Say, what?

I’ve noticed that English speakers have a tendency to say HAV-R instead of Hvar. Even those that that have been to the island and have heard it said properly still do that. It’s not an anagram, people!  You can’t stick the “a” between the “H” and the “v” – that’s not where it goes.

The combination “Hv” stands in for the letter “F” in old slavonic. The Croatian alphabet didn’t have an “F” back then, which made it a touch difficult when they took over an island known from ancient times as Faros or Faria. Nowadays, of course, the Croatians do admit to the letter “F“, which you’ll find mainly in modern words taken from foreign languages – telefon, for example. That’s quite easy to read and understand, while telehvon would have been just plain awkward.

So, how should you pronounce Hvar, if you’re an English speaker and have not been brought up to combine your consonants in quite that way? Easy. It’s FAR – as in not near here. For Scottish and other Celtic types, you can get closer. Take the soft “ch” from the end of loch, and use that to start – so it’s CH-VAR for you. But, either way, in the local dialect, it’s FOR.

The ancient Greeks named their colony here Faros. It was where Stari Grad now stands. They were followed by the Romans, who referred to the island as Faria. It’s not known what the previous folk called it, as they didn’t write it down. Later names for the island include the Italian Lesina, but that’s another story.

So, there we have it – Hvar is Far.

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