Krakow vs. Cracow

2 min read    13 comments

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 anglicised 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!

Comments

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Angela
Poland

Very interesting topic! I also noticed that people use both of those forms - for example we have Cracow Screen Festival, but also See Krakow guided tours (very good, by the way).

Reply Dec 6th, 2017
Derek
United Kingdom

You write about the comparison of these two words very eloquently but it all goes wrong when you spell 'Englishized' (If that's even a word) with a 'z' which makes it an American word

Reply Nov 15th, 2017
Mark
Poland

Well spotted - and now fixed!

Reply Nov 30th, 2017
pidalin
Czech Republic

Kraków with C looks weird. And Polish pronunciation is something like Crakuf, W/V in Polish and Czech is like V and like F on end of word, not english wh sound. It's funny to hear in Krakow for example castle Wawel with english pronunciation. :-)

Reply Nov 1st, 2017
Freddie Mac
Australia

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 :)

Reply Mar 27th, 2017
Ubuy Ubuy
Lebanon

Well I see you sqiu's down under me are listening. Thats good to know. So a zab to clean should be a good price for a rush job.

Reply Jun 26th, 2017
Bo
United States

Kraków is the only way

Reply Mar 27th, 2017
Rob
United States

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 :)

Reply Feb 7th, 2017
Marek
Poland

only Krakow ! :-)

Reply Feb 10th, 2015
Austin
United States

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.

Reply May 23rd, 2014
Karolyn
United States

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!

Reply Mar 25th, 2008
Dagny
Poland

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.

Reply Jan 7th, 2008
Ubuy Ubuy
Lebanon

Youre cyber bullying is one of behaviors that makes you unfit to fill any position that has any true responsibilities.

Reply Jun 26th, 2017