Kindly advise if there is an explanation of such spelling of the feminine name Майя in Ukrainian (with й) with consequent specific declension rules?

I assume it should not be compared with Рая Тая, due to the two being abridged forms from Раїса, Таїса, but why, for instance, Зоя - without й?


2 Answers 2


I suppose it is prescribed to be written in this way (Майя), because it descends from the Ancient Greek name Μαϊα (meaning goddess Maia and "mother"), which is pronounced as /maja/ ⟨mah-yah⟩ itself.

While Зоя also has Greek origin (from ζωή — "life"), it is pronounced by Greeks themselves as /zoˈi/ (not as /zoja/) and originally spelled in Old Church Slavonic as Зоис /zoˈis/. Therefore the final spelling Зоя appears to be a result of posterior Slavic transformation of the word, not of original pronunciation transcription.

The same is true for Рая, Тая — these are Slavic short-hands for Раїса, Таїсія. Origins of Раїса and Таїсія don't even matter. The obvious fact — that ending was created by Slavs — matters.

Update: English Wikipedia proposes other etymologies for given name Maya: from Hindu word māyā ("illusion"), name Māyā, Hebrew name מאיה (Maya, short of ma'ayan "spring"/"brook"), Maya people (in Mesoamerica), Japanese name Mayako/Mayaka, mountain Maya, Māori name Maia ("palm tree"), etc. What is common in all these etymologies, is that an original pronunciation in all these cases is /maja/ ⟨mah-yah⟩ (or starts with /maja…/).

On the other hand, corresponding Russian name can be spelled as both Майя (more often) and Мая (rare). Russian etymologies include the Greek version (as primary) and descending from the Russian month name май (May; Ukrainian травень). The latter etymology seems to be really valid reasoning for spelling it as Мая (though май descends from Μαϊα itself (through Maius and May), a name owner can always say "my name is from май, not directly from Μαϊα").

TL;DR: Not the origin itself mostly matters, but the fact whether the ending was added by Slavs during the transcription/transliteration (to resemble the original pronunciation/writing) or during the later transformations. (Although the origin may matter too, because transcription/transliteration rules may depend on origin.)

  • Many thanks for your good answer! As for "Russian etymology" to explain the origin of Maya form May it looks very much like so called "folk (or false) etymology', doesn't it? Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 21:10
  • @OksanaGubrenko, I think, in the case of given names, we can't apply such terms as "folk/false etymology" (or "improper spelling"). Just because "it's a my child and I named him/her A (not B) in the name of C (not D)". Folk/false etymology (and improper spelling) are for common nouns; or for proper nouns that exist for centuries (those who created them are already dead); or, sometimes, for blindly-reused proper nouns. But if, say, I named something explicitly X because of specifically Y, you can't call it false etymology/spelling, because I named it.
    – Sasha
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 23:12
  • and here goes a bright example, when parents give a name "Альона" (in Ukrainian by transliteration from Russian "Алёна") to a girl and not to be blamed in stupidity explain that "Альона" came from "Альо". Just a joke :) Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 14:23

It can be hard to get used to this rules of declension (it's hard to understand even for Ukrainians) >> Відміни There are rules of dividing word by it's ending and how it's declension. This word belongs to I soft group. Hope I helped you

So according to that rules, these names belong to the same declension and group and subgroup - they ended with the same letter - "я". It doesn't matter from what word they were created at this point. Letter at the end matters only. And according to that they share declension rules

  • Welcome to Ukrainian Language.SE! Unfortunately, this post only hints to possible answer(s), but it does not actually answer the question. This can be a comment, however. Or please consider edit 'ing it to get closer to answering the question. Also, check this Meta post to see our quality standards. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 13:37
  • Thanks for the edit, but again, this does not seem to constitute an answer. Please re-read the question; the OP is not asking about the declension rules/groups; instead, they want to know why the seemingly similar proper names have different spelling of its roots. Namely, with or without the й. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 14:19
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    @bytebuster, this answerer was deceived by tags: declension, відмінювання — I removed them.
    – Sasha
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 18:10
  • @Sasha the very question of mine includes "with consequent specific declension rules", thus relevant tags have been used. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 21:02

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