequently as the first part of a person's surname, such as Cem bin Mehmed or Cem, Son of Mehmed. This prefix functions in the same way as the Arabic prefix ibn-. See also, Abd-, al-, ben, bint, ibn-, and Arabic Names. To find encyclopedia entries for Arabic-named persons beginning al- or ibn- see the second part of the name. For example to find the entry for the "Father of the Church of Islam" whose name was al-Ghazali, look under the letter 'G'. For Arabic names beginning Abd-, see the letter 'A'. For names beginning ben-, bin, bint, see the letter 'B'.
    bint (or binte) Arabic word for 'daughter' or 'daughter of'. It is used frequently as the first part of a person's surname, such as Fatma bint Mehmet or Fatma, Daughter of Mehmet. See also, Abd-, al-, ben, bin, ibn-, and Arabic Names..  
    birun The public sector of the Ottoman State. The area of the 'seraglio' that housed the government offices.
    "Black Death" Bubonic plague -- which spread through Asia, Europe and Northern Africa beginning with the 14th Century, but continuing to re-occur until the 18th century. The Black Death, spread by flea infested rats along popular sea trading routes, reputedly wiped out half the population of Europe between the 14th and 18th Centuries.

    First outbreaks of the "Black Death" in Europe, Turkey, and Northern Africa...66

    Right click or use Print Preview
    to view enlargement.

    black eunuch(s)

    Eunuch guards the gate...7
    The eunuchs who guarded the harem (as opposed to the 'white eunuchs' who were prohibited from doing so).

    See also, harem ağası...

    The 'black eunuchs' began rising to great influence during the reign of Süleyman I, after 1541 when fire in the Eski Saray resulted in a move of the Harem to Topkapı Palace. After that time, the Chief Black Eunuch had almost unrestricted access to both the Sultan and the Harem -- giving him enormous influence and power.
    [Cesare, Cezare, Caesare]
    Borgia

    (1476-1507)

    Cesare Borgia --
    The model for Machiavelli's The Prince.
    "With regard to these two methods of becoming a prince, by ability or by good fortune, I will here adduce two examples which have occurred within our memory, those of Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia. Francesco [Sforza], by appropriate means and through great abilities, from citizen became Duke of Milan, and what he had attained after a thousand difficulties he maintained with little trouble. On the other hand, Cesare Borgia, commonly called Duke Valentine [Valentinois], acquired the state by the influence of his father and lost it when that influence failed, and that although every measure was adopted by him and everything done that a prudent and capable man could do to establish himself firmly in a state that the arms and the favors of others had given him... and if his measures were not successful, it was through no fault of his own but only by the most extraordinary malignity of fortune."
    From The Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli
    Modern Library College Edition (1950)


    The original handsome devil...
    A sinister Roman Renaissance personality -- one of [at least] two illegitimate sons of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) and the "loving" brother of Lucrezia Borgia. Just one year after his father became pope, he made Cesare, then 18 years old, a cardinal. Cesare soon became known for his licentious behavior (both he and his father were accused of incest with Lucrezia) and vicious temper -- and it's probable that he murdered Duke Giovanni, Lucrezia's second husband. In August 1498, Cesare relinquished his cardinalate because he felt it 'cramped his style'. And when his father granted France's King Louis XII an annulment of Louis's first marriage, Louis rewarded Cesare with the duchy of Valentinois (France). In 1499, Cesare married a sister of Jean d'Albret, King of Navarre (which is now an autonomous province in NW Spain), and accompanied Louis XII back to Italy, where Cesare proceeded to annex the Romagna Region for his father, the Pope. With gratitude, his father named him Duke of Romagna, and Cesare, in a fit of exuberance, seized the Duchy of Urbino. At that point, Cesare's enemies began to organize against him. Undaunted, he invited the rebel leaders to parlay at the Castle of Senigallia, on the Adriatic Sea, and, after a fine meal, he had them all executed. But when his father, the Pope, died in 1503, Cesare's days were numbered -- and regional noblemen seized his lands in central Italy. Furthermore, the papal successor, Pope Julius II, who was a bitter Borgia enemy, seized his remaining holdings and was instrumental in his arrest and 2 year imprisonment in Spain. In 1506, Cesare escaped prison and joined his wife and brother-in-law in Navarre. And there, on a military expedition against Castile, he died courageously on the field of battle. Like many of his contemporaries, Cesare Borgia was unscrupulous, treacherous, and cruel toward his political rivals. He was the prototype of the cunning political ruler portrayed in The Prince (written 1517, but not formally published until 1532 -- translated to English, 1640) by the Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli.18
    [Lucrezia] Borgia
    (1480-1519)





