How is Kyrie pronounced?

He Needed a Name. Questions related to Kyrie have come up from three or four different people this week. That’s FAQ levels of inquiry, so I thought I’d do a blog post. Who knows, maybe you’ve been wondering about this, too. ::twinkle::

• • •

They would give them a home and teach them how to be the best of all worlds. Starting with this little one, who needed them as much as he needed a name. An idea sparked, and Tsumiko started along the path again, aiming for the central courtyard. “I want to show you something.”

A stone archway spanned the broad entrance, and words were chiseled deep into the stone. Argent scanned the Latin and translated, “God Have Mercy.”

“Yes. Kyrie eleison … my favorite song and the school’s motto.  I thought Kyrie might make a good name for a child who needed mercy and found it.”

“Kyrie,” he said, testing the syllables.

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox (Amaranthine Saga, #1)

• • •

Pronunciation. Kyrie’s name is properly pronounced with three syllables (KEE-ree-yay), which is the Latin word for “lord.” You can check out YouTube, where abundant recordings of Tsumiko’s favorite song are available. But since I’m ever and always a fangirl and Death Note‘s OST is memorable for its sonorous Latin choruses, I’ll link you there – Death Note Kyrie, Kyrie II And Kyrie Orchestra.


Origination. Some of you kindly flagged the above scene in order to correct my reference to Latin, pointing out that kyrie eleison is Greek. You are not wrong. But neither am I. (And this is where I start to sound like a total nerd, but not a defensive one. Because this stuff is really cool, but can be a little confusing.)

The phrase kyrie eleison is usually translated “Lord, have mercy.” For those who keep a Greek New Testament handy, you’ll find it in Matthew 20:31, where two blind beggars call out to Jesus, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David.” And in Greek, the letters look like this (less a diacritical marking or two):

κυριε ελεησον

In the Greek, kurie comes from the root kurios, which means “lord,” and is properly pronounced KOO-ree-yay. This word/phrase was later transliterated into Latin, where it became the basis for the music we mostly associate with masses and cathedrals. And in Latin, which uses the same romanized alphabet as English, the phrases is (usually) spelled kyrie eleison and is pronounced/sung in the now familiar KEE-ree-yay ee-LAY-ee-sohn.

Reasons. Tsumiko’s favorite song is sung in Latin. The stone arch in the central courtyard of St. Midori’s of the Heavenly Lights is inscribed in Latin. So I consider Kyrie’s given name Latin in origin, even though it’s a borrowed word (transliterated) from biblical Greek. Which was in turn translated from the original Hebrew, but that’s another story. And … does all that really matter?

Tsumiko chose a name that held personal meaning for her and for her adopted son. (As a bonus, it’s super easy to transliterate and pronounce in Japanese.) And hey. For those of you who actually read (or maybe skimmed) through ALL of this, I offer a teensy teaser. Kyrie will be back in Book 4. So there. ::twinkle::

I’m glad so many of my readers CARE about details like this. Here’s to word nerds everywhere! ::glomp::

12 thoughts on “How is Kyrie pronounced?

  1. Yesss more Kyrie in book four!!!
    And here I was pronouncing Kyrie like Kee-Ree because of the 80’s band Mr. Mister and their song “Kyrie”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here! We all know about Tsumiko’s faith, and the school she grew up in, but when I read the passage where she names Kyrie, first thought that popped into my mind was the 80s song, and how cool I thought it was that Tsumiko had a favorite song from that era. ^_^; Learn something new every day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I HAVE actually been wondering! I figured, since you took it from the kyrie in the Latin mass, but I do have a friend named Kyrie – but it’s pronounced Kee-ree, as it’s short for Valkyrie! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I’m Catholic, that was easy for me. Especially since you had the phrase in Latin over the archway. I just finished rereading Tsumiko and the Ensnared Fox. I went a bit slower and saw so many of the threads that are now reaching out to the second and third books. It was a joy to read again and now I’m almost done with the second book. What seemed a bit jumbled and confusing to me is now a bit clearer. And those rascally threads are still there and gleefully waving at us. I can’t wait to see where else you take us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that song, too. Thanks for talking about the roots of that phrase – I’ve always wondered, but never took the time to look it up. You have made my curious but lazy self very happy!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s yet another pronunciation, familiar to basketball fans who know that Kyrie Irving pronounces his name with two syllables and a long I sound in the first syllable.

    And my chorus director had us singing ay-LAY-ee-sohn.

    So many possibilities!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hooray for nerdy posts!
    There are probably as many pronunciations of “Kyrie eleison” as there are regions within christendom! I don’t know if there’s an official “Japanese Latin”, but if there is, it’s probably Ecclesiastical Latin with a Japanese accent. Whose setting of the Kyrie text is Tsumiko’s favorite? (Or is it the Gregorian chant? Or Mr. Mister’s song?)
    So excited to see more Kyrie in book 4!

    Liked by 1 person

    • O___o

      It’s safe to say that Tsumiko, who grew up with highly limited internet access and is not conversant in English, is NOT referring to any song by Mr. Mister. Not really St. Midori’s vibe. (You did notice the nuns, right?)


      • I wouldn’t have thought so, but her choice of the word “song” gave me pause. “Kyrie eleison is my favorite song” to me is like saying “My favorite song is ‘Theme’!” or “Anonymous is my favorite author!” I guess I’m being pedantic. I am shame-faced and quite contrite!


  7. You are wrong. Lord in Latin is Domine. Lord in Hebrew is אָדוֹן -reading from right to left and it’s pronounced ‘āḏôn Adon. Lord, however, in GREEK, is Kyrie -Κύριε, and it has nothing to do with Latin. It’s pronounced Kee ree eh and not whatever you assumed.


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