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Who Are the Kyrgyz?


Kyrgyz man in traditional hat, Kyrgyzstan
B Holland / Image Bank via Getty Images

Kyrgyz: A member of one of the Turkic tribes of Central Asia, who live primarily in the nation of Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz are nomadic yurt-dwellers by tradition; they were first mentioned in Chinese documents compiled around 100 B.C.

The term "Kyrgyz" can also refer to the Turkic language spoken by the Kyrgyz people.

Various theories exist about the derivation of the word Kyrgyz. Some believe that it means "forty girls," kyrk plus kyz, a reference to the founding mothers of the tribe. Others say that it comes from kyrk plus yz, meaning "forty tribes."

Pronunciation: "keer-geez" or "kir-geez"
Alternate Spellings: Kirghiz, Kirgiz

"The great Kyrgyz poem, The Epic of Manas, is twenty times longer than both the Odyssey and Iliad combined, yet performers still recite it from memory."

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