Why do complex words like “citilink” or “citibank” use “i” at the end of “city”?

I bet they mean city in the first part of word. I’m not sure if there is some rule for complex words when “y” must be changed to “i”; is this true?

  • 10
    Citibank and Citilink are trademarks and anything is fair game. Words like happily and busily are relevant, though.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 1 '12 at 10:07
  • Remote related english.stackexchange.com/questions/76379/…
    – user19148
    Aug 1 '12 at 10:34
  • 1
    Close to me, there is a company called Citylink. There are no rules when it comes to marketing names.
    – user16269
    Aug 1 '12 at 11:56
  • "I bet" or "I'm not sure" is not really what we mean when we ask that you show research effort. ;-)
    – MetaEd
    Aug 1 '12 at 15:04
  • 2
    'citibank' just thought it would make their name stand out and look modern if they used the non-standard 'citi-' instead of 'city-'. There's no rule involved, they just made it up.
    – Mitch
    Aug 1 '12 at 15:15

There are guidelines to generalize the changes in the spelling of Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives that end in "y."

For example,

  • If the end spelling is consonant + y:

y >>> ies

y >>> ied

y >>> ier, iest

y >>> ily

y >>> ying

  • If the end spelling is vowel + y:

"y" doesn't change to "i"

There are of course exceptions to these guidelines like the words "day," "pay" etc.

Unfortunately, the words that you cited above are in fact proper nouns (not "complex words") and as such they are not covered by these guidelines, and their form mostly depends on their creators' discretion


With the exception of obvious compound words, any time a "Y" precedes a consonant, that "y" will be generally have the long pronunciation: "Style" "thyme" etc.

You can imagine how "happyly" or "busyly" might introduce some uncertainty to the reader.

"CityBank" or "HappyLand" or whatever are clear enough, but "Citibank" is entirely acceptable, and it seems to me that it comes across as much more European/exotic.

  • tyranny, gym, synonym, cynic, syzygy, and many more words are counterexamples to the first sentence.
    – herisson
    Apr 29 '16 at 15:32

There are no rules. Such spelling variations may be an attempt to circumvent previous trademarks.

In general, you will find that the word won't be modified if the original meaning can't be sussed out. It also may depend on how "awkward" the construction feels (a big company will almost certainly conduct brand name research for this).

There is also the fact that y has (mostly) disappeared as an internal vowel in English, so a 'y' in the middle of a word may stick out (not necessarily a bad thing for a marketer).


This has a lot more to do with trademark law than with English language usage.

Under US trademark law, made-up words get more protection than common words. For example, if you call your company "Fragnobitz", and later someone else starts a company and calls it "Fragnobitz", you will almost surely win a trademark violation lawsuit. They almost surely deliberately copied your name in the hopes of benefiting from your good reputation or marketing. An argument that it's a coincidence would be unconvincing to a court. Even if it really is a coincidence, you made up the word, so you can claim ownership.

But if you call your company "West Side Shoe Store", you have a much tougher case. Anyone who opens a store that sells shoes on the west side of town (or the west side of something) can argue that they are simply being descriptive. The word "shoe" has been around for a long time: you can't come along centuries after it was invented, after thousands of other businesses have used it, and declare that you now own it. Similarly for the other words in the name. You can try to claim the particular combination of words in that particular order. But the more descriptive the words are, the less protectable. If you called your store "Tea Cup Shoe Store", you have a better case: those are all common English words, but we do not normally associate tea cups with shoes, so you can claim the combination is your invention.

So if the company had called themselves "City Bank", that's so generic they'd have almost no trademark protection. Removing the space and making it "CityBank" might help, but not much. They could probably stop someone else from calling themselves "CityBank" but not from calling themselves "City Bank". "Citibank" is just odd enough that it's protectable. They can claim it as a made-up word.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. But I had to read up on this when I started a small business a few years back. If anyone on here knows more about the law and wants to correct me on some point, feel free. But I'm pretty sure I've got it right to the extent that it is relevant to the question.)

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