Why is the word "Cyrillic" pronounced with a soft "c" at the start of the word, when the pronunciation of the word in Russian and Mongolian sounds more like a hard "c"?

  • 1
    Why is the Boston basketball team the Celtics pronounced with the fricative 's' instead of the stop 'k' like the rest of the world (and the Celts for who they are named)?
    – Mitch
    Apr 14, 2016 at 11:49
  • 3
    Because it's surreal.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:29
  • 2
    I'd guess it was because the name Cyril is pronounced with a soft C. English often doesn't preserve Kappa as a hard C in greek words.
    – jejorda2
    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:57
  • @Mitch Not really, though.
    – choster
    Apr 14, 2016 at 13:55

1 Answer 1


The 'c' is always soft before a 'y'.

Soft c: When “c” is followed by: e, i, y it is sounded as “s.”

The letter “c” has two sounds, hard “c” and soft "c".

The hard sound of "c" occurs most often (cat = kat).

When "c" is followed by (a, o, u) it is sounded as "k" (hard c).

When "c" is followed by (e, i, y) it is sounded as "s" (soft c).


  • Mostly true, but there are some exceptions. The rare adjective "cymric," meaning "Welsh," is pronounced with a hard "c." It is sometimes spelled with a "k."
    – herisson
    Apr 14, 2016 at 14:03
  • Spelling is an attempt to represent pronunciation; it doesn't determine it.
    – choster
    Apr 14, 2016 at 14:06
  • Ah, that explains why "cephalic" in English is largely pronounced with a soft "c" (sɪfˈæl.ɪk), rather than with a "k" as in the original Greek root word. I'd always thought the 'soft C brigade' were mispronouncing it, but now I see I was the one who was wrong. It's a shame, as I prefer the original pronunciation.
    – HamishKL
    Apr 14, 2016 at 20:53
  • @HamishKL In Greek the sound is more like a "k" because it's actually written with a "κ" , there being no "c" in Greek, and the sound in Greek is not like a "k", but like a hard "g", like "get", because the "κ" is preceded by a "γ", changing the sound of the "k" : εγκεφαλικο.(egefaliko). Apr 15, 2016 at 0:24
  • @CathyGartaganis: But that's modern Greek, right? I don't speak Greek, but the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says English cephalic actually comes from French céphalique, from Latin cephalicus, from Ancient Greek κεϕαλικός.
    – herisson
    Apr 15, 2016 at 0:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.