Friday, December 13, 2013


Reading about the events in Ukraine, I have been wondering about the word "Maidan." The square in Kiev which is the center of protests is called "Maidan Nezalezhnosti" and is referred to as either "Independence Square" or "Independence Maidan" in most English language news reports. Those news sources use the word "maidan" in their English language articles because the protests themselves are now referred to as the "Euromaidan" protests, with the hashtag "#euromaidan."

"Maidan" (ميدان) is the word they use for "square" in Egypt. Other Arab countries that I have visited use a different word for city squares ("saa-Ha"/ساحة). So why do Ukraine and Egypt have the same word for "square"?

My guess was that "maidan" came from Turkish, considering that Egypt was once part of the Ottoman Empire and Ukraine was once ruled by various Turkic-speaking groups like Tatars and Kipchaks. Google translate says that "meydan" in modern Turkish means "square." And the word in Kazakh (Turkic language descendant from Kipchak turkish) seems to be "Audan" ("аудан"), which is kinda close.

So I win! Right?

No. AP says that everyone borrowed the word from Persian, although much of its travel seems to be via Ottoman Turkish.