How Did the Turkey Get Its Name?

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There are three possibilities for how the Turkey got its name (although they are not the only ones):

  1. When Christopher Columbus thought he landed in India, he believed the turkey was a peacock. He called it 'tuka' which is peacock in Tamil (Indian language).
  2. The Native American name for turkey is firkee, which could have been adopted by colonists.
  3. When a turkey is scared, it makes a "turk, turk" noise. This could be how the turkey got its name.
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(here are a few ideas) • It may have come from the wild turkey's call (when it is afraid) which sounds like "turk-turk-turk". • The American Indian name for the bird was "firkee". • Christopher Columbus the explorer took some of the wild turkeys of North America back to Europe. People liked the meat. Merchants from Turkey may have been trading some of these birds so they came to be called "turkey birds". • Some say Columbus thought the turkey was part of the peacock family. So he decided to call them "tuka" which is the word for peacock in the language of India. The wild turkey is native to Northern Mexico and the Eastern United States. Turkeys lived in North America almost ten million years ago . The turkey was domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century. The American Indians hunted wild turkey for its meat as early as 1000 A.D. They made turkey "callers" out of turkey wing bones. The feathers were used to decorate ceremonial clothing. The spurs on the legs of ... more
This seemingly harmless question popped into my head one morning as I realized that the holidays were once again upon us. After all, I thought, there's nothing more American than a turkey. Their meat saved the pilgrims from starvation during their first winter in New England. Out of gratitude, if you can call it that, we eat them for Thanksgiving dinner, and again at Christmas, and gobble them up in sandwiches all year long. Every fourth grader can tell you that Benjamin Franklin was particularly fond of the wild turkey, and even campaigned to make it, and not the bald eagle, the national symbol. So how did such a creature end up taking its name from a medium sized country in the Middle East? Was it just a coincidence? I wondered. The next day I mentioned my musings to my landlord, whose wife is from Brazil. "That's funny," he said, "In Portuguese the word for turkey is 'peru.' Same bird, different country." Hmm. With my curiosity piqued, I decided to go straight to the source. That ...
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One source says it is named after its rather distinctive call, which is a "turk-turk-turk" sound. A second, more likely, explanation is that in the 16th century, merchants called Turkes traded along the Mediterranean. They included among their wares the turkey, which became known as turkey fowls. A third explanation is based on explorer Christopher Columbus's confusion about the New World--he thought turkeys were really peacocks and dubbed them "tukas," which is the word for peacock in the Tamil language of India. How did the turkey become the bird of choice for our Thanksgiving celebrations? Supply and demand--there were more wild turkeys available to the New World settlers than any other type of fowl, so roasted turkey was found on banquet tables. In the late 18th century the turkey's biggest fan was Benjamin Franklin. He desperately wanted the turkey chosen as the fledgling United States' national symbol. He was bitterly disappointed when Congress chose the bald eagle, stating the ... more
“Hey Let’s Talk Turkey” Recipe and Activity Book Here’s an action-packed activity book you’ll just “gobble” up. There are some easy turkey recipes for you to try make sure to ask an adult for help and lots of great games to play and pages to colour. To order a copy of this activity book, please contact us by email at mbturkey@turkey.mb.ca to give us your full postal mailing address (Manitoba residents only). more

The Native Americans called turkeys "firkees," which some believe to be the origin of the word.  However, when turkeys are spooked they make a "turk turk turk" sound, which is where the name likely originates.

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