Court decides to remove misogynist expressions from official Turkish language dictionaries

An administrative court decided the removal of sexist and discriminating expressions from the Turkish Language Association's official dictionaries considering that the institution defines "available" as "flirting women" and "dirty" as "menstruating women"
Monday, 26 February 2018 23:49

An administrative Turkish court in Ankara decided to the removal of some words that constitute discrimination against women from the official dictionary of the Turkish Language Association (TDK).

Dilşat Aktaş, the co-chair of left-leaning Halkevleri (People’s Houses) organization, who was detained last week for her criticism over the government's Syria offensive, had sued the TDK after her appeal for the elimination of discriminating words from official dictionaries had been rejected by the language association.  

Founded in 1932 by the initiative of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the TDK has served as the regulatory body of the Turkish language and charged with publishing official dictionaries and contributing to linguistic research.


However, the linguistic institution has come to the fore with its controversial dictionary definitions and expressions particularly in recent years during the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP).

It was revealed in March 2015 that a TDK dictionary defined the meaning of a Turkish word, “available” (“müsait” in Turkish), as "One who is ready for flirt, who can flirt easily (woman)", stirring public criticism and controversy.

There are many other misogynist examples from the official TDK dictionary. For instance, the Turkish word "yollu", an adjective derived from the noun "yol" ("way"), is connoted as "Any woman who can be obtained easily". Another Turkish word "esnaf" ("craftsman") is defined as "Any woman who slides to a wrong path" with reference to prostitution.

That same dictionary provides three definitions of the word "dirty" ("kirli" in Turkish), here is one of them: "A woman who is menstruating".

When such sexist definitions and expressions of the TDK were revealed, many civil organizations and citizens protested the institution around the country for its discriminating and homophobic expressions. However, the institution working under the Prime Ministry of the Islamist AKP government insisted on publishing misogynist definitions.  

As Dilşat Aktaş had sued the Turkish language institution on the grounds that it constitutionally violates the principle of equality before the law and carries out discrimination of sex, the court in Ankara decided on February 26 to cancel the TDK’s rejection of the appeal.


Referring to the TDK’s official duties regarding improving the use of accurate Turkish, the court justified its decision that the institution should not resort to such expressions insulting and discriminating against women within the context of social sexism.

The court indicated to the contradictory role of the TDK considering that the institution rejected a legitimate appeal while it apparently uses slang expressions. The court concluded that it is unlawful for the TDK to resort to slang expressions in its official and online dictionaries.       

Strikingly, the female member of the court, Güler Kodal, voted against the court decision while the two male members of the court agreed on the cancellation decision on the language institution’s rejection of the appeal.