Kayı (tribe)

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Tamga of Kayı, which its ongon represents the bow and arrow according to Mahmud al-Kashgari
Regions with significant populations
Turkey, Turkmenistan[1]
Turkish, Turkmen
Related ethnic groups
Oghuz Turks

The Kayı or Kai tribe (Middle Turkic: قَيِغْ, romanized: Kayığ; Turkish: Kayı boyu, Turkmen: Gaýy taýpasy) were an Oghuz Turkic people and a sub-branch of the Bozok tribal federation. In the 11th century Mahmud al-Kashgari cited Kayı (Kayığ) as of one of 22 Oghuz tribes in his Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk. The word kayı means "the one who has might and power by relationship".


In his history work Shajara-i Tarākima, the khan of the Khanate of Khiva and historian, Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur, mentions Kayı among 24 ancient Turkmen (Oghuz-Turkic) tribes, direct descendants of Oghuz-khan, who was the ancient progenitor of the Oghuz people. The name of the tribe translates as “strong”. In his extensive history work “Jami' al-tawarikh” (Collection of Chronicles), the statesman and historian of the Ilkhanate Rashid-al-Din Hamadani also says that the Kayı tribe comes from the oldest of Oghuz Khan's 24 grandchildren who were the patriarchs of the ancient Oghuz tribes, and the name Kayı means “powerful”.

Hungarian scholar Gyula Németh (1969) links Kayı(ğ) to a (para-)Mongolic people whom Muslim scholars called Qay, also known to Chinese as (< MC *ɣiei 奚), to Tibetans as Dad-pyi, and in Göktürk-authored Orkhon inscriptions as Tatabï; however, Németh's thesis is rejected by Köprülü among others. Later on, Németh (1991) proposes that Mg. Qay is derived from Tk. root qað- "snowstorm, blizzard"; nevertheless, Golden points out that Qay has several Mongolic etymologies: ɣai "misfortune", χai "interjection of grief", χai "to seek", χai "to hew".[2][3]


Selçukname variant Kayı tamga.

According to Ottoman tradition, Osman I, the founder of Ottoman Empire, was a descendant of the Kayı tribe.[4][5][6][7] This claim has, however, been called into serious question by many modern historians. The only evidence for the Ottomans' Kayı descent came from genealogies written during the fifteenth century, more than a hundred years after the life of Osman. More significantly, the earliest genealogies written by the Ottomans did not include any reference to Kayı descent at all, indicating that it may have been fabricated at a later date.[8]

However, one proof that Osman I was actually related to the tribe and that Ottoman tradition was correct is that after the death of his grandfather, Gündüz Alp or Suleyman Shah, his father Ertuğrul and his uncle Dündar migrated to Söğüt with 400 members of the tribe.[9]

Coin of 500 old Turkmen Manats (2001) depicting monument to Ertuğrul Ghazi of the Kayi tribe in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

The famous Oghuz-Turkic folk narrator, soothsayer and bard Gorkut-ata (Dede Korkut) belonged to the Kayı tribe.[10] In the 10th century, the Central Asian Oghuz Yabgu State was headed by supreme leaders (or Yabghu) who belonged to the Kayi tribe.[11]

According to Soviet archaeologist and ethnographer Sergey Tolstov, part of the Kayi tribe moved in the Middle Ages from Central Asia to modern day Ukraine, they are known in the Old Russian Chronicles as kovuy and kaepichi,[12] yet Golden considers the Kaepichi to be descendants of the para-Mongolic Qay instead.[13] According to the famous Soviet and Russian linguist and turkologist A. V. Superanskaya, the origin of the name of the city of Kiev is associated with the Kayı tribe:

"As ethnographers testify, ethnically “pure” peoples do not and cannot exist. On the contrary, new peoples arise from ethnic mixes of two or more peoples, usually assimilating the best features of each. There are many folk legends that the beginning of a nation was laid by two (or several) brothers ... Apparently, something similar lies behind the legend of Kiy, Schek, Horev and Lybed. The tribal name Kyy (Kiy) belonged to the ancient Turkic peoples. It is still present in the names of tribal structures of modern Turkic peoples ”.[14]

The Kayı tribe were the founders of such medieval Anatolian Beyliks as İsfendiyaroğulları and Çobanoğulları.

With the Russified name Kaitag (Mountain Kayı) the Kayı tribe played a prominent role in the history of the Caucasus, and now the Kaitag language is classified as one of five dialects of the Kumyk language, which for ten centuries (10–19 cc.) was a lingua franca in the North Caucasus. Kaitag principality was a leading component of the Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh state on the Caspian western seaboard that in different forms lasted from the 8th to the 19th centuries. Kaitag textiles, stamped out under the Soviet rule, remain distinct in their artistry and workmanship.

