Turkish vs Persian (Farsi) Language: Similarities and Differences

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In this article, I will explain the similarities and differences between Persian (Farsi) and Turkish and provide insights only a Turkish local would know.

My international friends usually think the Turkish language is somehow related to the Persian Language. By the way, Persian is also known as Farsi.

Some also believe Turkish or Persian languages are different dialects of the same language. As a Turkish, I want to clarify this misconception because the reality is very different.

Even though centuries of cultural exchanges created many loanwords, Turkish and Persian are distinctly different languages.

Persian and Turkish languages have different grammar structures, vocabulary, and sounds.

Turkish belongs to the Altaic and Turkic language groups, and Persian belongs to the Indo-European language group.

Kurdish people in Turkey speak Kurdish, which is similar and closely related to the Persian language. On the other hand, Azerbaijani people in Iran speak a language that is mutually intelligible with Turkish.

Persian vs. Turkish Languages

Persian / Farsi Turkish
Language FamilyIndo-European and Indo-IranianTurkic and Altaic
Similar toMutually Intelligible with Dari and Tajik
Closely related and have some degree of mutual intelligibility with Zaza, Kurdish, Luri, Balochi, Pashto
Similar to Azerbaijani
Closely related and have some degree of mutual intelligibility with Turkmen, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz
Number of Speakers110 million Persian native speakers (native and non-native). Source88 million Turkish native speakers. Source

1. Similarities between Turkish and Persian 

Turkish and Persian originated in different parts of the world, and they are not the same language or dialects of each other.

Turkish is a Turkic language belonging to the Altaic language family, whereas Persian is an Indo-Iranian language belonging to the Indo-European language family.

Turkish and Persian languages have some loanwords from each other, but there is no similarity between their grammar and pronunciation. 

Yet, some scholars propose Persian lost its typical grammatical features and grammatically became similar to Turkish due to cultural exchanges between Iranian and Turkic people. Source

Most loanwords in Persian languages are from Arabic and Turkish. Yet, even with the shared words, the understandability between Persian and Turkish is very low.

Today, around 1% of Turkish words have a Persian origin.

As for my personal experience, Turkish native speakers have near zero mutual intelligibility in Persian languages, but I can understand some words due to cultural exchanges.

Additionally, Azeri speakers, which constitute around %16-24 percent of the Iranian population, enable Turkish speakers to communicate with Iranians easily.

I will explain more about that below.

1.1 Turco-Persian Tradition

Turkish people are descendants of Central Asian Turkic people and indigenous people of Anatolia.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that makes up over half the population of Iran and are indigenous to Iran.

Persians and Turks have different languages and cultural and ethnic roots.

Yet, it is undeniable that Persians and Turks have interacted many times in history and have blended more than most.

The Mughal Empire that constructed the Taj Mahal was a Turkic Dynasty

Since the Middle Ages, Turkic Empires created and led by rulers of Turkic ancestry embraced governing traditions that are Persian and Iranian. 

Many Turkish dynasties used Persian as the language of the palace and as a language of literature. This fusion created a unique culture called Turco-Persian.

Safavid, Mughal, and (to some degree) Ottoman empires are examples of Turco-Persian tradition.

The Mughal Empire, which dominated Iran and India, was a Turkic dynasty heavily influenced by Persian culture.

For this reason, their beautiful architectural creations like the Taj Mahal are a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Turkish, and Indian architectural elements. Source

1.2 Persian Influence in the Ottoman Empire

Turkish scholars and the government used Ottoman Turkish in the Ottoman Empire between 1299 and 1922.

Ottoman Turkish had around 80% Arabic and Persian loanwords. This led to Persian influence in the Turkish language, arts, and government.

However, unlike other Turkic dynasties, I believe that the Persian language was limited in the Ottoman Empire.

Mainly due to two factors. One of them was Ottoman Turkish was primarily used in government and academic circles, and the Turkish population continued to speak the ordinary Turkish language similar to modern Turkish.

Secondly, unlike other Turkic dynasties, the Ottoman Empire was also influenced by other cultures.

Arabic, French, Italian, English, and Greek are the primary cultures that affected the Turkish language besides the Persian Language.

