An efficient and easily scalable NHC-copper(I) halide-catalyzed addition of terminal alkynes to 1,1,1-trifluoromethyl ketones, carried out on water for the first time, is reported. A series of addition reactions were performed with as little as 0.1-2.0mol% of [(NHC)CuX] (X=Cl, Br, I, OAc, OTf) complexes, providing tertiary propargylic trifluoromethyl alcohols in high yields and with excellent chemoselectivity from a broad range of aryl- and more challenging alkyl-substituted trifluoromethyl ketones (TFMKs). DFT calculations were performed to rationalize the correlation between the yield of catalytic alkynylation and the sterics of N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs), expressed as buried volume (%VBur), indicating that steric effects dominate the yield of the reaction. Additional DFT calculations shed some light on the differential reactivity of [(NHC)CuX] complexes in the alkynylation of TFMKs. The first enantioselective version of a direct alkynylation in the presence of C1-symmetric NHC-copper(I) complexes is also presented. © 2016 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.