After reading this article I got curious how ф is in place of "th" in English for the word Cathedral (Кафедральный)? Sounds almost like a coffee-place. (I know it is not Café or Kafee in russian but кофе so it would be кофедрала something. Ok, enough of the silliness.)

How is it that the word Кафедральный has this ф instead of some other Cyrillic letters?

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    Russian is actually the only Slavic language I can think of which has кофе for coffee and not a variation of кава
    – Quassnoi
    Aug 19, 2018 at 9:38
  • @Quassnoi omg you are right! Aug 19, 2018 at 9:44
  • How does it sound like a coffee place? Does cathedral sound like a coffee place to you too?
    – Abakan
    Aug 19, 2018 at 13:04
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    @Abakan Кофе-дральный собор. Мне, пожалуйста, двойной эспрессо за здравие. А мне три заупокойных латте на вынос.
    – Headcrab
    Aug 21, 2018 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


The word кафедра, which is the base for кафедральный, in Russian is a loan word from Greek, καθέδρα.

Pre-reform Russian alphabet contained the Greek letter θ (фита) and by the old orthograpical rules the word кафедральный would be spelled as каθедральный

As a result of the reform of 1918, by which it was abolished, among other things, it was replaced with the letter Ф.

But i believe θ was still pronounced like Ф, which provided justification for such a replacement.

Nowadays however, in transliteration of the English TH (which is similar to the Greek θ) instead of Ф the Russian letter T would rather be used or C, depending on the position in a word.

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    Ah so you actually had something like a theta letter before 1918? Wow this is really interesting. Aug 19, 2018 at 9:12
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    @mathreadler indeed, the old alphabet had all kinds of peculiar characters for special cases, like transliteration of Greek, or representing obsolete phonemes preserved only in writing Aug 19, 2018 at 9:19

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