Nıgış? Nık? Ne?

I was reading about the Balkars on “Encyclopaedic Ethnography of Middle-East and Central Asia” (available for perusal on Google Books). The Balkars apparently derive their name from a varient of “Bulgar”, although if we were to ask Angelina Jolie (who has recently discovered the joys of etymology), I’m sure she would tell us that it means “the people of snow and honey”.

At any rate, I came across this section:

Every communal group (rarely, every settlment) had a place for its mosque and a small square, the nïghïsh, where the men assembled.

Nığış? What manner of word is this? Well naturally the first thing I tried was googling various cyrillic varients of it to see if any other ex-Soviet languages had a similar word, but it appears to be more or less unique to Karaçay-Balkar speech. Seeing as Turkic words rarely begin with an “n” (although more often than they begin with an “m”), the next thing I thought was to check Persian and Arabic dictionaries, but the closest words I found (all Arabic) appear to have very different meanings. At any rate, why would Karaçay-Balkars use an Arabic word for such an everyday thing where no surrounding nationalities appear to?

In my Karaçay-Balkar dictionary, next to the word “nıgış” I found “nıhıt”:


Which isn’t much help, since if they are connected, it only shows that at one point there was a root “nık”, not where it came from. Still though, I tried looking for that, and discovered Tatars use “nık” for “firm” or “sturdy”. The TDK incorrectly states that this has the same meaning as Kazakh “lıq”, Uzbek “liq” and Kyrgyz “cık”, all of which mean “full”, not “firm”:

The TDK being wrong.

Still, the Tatar root does seem to be close to the Karaçay-Balkar usage, particularly in the form “nıgıtma”, which has to do with construction (just like “nıgış”).

So although the origin of this word is still totally unclear, at least I found an interesting potential connection between two geographically diverse Kıpçak varieties (which decreases the chances it is a regional loan), and found more evidence that the TDK needs new management.

UPDATE: As Mongolian influence exists in all varieties of Turkic, it occured to me that there could be some connection between “nıgış” (a place where people chat) and the Mongolian word “niy”, meaning “to chat”? But then this would mean that probably neither Tatar “nık” nor Karaçay-Balkar “nıhıt” are related to “nıgış” (although they might still be related to one another, “nıhıt” could still mean a “sturdy” road). Any thoughts from anyone would be appreciated.