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US officially changes spelling of Turkey to Turkiye

January 6, 2023

US diplomats and government statements in the future will now refer to the "Republic of Türkiye," several months after the Turkish government requested the change.

In this 2019 file photo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a visit to the White House in Washington DC
Erdogan requested the name change last year, but only some US federal agencies adopted the changeImage: Halil Sagirkaya/AA/picture alliance

The United States moved to adopt the Turkish preferred spelling for its NATO ally, changing from Turkey to Turkiye, the State Department confirmed on Thursday.

The move comes months after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government called on countries and international bodies to adopt the name change — seeking to differentiate the country from the North American bird of the same name.

Thursday's announcement also comes ahead of a key visit later this month by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Why did the US make the change?

The change of spelling was first noticed in a statement posted by the US State Department about joint US-Turkish action against suspected "Islamic State" financiers.

Officials later confirmed the spelling change, but said the pronunciation would stay the same.

"The Turkish Embassy did request that we use this spelling in our communications," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"The Department will use the spelling that you saw today in most of our formal diplomatic and bilateral contexts, including in public communications," he said.

Later this month, Turkey's top diplomat is expected in Washington for talks on Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids.

NATO chief: Turkey should allow in Sweden, Finland

Initial implementation of the change appeared spotty, with both the State Department website and the Foreign Affairs Manual not yet reflecting the change.

The US State Department rarely changes its stylistic rules on foreign country names — with the recent exceptions of North Macedonia and Eswatini.

Why did Turkey request the change?

In 2021, President Erdogan ordered countries and international bodies using Latin script to consistently use the spelling of Turkiye (spelled with an umlaut as Türkiye).

The United Nations and NATO took over the name change, as well as Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The association with the large, North American turkey — a bird that is typically served for dinner at Thanksgiving or Christmas — has been a sore point for Turkish officials.

Turkish public broadcaster TRT World recently pointed out in an article that alongside the association with the bird, the word "turkey" in English can also be used as slang for a "stupid or silly person."

rs/jsi (AP, AFP)