Did the pronunciation of "Genghis" Khan change? If so, when and why

When I was growing up his name was commonly pronounced Gain-gus, but twice in the last week I’ve heard NPR shows refer to him as Jain-gus. What gives?

(I also thought I knew how to pronounce “Hawaii” and “Pakistan” but now I hear those pronounced differently, too… I just can’t keep up!)

Until our Mongolian scholars check in, I’ll give my opinion. I think that many names of “foreign” people & places we’ve been using in English-language countries have been pronounced as early explorers & scholars understood them. In some cases, they probably didn’t hear what the “natives” were really saying. Also, languages change over time.

It’s a smaller world now. Even those of us who remember John Wayne playing Genghis Khan can just check out Youtube.

Seems to me I’ve always pronounced with a soft g sound for both syllables - Jenn - Jis. I have no idea where I picked that up. I’ve also heard hard g variants for a long time, too.

Not been to Mongolia, but throughout Central Asia it’s pronounced “Chinghis”, with a “ch” sound, which I think is also close to the Mongolian pronunciation.

I’d also suspect Bridget is right in that we may have ended up with “Genghis” because of early western visitors hearing it as that and putting it as such into writing (or first being written down that way by someone they then repeated the name to in that way)

The only time I ever heard “Jenjis” Khan is back is 2004 when John Kerry ran for president.

That’s pretty much on the money for a modern Mongolian pronunciation. The modern Mongolian pronunciation of “Khan” now ends in the “-ng” of English hang.

I have an old World Book from 1964 and it gives Genghis with a “soft g.” I remember how confused I was as the World Book said soft G while everyone pronounced it with a hard G.

I’ve always pronounced it with hard G’s, the way this authoritative source does.

I never heard with a soft G until just this morning on NPR.

I was only half awake and don’t remember why they were talking about him today, though.

That was definitely the first time I ever heard it. Then some in the media began using his pronunciation… perhaps so as not to embarass him?

“Jenghiz Khan” appears to exist as an alternate spelling too.