Yet, it should be noted that the Persian language in the Turkish language may be lessened after the reforms taken by the Turkish Republic around 1920-1930.

Suggested Reading: Check on my guides Turkish vs Greek and Turkish vs Arabic Languages

2. Differences between Turkish and Persian

After centuries of cultural exchanges, the Turkish and Persian languages have evolved.

Yet, Turkish and Persian languages have very different paths of evolution, creating a fundamental barrier between languages that is very hard to break.

The Persian language is part of Indo-European Languages. On the other hand, Turkish and other Turkic languages were born and evolved in Central Asia.

Many theorize that Turkish is a part of Transeureasian Languages and has the same ancestral origin as Korean, Japanese, Siberian, and Finnish languages. Source Source

2.1 Origins of the Persian Language

Map of Indo-European Languages Source

The Indo-Iranian language is the largest and southeasternmost branch of the Indo-European language family. This branch has around 1.5 billion native speakers.

Persian, with its 110 million native speakers, is one of the most spoken Indo-European Languages.

Iranian Languages are a sub-group of Indo-European Languages. Wiki

All Indo-Iranian languages, including Persian, are believed to have evolved from a proto-language about 5 thousand years ago.

The maps below may help you understand the difference between the geographies of native speakers of Turkic languages and Iranian languages.

Languages in Indo-Iranian Language Family Source

2.2 Origins of the Turkish Language

Turkic Languages and sub-branches of Turkic languages.

All Turkic languages come from Proto-Turkic, and Turkish is about 3000 years old.

This ancient Turkic language evolved into Turkish, Turkmen, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic languages.

Turkish has its origins in Central Asia. Even then, Turkish had its unique alphabet.

There are 4 main subgroups of Turkic Languages. These are,

  • Oghuz languages with 125,400,000 native speakers.
  • Karluk languages with 38,000,000 native speakers.
  • Kipchak languages with 28,300,000 native speakers.
  • Siberian Turkic languages with 1,200,000 native speakers.

There are around 193,700,000 native speakers of Turkic languages.

You can check my guides on the Origins of Turkish Language and Turkic Languages to learn more.

3. Turkic (Turkish) Languages Spoken in Iran

Green Areas represent Turkic (Turkish-related) languages. Source

The Iranian population consists of 53% Persian native speakers and 18% percent native speakers of the Turkic languages. Turkic languages form the second most prominent language group in Iran.

Azeris and other Turkic People living in Iran provide a substantial cultural connection between Iran and Turkey.

Turkmen and Azerbaijani languages are very similar and highly mutually intelligible with Turkish.

Turkmen and Azerbaijani languages are the most spoken Turkic languages in Iran. 13% of the Iranian population is Azerbaijani native speakers.

Native Languages in TurkeyPercentage
Both Turkish and Other2%
OthersLess than 1%
Languages Spoken by Turkish People as Native Speakers
Source EU’s Eurobarometer 2005 Survey

Kurdish is an Indo-European Language and is classified as an Iranian Language. Linguistically, Kurdish is similar to Persian.

It is estimated that Kurdish people form between 15-20% of Turkey’s population.

Yet, Kurdish descendants of Turkish people do not always know the Kurdish language. I have many friends of Kurdish origin, and they are native speakers of Turkish languages. 

BBC estimates that 6% of the Turkish population speaks Kurdish as their mother tongue. The main Kurdish dialects spoken in Turkey are Northern Kurdish and Zaza.  Source 

Persian and other Iranian language speakers have varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with Kurdish. Source

Languages spoken in Turkey and Languages spoken in Istanbul are good guides to learning more about languages in Turkey.

5. Which is harder to learn, Turkish or Persian?

If you are undecided about learning Turkish or Persian, here is my short answer.

Because both Persian and Turkish have vast cultural backgrounds, to master these languages, you need to live in a country where the language is spoken natively.

And if you intend to learn Turkish or Persian, think about which country you love to stay in for a year and then decide to learn that language.

Here is the long answer…

Turkish and Persian can be hard and complicated to learn, with each language having its challenges.

Grammatically and logically, Persian is closer to European languages because it is an Indo-European Language.

Yet, you need to learn the Arabic alphabet to start learning Persian.

