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With the recent events in Crimea and the Ukraine the name of the peninsula appears a lot in both written and spoken, the a at the end is very conspicuous in the English pronunciation and writing, since there is no a in the Russian or Ukrainian name of the peninsula. The name is Крым in Russian, and Крим in Ukrainian. It's clearly seen that the name ends with an M and is pronounced Krim.

According to an article in the Washington Post the name of the peninsula in the language of the local Crimean Tatar population is Qırım.

What is the source for the distortion of the name in English?

(Also, it seems that the same a appears in the French, Spanish and Italian name, and doesn't appear on the German name).

  • You have partially answered your own question: English is one of several languages which have an 'a' at the end of Crimea. It is quite likely that one or two started with it for phonetic reasons, and then others followed suit for consistency. But have you considered what word 'Crimea' would resemble in English if you left off the 'a', and (as in the Russian and Ukranian examples) did not pronounce a final vowel? – Niel de Beaudrap Mar 6 '14 at 8:47
  • Good question, actually. The form Crimea looks a lot like a Latin form, which makes sense with the other Romance forms. But why did Latin add -ea to a word that originates in a Tatar word cited as qırım, with no final vowel at all? Surely Crima (with no extraneous -e- before the standard feminine ending) would have been a more obvious choice in Latin. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 6 '14 at 8:54
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    "Ship" and "sheep" are very old examples which were part of the English language, likely well before anyone who spoke the language were aware of Krim; the homophones are similar. But in AmE, it's not a ship / sheep distinction: Crimea is pronounced /krajmia/, which when pronounced without the final vowels is just a /krajm/. – Niel de Beaudrap Mar 6 '14 at 9:01
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    That -ea ending looks Romanian to me. Maybe the word came into Western languages (probably French) through Romanian and then spread into others, including English. But I have absolutely no proof of that. – Gorpik Mar 6 '14 at 9:35
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    If you are going to regard every instance where the English name of a country is not the same as the name in its local language as a 'distortion', you are going to have a lot of straightening out to do. Just as regards our fellow members of the European Union alone, I can only think of one, namely France, where English gives it the same name as its native tongue(s). – WS2 Mar 6 '14 at 10:04
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There was a vowel at the end, earlier too:

Etymology of Crimea:

Herodotus also refers to a nearby region called Cremni or 'the Cliffs', which may also refer to the Crimean peninsula, notable for its cliffs along what is otherwise a flat northern coastline of the Black Sea.

This Cremni seems closer to the present English Crimea than Qırım or the Russian Krym.

  • It is not closer, though, when you factor in that all the other Latin-derived names for the place have an i in the first syllable and no trace of the n. I don't think Cremni can be connected with the word Crimea. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 6 '14 at 12:03
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Is that an opinion? – Kris Mar 7 '14 at 5:33
  • No more so than the answer itself. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 7 '14 at 8:55
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    "I don't think Cremni can be connected with the word Crimea." Er, how about Eboracum, Eoforwic, and York? A few thousand years and drifting through a few languages can make some unexpected changes. – Rob Crawford Apr 17 '17 at 18:29

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