I find it very difficult to understand the difference in meaning and usage between дальний и далёкий!

My teacher said: дальний: is "far" in relation to my (or the speaker's) position далёкий: is "far" in general.

But I feel like it's the opposite! Am I wrong? If I say "они живут в дальних селах" I feel like this "far" is a general, absolute far. It's far from everything else.

Can someone give me a better explanation of the difference? Thank you :)

3 Answers 3


Your teacher is right. Talking about distances, "дальний" is close to "a further one", while "далёкий" is more like "a far one".

Example 1: 1st town ---------------- 2nd town -------------3rd town

There are three towns on the same interstate. We live in the first one. A man lives in the 3rd town. We say: "Он живёт в дальнем городе". A woman lives in the 2nd town - "Она живёт в ближнем городе".

Example 2: 1st town <---------------- 1000 miles -------------> 2rd town

We are in the 1st town, some person is in the 2nd town 1000 miles away. We would say "Человек живёт в далёком городе"

The word "дальний" implies the existence of closer objects (ближний).


In some contexts there is no real difference. Both are formed from the word "даль". They are often interchangeable, and we can find idiomatic phrases with both words as attributes: "дальний путь", "далёкий путь" (see here for relative use statistics).

Stable antonyms to those are, respectively, "ближний" и "близкий", which are also rather very similar, although there are some phrases that would use the second word but not the first (you'd say "близкий человек", but "ближнее зарубежье" -- former Soviet republics after USSR had broken up).

Yet, as Roman points out, and where your teacher is correct, when you need to use comparative sense, "дальний" would be better (meaning "farther"), same with the antonyms: "ближний" also has a meaning of "closer", "nearer".

The meaning really depends on the context, and so does their use. For instance, with the noun "дорога", the phrase "дальняя дорога" means "road to far away places", i.e. "road that [starts here and] leads far away", whereas "далёкая дорога" has more of the meaning "the road far away", "the road such that to reach it you need to travel far".

  • thanks for the explanation and the examples! Seeing дальний as a comparative makes more sense
    – AltGei
    Oct 26, 2015 at 20:56

они живут в дальних сёлах = they are living in villages which are difficult to reach, in the outskirts of the populated area (whether you are there or not), far from the central area

они живут в далёких сёлах = they are living in the far villages, from you, from another place or from each other. They may be not far from the area's center.

  • they are leaving - they are living
    – Roman
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:19

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