Krakow vs. Cracow

What's in a name? When Shakespeare asked that question, he had something more romantic in his mind than the name of a city, and yet the Krakow vs. Cracow debate has been going on almost since the time of the Bard. Other languages have always had their own spellings of Krakow: Cracow, Cracovie, Krakau, and yet to Poles the city has remained Kraków. But in English, the correct spelling used to be Cracow with a C, at least for several centuries as the city then in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth found its way into English books. However, within the second half of the 20th century, the spelling more similar to the Polish word began to take precedence. Even Encyclopaedia Britannica, Webster's, and other dictionaries switched their entries to "Krakow".

Perhaps you've noticed that we're keen to use both forms of the city's name in our guide - but what's the correct form? If you want to get technical about it, the official Polish name for the city is Kraków (with the dash over the "o" making it more of a "u" sound), but "Cracow" has been used in the English language for centuries. During Elizabethan times, when Poland was one of the largest countries in Europe, Cracow was written about often in English, and thousands of British businessmen travelled here. On the other hand, "Krakow," once rarely used, has recently come to dominate the Englishized name of the city thanks to modern travel - your luggage tag says "KRK," right?

 

Above: We stuck to the Cracow spelling

If we go by popularity count, a search on Google shows about 139 million hits for "Krakow" and less than 6 million hits for "Cracow". However, if we regard Wikipedia as the ultimate source of all knowledge (as many people do these days), it's interesting to note that both "Krakow" and "Cracow" redirect to their official entry, "Kraków", using the Polish spelling - a fact that has brought much debate on the Wiki forums. And how about the citizens of our fair city? Ironically, here the C has reigned supreme over the K, as going again with Google hits, there are about 22,000 hits for "Cracovian", 984 for "Krakowian", and 806 for "Krakovian". Perhaps it's one of those traditional language things, which explains why a citizen of Warsaw is called a Varsovian in English today.

In the end, whether you spell it Cracow or Krakow it's still technically correct, and you'll notice we use both spellings on our site. When searching for the city's airport or train station, make sure you use the "Krakow" spelling as that is the official name for both. And make sure you don't make the mistake of spelling it "Kracow" or "Crakow" or even "Krakov", as you might end up in the wrong town altogether!

 So today, technically both forms are correct - just don't use "Crakow" or "Kracow" - that's just too much confusion for one city to handle!

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Freddie Mac from Australia Reply Mar 27th, 2017

Now we know that Krakus-Krak was the legendary founder of Kraków so why would you spell the name of the City as, "Cracow"? One of the first things I did before going to Kraków for the first time in 2011 was learn how to spell it and how to pronounce it properly in the Polish language. I have returned to Kraków many times since then and will never pronounce it as Crack Cow...Simples :)

Ubuy Ubuy from Lebanon Jun 26th, 2017

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Bo from United States Reply Mar 27th, 2017

Kraków is the only way

Rob from United States Reply Feb 7th, 2017

Cracow not only looks bad, but is also a pretty useless spelling. Krakow and Cracow have no differences in phonetics. All the English did was make change the spelling for pretty much no reason :)

Marek from Poland Reply Feb 10th, 2015

only Krakow ! :-)

Austin from United States Reply May 23rd, 2014

My family is from Poland and I speak a little Polish myself. Cracow looks ugly to me, I never knew in English it was spelled anything other than Krakow. Plus in Polish, Cracow would be pronounced much differently than Krakow.

Karolyn from United States Reply Mar 25th, 2008

Right on! Cracow is so blahh... but Krakow is the true Polish way. It's Poland, not America. By the way- love the website!! Poland is suh-weeeet!

Dagny from Poland Reply Jan 7th, 2008

I really don't understand why Wikipedia's entry reads "Kraków" when their entry for Warsaw is "Warsaw", not "Warszawa". It's called consistency, people! Nonetheless, I think the "Krakow" spelling is the best, because it's closest to the Polish and used more often today than "Cracow", even by native English speakers.

Ubuy Ubuy from Lebanon Jun 26th, 2017

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