This Country Has Decided to Change Its Name—and the Reason May Surprise You

After years of being associated with a bird, one country has had it

Turkey

Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

With its vast history and majestic monuments of the Ottoman Empire and Byzantine era, Turkey is a consistent presence on many travelers' bucket lists. But those planning a visit to experience vibrant street markets, distinctive cuisine, and Instagram-worthy hot air balloon rides should take note: much like Prince, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West, the country formerly known as Turkey has announced a rebrand.

The country submitted a formal request to the United Nations this week announcing its plans to change its official name to Türkiye (pronounced tur-kee-yay). The submission concludes a months-long rebranding campaign launched by the country's President last year. However, a similar rebranding campaign was unsuccessfully attempted in the mid-'80s under then Prime Minister Turgut Ozal.

"Türkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people's culture, civilization, and values," the country's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in December.

Türkiye is much closer to the country's official Turkish name, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, or the Republic of Turkey. The name was initially chosen in honor of the country's founding President, Mustafa Kemal, who was given the honorific surname Atatürk, meaning "father of the Turks." The name change was made official by the United Nations as soon as the request was received.

But there may be more behind the name change than a desire to honor the country's history. The term "turkey" has several unfortunate connotations, including the bird famously eaten on Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the U.S. and a slang word used to describe something unsuccessful.

"The main reason why Turkey is changing its name is to eliminate the association with the bird," said Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM. "But also, the term is used in colloquial language to denote failure."

Setting aside its reasoning, Turkey is far from the first country to undergo a name change. In recent years, The Netherlands dropped Holland in a 2020 rebrand, Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia, and Ivory Coast switched to Côte d'Ivoire. And years ago, Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia, Iran went by Persia, and Thailand was once called Siam.

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  1. BBC News. "Turkey Wants to Be Called Türkiye in Rebranding Move." https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61671913

  2. CNN. "Why Turkey Changed Its Name: Populism, Polls, and a Bird." https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/03/middleeast/turkey-name-change-mime-intl/index.html

  3. The Washington Post. "Turkey Today, Türkiye Tomorrow: U.N. Okays Country's Request for Change." https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/02/turkey-turkiye-erdogan-united-nations-un/

  4. Newsweek. "Turkey Informs U.N. It is Rebranding to a Name from 99 Years Ago." https://www.newsweek.com/turkey-informs-un-it-rebranding-name-99-years-ago-1712357

  5. CNN. "Why Turkey Changed Its Name: Populism, Polls, and a Bird." https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/03/middleeast/turkey-name-change-mime-intl/index.html

  6. BBC News. "Turkey Wants to Be Called Türkiye in Rebranding Move." https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61671913

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