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I came across the word весточки, which apparently means message. There doesn't seem to be much info about it, so I assume it is an unpopular word, perhaps outdated.

Is it still in use? If so, in what context? What's its gender?

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As Anixx has already written весточка is a short message from "far away". In the beginning of 2000-ies this word was quite rare, but now it is used more and more often. Here's a graph based on Ruscorpora.ru data:

весточка usage graph

Ruscorpora also gives plenty examples of usage:

"(He) did not send letters to relatives and had not received any messages from them.":

Сам не писал своим родным и от них не получал весточек. [Олег Павлов. Карагандинские девятины, или Повесть последних дней // «Октябрь», 2001]

"What can be more precious for us, emigrants than message from homeland?":

Весточка с Родины ― что может быть дороже для нас, эмигрантов, особенно таких, как я? [Григорий Горин. Иронические мемуары (1990-1998)]

In this example you can see that весточка is not a letter ("We did not received from him nor letter nor message"):

Он меня вообще сильно жалел. И ни письма, ни весточки. Сколько ни добивались, никто нигде ничего нам толком не сказал. [Г. Я. Бакланов. В месте светлом, в месте злачном, в месте покойном (1995)]

And here the telegram equals to весточка ("I recalled everything from first days of your life till the last message received from you - a telegram, received on June 30"):

всё вспоминала от первых дней твоей жизни до последней весточки от тебя, телеграммы, полученной 30 июня. [Василий Гроссман. Жизнь и судьба, ч. 1 (1960)]

This message usually is likely to have some written form, or through some third person. For example, phone call here is not a весточка "(We did not receive) anything from Misha: nor message, nor greeting, nor phone call":

От Миши не было ни одной весточки, ни привета, ни звонка. [Маша Трауб. Замочная скважина (2012)]

So, весточка, is usually a small message from a person to relatives from far away, in some written form, or sent via a third person.

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"весточки" is plural of "весточка". This is a feminine noun, diminutive of "весть", that indeed means loosely "message" or "news". "Получить весть от ..." means "to hear from ...". It is a bit archaic, and not used a lot nowadays, especially the diminutive form. You are, probably, better off sticking with some more modern equivalents: "сообщение", "новость", "известие" etc.

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  • 1
    Actually, the opposite, the deminutive form is used more and not archaic at all. – Anixx Jul 4 '16 at 14:02
  • @Annix no, it is archaic, and is used less. ;) – Dima Jul 4 '16 at 14:03
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Contrary to the answer by Dima, the word (as diminutive) is not archaic. The non-deminutive form is archaic a bit.

Весточки is plural, the sigular form весточка means a very small and rare message about something of personal importance, from a place with which the communication is difficult, like whether a relative who lives far away is still alive or healthy. The word has positive connotation, so it usually means a message about something positive.

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  • dIminutive. – Dima Jul 4 '16 at 14:15
  • @Dima thank you – Anixx Jul 4 '16 at 14:18
  • Тhe reason it is archaic is exactly that there aren't that many paces left, "with which communication is difficult". And those, that are left, just don't fit the bill very well. Imagine that your son has left for an expedition to Mars. Would you still await "весточки" from him, or would it be something more like "радиоконтакт"? – Dima Jul 4 '16 at 14:18
  • @Dima if the communications were short, rare and the voyage long in time it would be very well characterized as весточки. Messages from far away spacecraft such as Voyagers can be well called with this word. There could be a lot or other situations: a message from a person whose whereabouts were unknown, a message from the military, a message from a prison, or to prison, even figuratively "весточка из прошлого". – Anixx Jul 4 '16 at 14:23
  • they could be characterized with that word, yes ... but it would sound archaic. Figurative use is still ok ... like is the case with most archaisms. – Dima Jul 4 '16 at 14:27
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This is a nice cute way to say regardless where you live. You can describe this way any news, information from someone who is dear to your heart, something you have been waiting for pationately. Examples, что-то нет ни одной весточки от моей дочки, а ведь прошла целая неделя как она уехала. Another one. До меня долетела весточка, что с ним всё в порядке и он хорошо добрался.

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  • "pationately" is incorrect spelling. Do you mean passionately or patiently? – ycele Jul 5 '16 at 8:08
  • passionately. Thanks for letting me know! On the second thought, patiently can also work in some situations. – Roman Fomin Jul 5 '16 at 21:34
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You can hear this word sometimes in our, Russian, villages, much rare in cities. So, it is used when you wanna, for example ask about some news,messages from your relatives, friend ets...

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