According to my understanding the aforementioned verbs have two related meanings like the English word 'to leave'.

a) to misplace. This makes sense somewhat because in order to misplace something you have to have put it someplace else. The prefix 'о-' meaning 'around/about' may have a sense of approximate (e.g. 'I approximately placed my keys somewhere over...')

b) to depart. This meaning does not make sense. If you are departing from someplace, why would you use the verb оставлять? You know where you are going, there is no sense of approximation. What are you putting away? Is using this verb wrong when referring to people, because it would seem more fitting when referring to objects only.

c) Why would оставлять and оставаться be antonyms? They have the same prefix and the same root. Why would they have contrasting meaning and what is their morphological relationship with the verb ставить?

  • your assumption is wrong, оставлять и оставаться are not antonyms, so I guess it would be better if you'll edit the question, otherwise it's just invalid.
    – shabunc
    Jun 17, 2016 at 19:51
  • "оставаться" is just imperfective of "остаться" which is in turn "о + стати" not "о + ставити". So "оставлять" and "оставаться" are not of the same root,
    – Matt
    Jun 17, 2016 at 19:55
  • What exactly are you asking in a) and b)?
    – Quassnoi
    Jun 17, 2016 at 21:01
  • There are verbs "обставлять/обставить", constructed from the same root and a similar prefix "об-", which really have meaning "to put around", mentioned in your question. For example, "обставить дом" means "to furnish a house". This is not the only meaning, however. And about "оставлять/оставить" the answer by @NikolayErshov looks good to me.
    – Lara
    Jun 23, 2016 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


(a) Оставить does not mean "misplace". It can of course mean a related thing, forgetting/abandoning/leaving something behind, but that's not the same as "misplacing". You remember the location; you just forgot to go through with the action of retrieving the object.

(b) This is a rare and somewhat obsolete meaning of оставить. Покинуть is the natural word to use here.

In any case, you are misconstruing the meaning of the prefix. O-sta- is a very old combination of prefix and root that occurs in most if not all Slavic languages with the meaning of "remain" (and a host of related concepts, including "last"). It can perhaps be thought of as a new root that's greater than the sum of its parts. Here, we're dealing with older and harder-to-interpret meanings of the prefix than the ones you can intuit in present-day Russian.

(c) It's a little bit strained to construe оставлять and оставаться as antonyms, but supposing we do, the answer is really fairly obvious. Because one is transitive and the other reflexive. "Leaving behind" a place and "leaving yourself behind" are as antonymous, in context, as antonymous gets. Or consider that to leave a thing is to make it remain — which is one way you can get "remain" and "leave" to be somewhat synonymous despite their intuitive antonymy which we keep getting reminded of in these pre-UK referendum days.

  • @ Nikolay Ershov The о-prefix here most likely is related to the physical meaning of "о" + accusative--meaning against. "Волны бьются о берег." Опускать--let down (against). So Really, it's just (put against--о-ставить) (stand against/stay--о-статься).
    – VCH250
    Dec 28, 2017 at 20:40
  • @VCH250 That's possible, but I'm not sure we can speculate about a very old use of one of the notoriously polysemantic Slavic prefixes with any degree of reliability. Dec 30, 2017 at 6:16
  • @ Nikolay Ershov You're right. I just favor physical meanings when it comes to word origins.) In the sense of the most literal interpretation best discribes the original meaning.
    – VCH250
    Dec 30, 2017 at 6:37

So, since (a) makes sense to you, I am going to skip it :) (even though, "o-" isn't a prefix here: "оста" is the root).

(b) to depart. If I was asked what "оставлять" means without any context, my first thought would be "to leave behind" (which is why I felt compelled to write an answer to this question: it does not at all mean to "to put around"). You mentioned "to leave", so, I guess, this is close to your understanding. When you leave something behind, you must be departing from somewhere in some sense, so, I am guessing, that's why someone has translated it like this. I, probably, would not in most cases, but it does make some sense.

(c) "оставлять" vs. "оставаться". If someone leaves you, then you are left. This is the same kind of distinction. "Я оставляю вещи в номере" means "I leave my luggage in the room", "Мои вещи остаются в номере" - "my luggage is left in the room". In other words: если ты остаешься, значит, кто-то тебя оставляет.

  • 3
    Verbs do have prefixes: уходить, приходить, входить, заходить, сходить, выходить
    – V.V.
    Jun 18, 2016 at 4:28
  • Ваше последнее предложение тоже не верно. Остался один день до начала лета — тут никто не оставляет день. Или чашка упала, но осталась целой — тут тоже её никто целой не оставлял.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 18, 2016 at 10:54
  • @V.V. You are right. I misspoke. Fixed that.
    – Dima
    Jun 18, 2016 at 11:47
  • @YellowSky В моем последнем предложении, которое вы объявили "неверным", ничего не говорится ни про количество дней до конца лета, ни про падающие чашки.
    – Dima
    Jun 18, 2016 at 11:48
  • Да, не писали, я просто привёл контрпримеры к вашей формулировке. Зато вы там написали, что «оставаться» значит «быть кем-то оставленным», а это не так. Допустим, вы писали там не о глаголе «оставаться» вообще, а именно о его форме «остаешься», но и в этом случае вы ошибаетесь, в предложении «Ты остаёшься в живых уже в третьей крупной аварии» тебя никто не оставляет. Ваша формулировка значения глагола «оставаться» неверна.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 18, 2016 at 16:33

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