    Three poses of the idol...
    Illegitimate daughter of the notorious Pope Alexander VI and the Roman noblewoman, Vanozza Catanei -- some called her, 'The little idol of the Vatican'. Lucrezia was born Apr. 18, 1480 and died June 24, 1519 -- giving birth to her eighth child. Like the other members of her immediate family, she was known as a master of political intrigue (and a poisoner?). But she was also, after her third marriage, a benevolent patron of the arts.
    Lucrezia, often maligned in history, may be overrated as an evil doer. In any case, she wasn't nearly as conniving as her father, Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), or her brother, Cesare Borgia (the model for Machiavelli's The Prince).
    She was married three times: first, at age 13 to Giovanni Sforza, lord of Pesaro, (a marriage annulled by her father in 1497); second, to Alfonso of Aragon (illegitimate son of Alfonso II of Naples), who was murdered (probably by her brother, Cesare) in Rome in 1500; and finally, to Alfonso d' Este, who became duke of Ferrara in 1505. It was there at the brilliant Renaissance court in Ferrara that Lucrezia seems to have blossomed, acting as host to the foremost artists, writers, and scholars of the day -- including the poet Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) [made Cardinal by Pope Pius III in 1539] and the painter Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1477-1576).
    [Rodrigo] Borgia See [Pope] Alexander VI.  
    bostancı (also seen as, 'bostanji')

    Ottoman strangler...8
    A 'gardener' of the Sultan. The sultan's gardeners tended the gardens, it's true. But they also had other more deadly soldierly duties. On the Sultan's orders they strangled with bowstrings.8 (See also Bazam-dil-siz.)
    börek Turkish crisp roll. Very thin layers of pastry often filled with cheese and then fried.
    burç(lar) Sign(s) of the astrological zodiac. Osmanlı (Ottoman) astrological names:
    Hamel (Koç [modern Turkish] and Aries [English])
    Sevr [Boğa [modern Turkish] and Taurus [English])
    Cevza (Ikizler [modern Turkish] and Gemini [English])
    Seretan (Yengeç [modern Turkish] and Cancer [English])
    Esed (Aslan [modern Turkish] and Leo [English])
    Sünbüle (Başak [modern Turkish] and Virgo [English])
    Mizan (Terazi [modern Turkish] and Libra [English])
    Akreb (Akreb [modern Turkish] and Scorpio [English])
    Kavs (Yay [modern Turkish] and Sagittarius [English])
    Cedi (Oğlak [modern Turkish] and Capricorn [English])
    Delv (Kova [modern Turkish] and Aquarius [English])
    Hut (Balık [modern Turkish] and Pisces [English])
    Bursa The first capital city of the Ottoman Empire, est. 1326 -- located on the western-most end of the famous İpek Yolu (Silk Road). And still, to this day, very religiously conservative.

    The only Turkish city in which your webmaster was ever made to feel uncomfortable as a non-Muslim foreigner...is now Turkey's fourth largest city, as well as one of the most industrialized and religiously-fundamental centers in the country. If (hopefully) the ruling AKP religious-right political party is abolished in 2008 by the Turkish Constitutional Court, look to Bursa for a right-wing reaction. (Written 5 July 2008)
  • Zerrin Egeliler, the Queen of Erotik Turkish Movies, now resides in Bursa.
  • Horrific Gay Bashing in Bursa -- August 2006.



  • Byzantium

    Byzantine Constantinople (c. 1422)9
    The European colony of Pera is on the north shore, the church of Hagia Sophia is visible as the largest structure within the fortification wall -- on the right, mid-drawing.
    1. The capital city of the Byzantine Empire -- representing the eastern Catholic Church.
    2. One of the earlier names for 'Istanbul'.
    It wasn't officially named 'Istanbul' until 1930 -- in the time of Atatürk.
    It became known as 'Constantinople' (renamed after the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, The Great -- in 330 BC) and then (unofficially) as 'Istanbul' -- after it fell to Mehmed II, The Conqueror in 1453. The last Byzantine emperor (from 1449 to 1453), who died valiantly defending it, was Constantine XI Palaeologus. Also see Palaeologus Family.

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