Turkish Aphorisms

Each country’s national traits show through in many different ways: in the food, the customs, popular entertainments, even the sense of humor. A nation reveals its character through its aphorisms, too. The French are usually witty and sophisticated; the Americans homespun and slapstick; the Finnish deadly serious and dour; the Russians dark and and bitterly funny. The Turks, judging from this brief selection of Turkish aphoristic delights, are courtly, philosophical and somewhat bemused, noting life’s follies and foibles with a kind of aloof shrewdness.

My thanks to Cihan Ozcan for tracking down and translating these aphorisms from the Turkish.

No revolutionary is any good at restoration, but they destroy perfectly.

First we must know the truth. If we know the truth, we can know the false. But if the false is known first, it doesn’t take you to the truth.

The economy is like a river; it finds its course gradually.
—Turgut Ozal

Don’t be in the struggle of love but in the love of struggle.
—Peyami Safa

He who doesn’t live according to his thoughts starts to think according to his life.


The thing that makes the mind confused is passion.

A lie is like a sword stroke; the scar remains even though the wound heals.


No matter how much you know, how much you say is exactly how much the listener understands.

A beautiful face falls in love with the mirror.

Both the question and the answer are born from wisdom.

Be as quiet as a book when with an ignorant person.

Cenap Sahabettin

Only those who are kind perceive kindness, but everybody perceives meanness.

The person who selfishly seeks a friend actually seeks a servant.

The more in the wrong we are ourselves, the more we look for other people’s mistakes.

Don’t bridle a dog; it might think it’s a horse.

He who loves himself a lot is loved by others that much less.

When the heart starts to talk, the brain becomes deaf.

Life is like a river. It splashes over small obstacles but passes quietly by the big ones.