Yiddish Word of the Week
Indik - אינדיק

Indik - אינדיק \IN-dik\ Noun:

A turkey.

Pronunciation: Click here or here to hear a native Yiddish speaker use this word in conversation.

German equivalent: der Truthahn.

Etymology: The word probably derives most directly from the Polish word for turkey, “indyk.”Interestingly, many languages (see the “Translations” tab; click here and here for other lists) - including Hebrew, French, Russian, and Turkic - seem to associate the turkey with India or the Indian city of Calicut, while English and Irish tend to associate it with Turkey. How did this happen?

Apparently, the story is as follows. When Europeans and British discovered the New World, they believed they had reached the East Indies, as is well known. The native bird they found there therefore became known in many European languages by association with the word “India” or a variant of it [like “the chicken of India,” as in Hebrew (תרנגול הודו)].

However, the British associated this bird with one they were familiar with from trade with Turkey, namely the Guinea fowl (which itself got that name from the Portuguese who found it in Guinea in West Africa). The merchants who brought the Guinea fowl to Britain became known as “Turkey merchants” and so their birds got the name “Turkey cock” or “Turkey fowl” as well. When the Brits found the turkey in America, all that was required was for them to confuse the two birds. And that is how we have “turkey” today.

Interestingly, as noted already above show, many Jews and non-Jews and their languages associated turkeys with chickens. This tendency seems to also be present in the pronunciations recorded above, in which the speakers pronounce the word for turkey as “hindik,” not indik, which may indicate that they associate the bird with the chicken, the Yiddish for which is hon (האן). This would not be surprising, as many explain the permissibility, from the perspective of kashres, of eating turkeys to be based on their supposed relationship with chickens. Without entering into that debate, it is nevertheless fascinating to see how associations affect pronunciations and possibly even religious law.

Words related to indik, turkey, Turkey, and India: holdern (האלדערן) - to gobble (to make the sound of a turkey); Terkay (טערקיי) - Turkey; Terk (טערק) - a Turk; Turkish (טורקיש) - Turkic (language); Terkishe veytz (טערקישע ווייץ) - Indian corn; shvitzbod (שוויצבאד) - a Turkish bath; inditshke (אינדיטשקע) - a female turkey; Indye (אינדיע) - India or the Indies; Indyer (אינדיער) - an Asian Indian; Indiyaner (אינדיאנער) - an American Indian; Cheshven-zumer (חשוון-זומער) or shpetzumer (שפעטזומער) - an Indian summer; tush (טוש) - India inkTerkish (טערקיש) - Turkish; Indish (אינדיש) - Asian Indian; Indyanish (אינדיאניש) - American Indian.

Phrases with indik, turkey, Turkey, and India: oyfhern fun der heler hoyt (אויפהערן פון דער העלער הויט) or oyfhern kalter indik (אויפהערן קאלטער אינדיק) - to quit cold turkey; tzu reyden tachlis (צו רעדן תכלית) - to talk turkey (to get down to business); zitzn oyf terkish (זיצן אויף טערקיש) - to sit with legs folded under; opton emetzn oyf terkish (אפטאן עמעצן אויף טערקיש) - to play a nasty trick on someone. [Fascinatingly, the well-known Yiddish (ultimately, Hebrew) word tachlis (תכלית) has entered the German language in the form of “Tacheles reden" - to talk turkey - and the Modern Hebrew language in the form of takhles (תכלס), spelled with a samekh (ס) in order to ensure the pronunciation of the “s” sound.]

Expressions with indik, turkey, Turkey, and India:1. Er blozt zich vi an indik (ער בלאזט זיך ווי אן אינדיק) - He puffs himself up like a turkey. Thus, the related phrase blozn fun zich (בלאזן פון זיך) means to puff oneself up or put on airs.

Indik in a sentence: Der minheg in Amerike iz tzu esn a kezayis indik mit a reviyis zhurchline sous kdey tzu mekayem zayn di mitzves hayoym fun Danktog (דער מנהג אין אמעריקע איז צו עסן א כזית אינדיק מיט א רביעית זשורכלינע סאוס כדי צו מקיים זיין די מצוות היום פון דאנקטאג) - The custom in America is to eat an olive-bulks’ worth of turkey with a cheekful of cranberry sauce in order to fulfill Thanksgiving Day’s religious obligations.

Use indik in your own sentence today!

A gute voch un a freylichn Danktog - a good week and a Happy Thanksgiving!