Liakhy [ляхи; ljaxy]. An old Ukrainian name for the Poles, used for the first time in the 11th century in Povist’ vremennykh lit (The Tale of Bygone Years) and other chronicles. The word is believed to have evolved from liada (uncultivated field). At first it probably designated only a tribe of western Slavs bordering on Rus’; the chronicle mentions the 981 campaign of Volodymyr the Great against the liakhy, for example. Later the term was applied to Poles in general. In folk songs not only Poles but enemies in general are called liakhy. In the last few centuries the term has been used in a perjorative sense, sometimes to designate Polish gentry.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]