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Last week I visited a restaurant called Пряности и радости and a shop Индийские специи. This leads me to ask: Is there any difference between the words Пряность and специя? The Oxford Russian English Dictionary yields spice for both words.

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    There is also a third word: приправа. – thorn Jul 11 '16 at 9:46
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This site defines the difference in the following manner:

Специи and пряности - are rather homohenous, they improve or change the taste and flavor of food. Приправы - is a composition of специи and пряности.

Специи change the taste of food (like salt, sugar, etc.) while пряности usually have flavor.

More detailed description as can be seen on the site:

специи и пряности - относительно однородные компоненты, улучшающие или изменяющие вкус пищи, а приправы являются своеобразной композицией специй и пряностей. Обычно к классическим специям относят сахар, соль, подкислители и прочие элементы, способные радикально изменить вкус блюда (сделать его соленым, сладким, кислым, горьким и т. д.).

Пряностями называют отдельные части растений, обладающих специфическими вкусо-ароматическими свойствами (перец, тмин, гвоздика и т. п.). Приправами считают более сложные композиции из специй, пряностей и пищевых продуктов.

К приправам можно смело отнести различные соусы, сухие смеси и т. п. Специи, и пряности - продукты, в большинстве своем не имеющие питательной ценности, а приправы могут не только улучшать вкус, но и повышать сытность блюда.

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    I'd only add that closest translation of приправа would be seasoning – Alissa Jul 11 '16 at 15:57
  • @Alissa, I'd rather say condiment. – ach Jul 12 '16 at 6:33
  • seasoning is used for dry, powdery substances, e.g "хмели-сунели", "приправа для плова". condiment is used for paste-like or finely chopped mixes, e.g. pickles, mustard, horse radish, chili-pepper paste. In Russian both categories are called "приправа." – Vitaly Jul 15 '16 at 13:36
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Those who cook clearly distinguish between специи and пряности. Специи are substances which change the taste or consistency of a dish, but they rarely have any flavor or "aroma"

(salt, sugar, vinegar, yeast, etc.)

Пряности are usually plants or parts of the plants which add some flavour (aroma) and taste. Those are

parsley, dill, onions, garlic, cloves, etc.

Dictionaries present them as synonyms, though.

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There was a difference indeed (пряности used to mean "spices" whereas специи meant salt, sugar, etc). Today these words are interchangeable.

Upd: I found some sources (f.e. here) which define "пряности" as vegetative seasoning (pepper, dill, garlic, nuts, saffron etc), and "специи" as seasonings which can be produced synthetically - salt, sugar, vinegar, acids, erc. But I never heard that anyone makes any difference between these two words in everyday life.

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From my experience, "пряности" is a subset of "специи". It includes mostly spices used in baking, sweet dishes and drinks. For example, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, cardamom, cloves, but not garlic, pepper, oregano, etc. There is no strict distinction, however. The same spice can be "пряность" when the speaker uses it to cook bread, cookies or coffee, and "специя" when used in soup, second course or salad. Shop "Индийские специи" is expected to have all "специи", including "пряности". But I've never heard these words referred to salt, sugar or, furthermore, yeast... Even if it is correct, that would sound awkward and funny to me.

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