Turkish is easy to read. Turkish uses the Latin alphabet and nearly the same sounds as the original Latin language.

Anyone who knows how to read Latin, Spanish, or Italian can easily read Turkish with a few hours of practice. 

Turkish grammar has fewer irregularities and straightforward rules.

Additionally, Turkish only has one main dialect (Istanbul dialect), which all Turkish speakers understand. You do not need to learn local dialects to use Turkish. 

Yet, Turkish is not easier to learn Persian because Turkish grammar structure and logic differ significantly from Latin languages.

10 thoughts on “Turkish vs Persian (Farsi) Language: Similarities and Differences”

  1. As an Iranian who lives in Istanbul, I have to admit that Turkish is a bit easier to learn, as its grammar is less complex than Persian and also its alphabet is not Latin. Also, the written and spoken versions of Persian sometimes differ a lot, which doubles the difficulty. However, I do not agree that now less than 1% of Turkish comes from Persian. Lots of words used in Turkish are Persian. Why I think they come from Persian to Turkish (and not vice versa) is that they can be found in very old Persian poetry, and also different forms of them (parts of speech) exist in Persian, but only one form is found in Turkish, e.g. the word ‘sahte’ which means ‘artificial’ and comes from the verb ‘sakhtan’ in Persian, meaning ‘to make, build or manufacture’. We also use ‘sakht’ (structure), sakhte (made), sakhteman (building) and so on (You see that ‘man’ is like the French pronunciation of the suffix ‘ment’ in European languages that forms nouns like ‘apartment).

  2. Unfortunately, there is a very big mistake in this article. There is no language named Azerbaijani. All are Turkish but the difference is Turkey Turkish, Azerbaijan Turkish, Iran Turkish, etc. This is not true to count 80 million of Turkey’s population as Turkish society. It is much more than what you have written in this article. However, please consider the vast population of Turkish people living in big cities like Tehran, and then you would figure out the real number of Iran’s Turkish population. As a native Turk who knows and speaks Persian fluently (for 24 tears), Turkish is much harder than Persian.
    *These are not offending words, some truth!

    • I agree with you, but I am not a linguist so I was hesitant to call Azerbaijan and Turkish the same language. They are %90 mutually intelligible it is true and the difference resembles American English and UK English. Yet, I did not know where to draw the line, should I include Turkmen as a dialect as a separate language or Kazakh. I could not come to conclusion.

  3. As someone who is fluent in both languages, The percentage of Farsi’s influence on Turkish humbly cannot be under 30% and it’s definitely more than that, most of Farsi’s loan words,(Farsi, not Persian, Persian is the western name of Iran and it’s not the name of the language), are coming From Arabic (Islamic influence ) and French, due to its intellectual prestige especially during Qajar dynasty, the Turkish language had much influence on the Azeri region esp during the Selcuk dynasty, Farsi language grammatically hasn’t much changed nor by Turkish or even by the Hard influence of Arabic since the old Farsi language thanks to their literature it was mainly preserved the same goes for the Arabic language by “Quran”, Iranian tend to personalize the loaned words example: shokra’a in Arabic meaning thank you, transferred to Farsi into “Moteshakeram” almost unrecognizable,
    an Iranian can easily understand scripts and poems were written hundreds of years ago, Turkish and Persian are from different linguistic branches, but still, they both have some sense of rhyming and song (last part is my personal opinion lol)

    • @Efe Genit,
      Loved the information you and others provided here. I originate from Pakistan and love to see the changing map of this world.

    • @may, AS some one with a reasonable fluency in Turkish wh has just begun to study Persian, as the Persian government declareed it should be called in the 1930s, I am staggered at the vast number of cognates between the two languages: everything from “humidity”, to “state” to “fruit and vegetables.” The conjugation of verbs has similarities, too, as well as the short form of possessives.

  4. You say youre turkish and doesnt understand persian and say turkish is easier to learn?
    Persian is an easy langauge and the only challenging is its script .
    Where of persians grammer is hard?

    • If you are using different than logic than Indo-European languages Persian is hard. Even English is hard for Turkish, because of it is different grammar structure than to our native language. Yet, Central Asian languages Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Turkmen are very easy.


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