The word “kayak” came into the European languages in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, probably brought from Greenland by Dutch or Danish whalers. Some version of this word is now used in most European languages for any boat built on the model of Inuit (Eskimo) skin boats… Through Turkish, in the 1500’s the “caique” finally appeared in Italian as the name of a boat found on the Adriatic, and the name spread from there to the other European languages, finally reaching Sweden in the 1700’s. There the boat names “caique” and “kayak” met – albeit as the names of boats of entirely different kinds.
The fact that the Turks and the Inuit both had boat names pronounced something like “kayak” seems at first to be a pure coincidence of the type that cranks love and linguists dread. However, a good case can be made that the Inuit and the Turkish words were etymologically related, and that the word probably originated in Turkish.
His post makes a case for that relationship, and he has added a recent query:
According to commentor Ruth at GNXP, Turkish qayiq also means “ski”, and is an inflected word derived from the root kay– “slide”. She wonders whether the Inuit qayaq is also an inflected word. If not, it would seem to be a borrowing from Turkish into Inuit, whereas if it’s inflected in both languages, perhaps there was a common Turkish-Inuit ancestor.
Anybody know enough Inuit to be able to answer this?
Incidentally, the linked GHXP post mentions that John’s book Substantific Marrow is out, with sections on “The Back Door of Europe” (on the Baltic-Black Sea corridor), “The State”, and “Love or Money”; he adds: “By Christmas I should have a third book out, about philosophy, economics, and temporality. Sometime next year my book on Inner Eurasian history should be out; this book should be of interest to many people here. I’m going to be spending the next several years gathering and finishing up stuff I’ve been working on since about 1985.” Sounds promising!