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 '16 at 11:49
  • 3
    Because it's surreal. – Hot Licks Apr 14 '16 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 '16 at 12:57
  • @Mitch Not really, though. – choster Apr 14 '16 at 13:55

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 '16 at 14:03
  • Spelling is an attempt to represent pronunciation; it doesn't determine it. – choster Apr 14 '16 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 '16 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). – Cathy Gartaganis Apr 15 '16 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 '16 at 0:33

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