Merhaba (Hello) is probably the most well-known Turkish greeting, and for good reason. As you can’t really go wrong with it, it’s generally a good choice if you’re feeling unsure. It can be used at any time of day and in any context, whether formal or informal, with friends or with your boss. But beyond merhaba, there are many other greetings you should know (as well as the appropriate responses to each!). Keep reading to find out all the ways to say hello in Turkish.
Mornings, Midday, And Evenings
As soon as morning breaks, people use the greeting günaydın (Good morning), which literally means something like “The day is bright.” This is used until noon when people switch to tünaydın. Trading gün for tün (an antiquated word for night), this greeting literally means “The night is bright,” which is a somewhat odd greeting when you think about it.
Alternatively, there’s the more common iyi günler (Good day), which can be used from noon until daylight wanes. From about 5 pm to 6 pm (or right after sunset) you can wish someone a “good evening” with iyi akşamlar. And fun fact: Both iyi günler and iyi akşamlar are used not only as greetings but also for farewells — a good trick if you can’t remember another way to bid adieu.
When you’re with people the same age and your good friends, selam (greetings) is the most common way of saying hello. This is often followed by Ne haber? (or N’aber? for short). You can probably already guess that this is the equivalent of the English “How’s it going?” — but it literally means “Which news?”
To this, you should answer İyilik, senden? (Good, and you?). Alternatively, you could respond with Ne olsun? (What is it?), İyi diyelim iyi olalım (literally: “Let’s say ‘well,’ so that things go well”) or the poetic Aynı tas aynı hamam (literally: “Same bowl, same hammam“) if you’re not in a good mood. The last one comes from the fact that in a Turkish hammam (public bath), people mix hot and cold water in a marble basin and then scoop it out with a bowl and pour it over themselves. The English equivalent of Aynı tas aynı hamam would be “Same as always.”
In The Islamic World
Religious Turks often greet each other with Selâmün aleyküm, an adaptation of the Arabic As-salāmu alaykum (Peace be upon you). This Arabic greeting and its variants can be heard across the entire Muslim world. The response to this in Turkish is (ve) aleykümü’s-selam, which is derived from the Arabic wa-alaikum us-salām (And peace be upon you). Whether or not you’re religious, if you’re greeted in this way it’s polite to return the corresponding greeting. In general, Turks use many words and expressions with religious connotations, like inşallah (hopefully), in everyday speech without consciously thinking of their origins.
For Guests And Visitors
Whether at home or at work, visitors are always gladly received in Turkey. For this reason, it’s important to know how to say hello in Turkish for these special occasions. If it’s one person who you’re on familiar terms with, then use hoş geldin. If there are multiple visitors or one visitor who you’re on formal terms with, then use hoş geldiniz. Both are equivalent to “welcome” in English. Just as important as the greeting is the reply, which is hoş bulduk. There’s no equivalent greeting to this in English, so it’s better just to memorize it. Literally, it means something like “We found it well.”
Another peculiarity of Turkish is the greeting Kolay gelsin! (It will be easy), which is used whenever you come into contact with someone working. It could be the custodian in the office or the shop assistant at the till. You can even combine this with other greetings, like: “Günyadın. Kolay gelsin!” But whatever you do, you should always wish for their work to be easy. It’s also common to use Kolay gelsin to say goodbye.