Kayı tribe in modern days[edit]

In Anatolia, twenty seven villages bear the name of Kayı.[15]

In Turkmenistan, the Kayı tribe is one of the main divisions of the Geklen Turkmens living in the Balkan region and consists of the following clans: adnakel, ak kel, alatelpek, bagly, barak, burkaz, ganjyk, gapan, garabalkan, garawul, garagol, garagul, garadaşly, garakel, garga, garyşmaz and others. The Kayı are also a clan among the Bayat Turkmens of the Lebap Region.[16]


The name and logo of the İYİ Party (means Good in Turkish) of Meral Akşener is inspired by the seal of the Kayı tribe.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atanyýazov, Soltansha (1988). Словарь туркменских этнонимов [Dictionary of Turkmen Ethnonyms] (in Russian). ISBN 9785833800140.
  2. ^ Golden, Peter B. (2006). "Cumanica V: The Basmils and Qipčaqs" in Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 15: notes 24–25. p. 17 of 13-42
  3. ^ Golden, P.B. (2003) "Cumanica II: The Olberli (Olperli): The Fortunes and Misfortunes of an Inner Asian Nomadic Clan" in Nomads and their neighbours in the Russian Steppe note. 49 p. 17 of 5-29
  4. ^ "Some Ottoman genealogies claim, perhaps fancifully, descent from Kayı.", Carter Vaughn Findley, The Turks in World History, pp. 50, 2005, Oxford University Press; Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge University Press, 1976, p. 306
  5. ^ "Ottoman Empire". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  6. ^ Atalay, Besim (2006). Divanü Lügati't - Türk. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi. ISBN 975-16-0405-2, Cilt I, sayfa 55.
  7. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic People. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. p. 358, 359
  8. ^ Kafadar, Cemal (1995). Between Two Worlds: The Construction of the Ottoman State. p. 122. That they hailed from the Kayı branch of the Oğuz confederacy seems to be a creative "rediscovery" in the genealogical concoction of the fifteenth century. It is missing not only in Ahmedi but also, and more importantly, in the Yahşi Fakih-Aşıkpaşazade narrative, which gives its own version of an elaborate genealogical family tree going back to Noah. If there was a particularly significant claim to Kayı lineage, it is hard to imagine that Yahşi Fakih would not have heard of it.
    • Lowry, Heath (2003). The Nature of the Early Ottoman State. SUNY Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-7914-5636-6. Based on these charters, all of which were drawn up between 1324 and 1360 (almost one hundred fifty years prior to the emergence of the Ottoman dynastic myth identifying them as members of the Kayı branch of the Oguz federation of Turkish tribes), we may posit that...
    • Lindner, Rudi Paul (1983). Nomads and Ottomans in Medieval Anatolia. Indiana University Press. p. 10. In fact, no matter how one were to try, the sources simply do not allow the recovery of a family tree linking the antecedents of Osman to the Kayı of the Oğuz tribe.
  9. ^ "Gündoğdu Bey tarihte kimdir? İşte Gündoğdu Bey'in hayatı…". www.sozcu.com.tr (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  10. ^ "АБУ-Л-ГАЗИ->РОДОСЛОВНАЯ ТУРКМЕН->ЧАСТЬ 1". www.vostlit.info. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  11. ^ Росляков (Roslyakov), А. (A.) (1956). "Краткий очерк истории Туркменистана (до присоединения к России)" [A Brief Outline of the History of Turkmenistan (before accession to Russia)] (in Russian). Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: Turkmegosizdat. p. 70.
  12. ^ Толстов (Tolstov), Сергей (Sergey) (1947). "Города Гузов (историко-этнографические этюды)" [The Cities of the Ghuz (historical and ethnographic studies)] (in Russian). Moscow: Soviet Ethnography Journal.
  13. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1990). "The peoples of the south Russian steppes". In Sinor, Denis (ed.). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 280 of pp. 256–284
  14. ^ Lezina, I. N. (1994). Slovarʹ-spravochnik ti︠u︡rkskikh-rodoplemennykh nazvaniĭ: I.N. Lezina, A.V. Superanskai︠a︡ (in Kyrgyz). INION RAN.
  15. ^ Еремеев (Yeremeyev), Дмитрий (Dmitriy) (1971). "Этногенез турок (Ethnogenesis of the Turks)". Google Books.
  16. ^ Atanyýazov, Soltansha (1988). Словарь туркменских этнонимов [Dictionary of Turkmen Ethnonyms] (in Russian). ISBN 9785833800140.
  17. ^ "The bow and two arrows". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2020-06-07.


  • Kafesoğlu, İbrahim. Türk Milli Kültürü. Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü, 1977. page 134
  • Gmyrya, L. 1995. "Hun country at the Caspian Gate: Caspian Dagestan during the epoch of the Great Movement of Peoples". Makhachkala: Dagestan Publishing