The addition of “биткоин” (bitcoin) to the Russian spelling dictionary is “well grounded,” according to an important official from the Institute of Russian Language – another recognition of the cryptocurrency. Transliterating English words into a Slavic language written in Cyrillic, however, is not always a straightforward process. Two spelling forms have gained popularity in Russia, but which is the correct one? Other Slavic nations face a similar challenge. Besides, each one of them seems to have its own idea of how to write bitcoin with Cyrillic letters.
Биткоин, Биткойн, Біткоїн, Биткојн – Bitcoin
Transliterating words from one language into another can sometimes spawn a number of spellings with none of the alternatives being a true original. This is often the case with borrowed terms describing new inventions that have to be written in a script different from the one they originated from. The word “bitcoin” is no exception – it is an invention, and it is a new term. Its introduction into Slavic languages using the Cyrillic alphabet has produced many spelling variations, with almost each nation “inventing” its own bitcoin, or биткойн I should say.
Bulgarians, who liked and adopted the Cyrillic script a millennium ago, have decided, unofficially, to spell bitcoin the way it is pronounced in English and in their Slavic language – “биткойн.” Their closest linguistic relative, the Macedonians, write it “биткоин,” true to their commitment to be different. The short unstressed i-vowel “й” (as in /aɪ/ or /kɔɪn/) is missing from their version of the Cyrillic alphabet. No worries, we can still read it.
Ukrainians, who probably have more “i”-s than just about any other Slavs (и, й, і, ї,) have chosen to use two or three of those in their spellings of bitcoin – “бiткойн” and “біткоїн.” That adds a little Latin flavor, although truth be told, the “dotted i” was indeed part of the early Cyrillic alphabets and they have kept it to this day. Belarusians also write it “біткойн.” Serbs, who use a Latin script alongside the Cyrillic, spell it “биткојн” in. Gosh, now there is a “j” in it…
Bitcoin Making its Way into the Russian Spelling Dictionary
Russia, by far the largest Slavic country and most famous user of the Cyrillic script, has a dilemma. Both “биткоин” and “биткойн” are used to refer to the cryptocurrency in Russian media and by the local crypto community, although “биткоин” is more popular. The question about the correct spelling has sparked multiple discussions in Russian crypto forums. The rule applied to other English loanwords says bitcoin in Russian should be spelled with the short “й” in the second syllable. But as it often happens with living languages, people prefer the incorrect “и” version.
A high-ranking representative of the Institute of Russian Language, under the Russian Academy of Science, has recently spoken in favor of adding “биткоин” to the Russian Orthographic (spelling) Dictionary, local media reported. “The question of including the word “биткоин” in the dictionary seems to me well-grounded,” Oksana Grunchenko, senior researcher and head of the referral service at the Institute, told the Moscow News Agency.
Grunchenko expressed regret that bitcoin didn’t make it into the Russian Explanatory Dictionary. Its “Б” (B) volume went out without it. “But since the word “биткоин”, or “биткойн”, represents a spelling challenge too, I think it will find its place on the pages of the orthographic dictionary,” she added indicating that both spellings may be accepted. “If both are included, we can talk about variability of the norm,” she explained, noting that there are other examples of that in Russian.
I don’t want to say that but maybe we, the Slavs writing in Cyrillic, do need some central authority to sort things out… Although, that has never really worked well here. Besides, it’s not just bitcoin – I am pretty sure we have the same issue when spelling “core” and “cash.”