Pedantic Semantics

If you're thinking about coming to Ukraine but weren't sure whether to head to Kiev or Kyiv, let us make things a little simpler for you. Both Kiev and Kyiv are of course referring to the one and same capital city of this great nation!

How did the confusion arise? Well Kiev is the recognised transliteration of the name of the city in Russian, and also the old Ukrainian name which has been used for centuries (by the likes of national hero, Taras Shevchenko, no less) right back to the times of Kievan Rus. Kyiv meanwhile is the transliteration of the modern Ukrainian name of the city and the official name as far as all legal and political issues are concerned. Following the establishment of an independent Ukraine in 1991, there was a move by many Ukrainians to favour Kyiv as it symbolised a departure from all things Russian, and indeed Kyiv is now used by the UN and many other official bodies as the correct name.

Why have we at Kiev Life chosen to stick with the old moniker? Well simply because, like it or not, most English speakers are still far more familiar with the old Russian name than the modern Ukrainian one. Besides which the English language has a great tradition of ignoring the local lingo and coming up with it's own, easier to pronounce, anglicised versions of place names. Think Florence instead of Firenze, Moscow instead of Moskva, Prague instead of Praha, Ljubljana instead of... Oh dear, the argument falls down a bit there, but you get our point!

Indeed the long and short of it is that we don't care whether you refer to this great city as Kiev or Kyiv, we only hope you find our internet guide a valuable resource and that you have a fantastic stay in Kyyiv... Ooops - forgot to tell you about that one!


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Roman from Ukraine Reply Feb 19th, 2015

It shows respect once you know how to pronounce it correctly. Put in some effort, folks. Ukrainians appreciate it ;)

Pavel from Israel Reply Feb 6th, 2015

Back in 2010, Reuters editor Robert Bessler responded to a reader's query about the spelling. "Kiev is not the Russian spelling. It is the commonly accepted English language spelling of the name," Bessler explained. "We are not writing in Ukrainian, we are writing in English, so we use commonly understood English names for cities – hence Munich rather than Muenchen, Cologne not Koeln, Rome not Roma, etc."

Andriy from Ukraine Reply Nov 2nd, 2014

Thank you for this article. Nothing to add. Just hope that english-speaking people gonna pronounce my city is "Kyiv"

Me from Hungary Reply Mar 5th, 2014

We in Hungary say Kijev, which is roughly in between kiev and Kyiv :D

chingchong from Canada Reply Feb 7th, 2014

An interesting discussion. I've been reading the newspapers recently and noticed the name Kiev changed to Kyiv, so I googled it and come across this articie, I feel like to have my 2 cents. As in Chinese, no matter it is Kiev or Kyiv, the transliteration is the same:基輔( pronounced GayFu)

Matthew from United Kingdom Reply Nov 26th, 2013

What exactly is the pronunciation in modern Ukrainian then? All of these arguments focus on the spelling, but the spelling in English doesn't exactly determine the pronunciation. I'm assuming then - with British English phonetics - that "Kee Iv" is correct as opposed to "Kee Ev"?

Me from Hungary Mar 5th, 2014

Ukrainian pronounciation is kyee-yiw, where ky is a somewhat y-ish k

TranceProducer from Ukraine Reply Apr 10th, 2013

Kiev is russian speech , Kyiv is ukranian speech. Most people in Kiev say " Kyiv " . When you spell " Kiev " to Ukranian people , most of them dont like to hear like that because it sounds like russian .

CK from Australia Reply Apr 9th, 2012

Recently in Ukraine and surprised at vehemence of residents about this pronunciation. Now the English call Deutschland 'Germany', the French call England 'Angleterre' and no one bats an eye. So why are the Ukrainians so stressed about Kiev. The day they pronounce my country AU-STRAY-LEEA and not AV-STRAA-LYA I'll start calling Kiev 'Kyiv'.

Me from Hungary Mar 5th, 2014

I always pronounced it like you say :D

Roman from Ukraine Reply Feb 20th, 2012

we say KYIV !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mario from Germany Reply Jan 26th, 2012

Interesting! The German transcription should be "Kyjiw" then because "Kiew" is Russian too. Thank you

козак from United States Reply Mar 21st, 2011

For thousands of years, Ukraine has been under the grasp of different nations, intermittently. These nations include Russia, Poland, Germany, and more. Unfortunately, these years of reign over Ukraine (that rhymes), there have been some preeminant changes in the country, the countries people, and the reputation of the country in outside countries. One of these problems, which are huge if you travel to Kyiv, are the Russians. Unfortunately, not many immigrants from neighboring countries these days, will forget about their native language and customs. Thus, the dilemma of Kyiv v Kiev. In Ukrainian, Київ, can be be pronounced in English [correctly] as-- KYIV. The K is pronounced as heard in "track" (the CK). The Y can be pronounced as heard in "sit" (the I). The I can be pronounced as heard in "tree" (the EE). As for the V, it's pronounced as "vector" (the V). The other spelling- Kiev is in Russian and as a Ukrainian, I can tell when Americans, or any other persone says kEEev as opposed to KyEEv. Unfortunately, there are uneducated people who will always rant on what the correct spelling is (especially the Russians [believe it or not]). Therefore, the CORRECT SPELLING OF THE CAPITAL OF UKRAINE IS "[(•KYIV•)]". Thank you for reading.

balalaika from Japan Reply Jun 28th, 2010

Old people rarely use the new 'Kyiv' name . They even think the country(Ukraine) is part of Russia!

Boris from Ukraine Reply Dec 26th, 2009

Ok, what about hearing a native kievite? I am one. This new transliteration holy war is really annoying. I'm Ukrainian, I live in Kiev and I love my city so much. I somehow fear Russia because they are moving towards dictatorship but I hope they will not fight us. Kyiv is a pathetic new English word. You can pronounce the name different ways but the transcription of the name should always be Kiev. Tell Germans to change their Kiew, Polish to say something but Kijow and so on. Do we, Ukrainians should say Landen or Voshinton instead of London and Washington? Keep that in mind and eff politics and politicians.

Scott from United States Reply Nov 14th, 2009

Out of all respect for the ideals of Ukraine citizens, wanting to draw a line in the sand and begin a new era of independence, I support the request that we refer to the city as Kyiv.

Steve from United States Reply Mar 12th, 2009

Kiev has been known for centuries, Kyiv - only since 1991, after Ukrainian nationalists took power. Also you will be surprised, but the city is mostly Russian-speaking, and the governments is fighting it in every possible way. We should not follow this stupidity and help then to spread it out, removing the historical legacy ties of this 1,500-year city. English language is not their business at all. Don't you know that there is no word with the letter combination of kyi and there are words with kie? The bottom line is simple, Ukraine should mind its own, Ukrainian business.

Oleh from Ukraine Oct 11th, 2014

Dear Steve (or you should I say Stepan from Russia)? I live in Ukraine and unfortanutaly haven't noticed any nationalists in the government during all my life (I'm 35 now), so please don't lie to people, and about Kyiv too, because Ukrainian language was founded long time before the russian, cause if you remember the history, we had Kyiv Rus' at the time when Moscow was not even in the project for livinig people.

Dan from United Kingdom Reply Oct 17th, 2008

wow, interesting! I hadn't even heard of this correct version of spelling the city's name. I will try to switch from now on! It might start getting confusing if many more cities start changing their spelling in this way too though...