The traditional view (mostly influenced by Russian and Polish historiography) on the etymology of Ukraine is that it came from the old Slavic term ukraina which meant "border region" or "frontier" and thus corresponded to the Western term march. The term can be often found in Eastern Slavic chronicles from 1187 on, but for a long time it referred not solely to the border lands in present-day Ukraine. The plural term ukrainy was used as well in the Grand Duchy of Moscow as in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly the lands across the border to the nomad world (Crimean Khanate) were described by this word. Frequent raids from the steppe made life in such regions a special and dangerous challenge. With the migration of the Great Abatis Belt southwards, the application of the term switched to Sloboda Ukraine and then to Central Ukraine where in the course of the time it obtained ethnic meaning for the local South Rus' (Little Russia in the ecclesiastic and the imperial Russian terminology).
Many contemporary Ukrainian historians translate the term "u-kraine" as "in-land", "home-land" or "our-country". This translation is in accordance with the original Ukrainian language meaning of preposition "у-" (u-) and noun "країна" (krayina). The accompanying claim that it always had a strictly separate meaning to "borderland" (ukraina vs. okraina) is considered inconsistent with a number of historical sources, often of not Ukrainian origin, while the translation as "borderland" agrees well with the traditional Russian language meaning of "у-" (u-) and "краина" (kraina).
Though the form "the Ukraine" was once the more common term in English, this is now considered inappropriate; most sources have dropped the article in favour of simply "Ukraine".
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.