Why does Ukranian "c" correspond English "h"?

heart серце
haulm солома
home сім'я
hoar сірий
horn сарна

  • 3
    It is just a coincidence.
    – oleedd
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 23:56
  • 1
    @oleedd, I am not sure (at least 3 of the word pairs specified by Jack are really considered to be (non-close) cognate pairs).
    – Sasha
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 9:09
  • only two (heart and haulm) are actually correct translations. Asking "why c corresponds to h" is false question. c does not correspond to h. At least not with the two random examples given.
    – c69
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 20:28
  • @c69, at least 3 of them (and with some probability — all the 5) have same origin.
    – Sasha
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 10:14
  • That's amazing observation!
    – Mykola
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


It is not true for all words because some of them have different roots.

It looks like about Proto-Indo-European sound (palatovelar) with result of:

  • satemisation — it turned (in our case) to s for some branches (see red color at picture below) where Balto-Slavic (and therefore Ukrainian) is too.

    Centum & satem languages

  • Grimm's law also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift — it turned to h in Germanic (and therefore English) branch.

Just notice that it is not 100 % rule because (for example):

  • There can be newer word loanings or reloanings.

  • Another sound changings.

  • 5
    Popping in from linguistics SE to say, satemisation affected *ḱ but not *k (the two are distinct in PIE). Satemisation is also not sufficient to explain this correspondence. You also need Grimm's Law by which both PIE *ḱ & *k became h in Germanic, and from there in English (some of these h's disappeared, or became g, gh, or w because of further sound changes on the way to modern English)
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 14:05

Specifically for your words:

At first I thought it to be just a coindidence, but now it looks for me as some regularity. I.e. at least some of -ḱ- in Proto-Indo-European turns into -h- in Proto-Germanic and into -s- (expressed as -с- in Cyrillic) in Proto-Slavic. However, being not a linguist, I can't say whether such a regularity was investigated and explained in any studies; maybe it makes sense to ask on Linguistics SE (in a more general way: about the evolution of Proto-Indo-European -ḱ- into Proto-Germanic -h- and Proto-Slavic -s-, at least in some of the roots).

  • 4
    popping in from linguistics SE to endorse this. There are a few complication, but PIE *ḱ (which is distinct from *k and *kʷ) generally evolves into s in Slavic, and h in English. This is the result of two sound changes, Satemisation in Indo-Iranian, Armenian, & Balto-Slavic (and therefore Ukrainian), and Grimm's Law in Germanic (and therefore English). There is another sound change in Germanic called Verner's law that turns some of these h's into g's (which may later become gh or w's in English, like I said, there arecomplications). Latin, Greek, & Celtic generally have a k sound for PIE *ḱ
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 14:02
  • 1
    @Tristan, thanks. (I didn't even notice that ´ above ḱ — but now I understand it's important.) What makes me now very curious is how Jack (the question author) came up to conclusion that these word pairs are related (either they had some preliminary knowledge or they have really great intuition, because I'm more than sure that most of the speakers won't feel a relationship between these words (and I wouldn't either, but Internet helped me)).
    – Sasha
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 16:10
  • 1
    yeah, this spot definitely seems much harder than the usual germanic/latin ones (i.e. latin c <> english h) or latin/greek (e.g. latin qu <> greek p), because the two sounds seems less clearly related. That said, Greek, Armenian, Iranic, Welsh, and some varieties of Spanish all have s > h in at least some circumstances so depending on OP's linguistic background it's possible they were primed to spot such a correspondence more than most people
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 16:15

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