I have had the impression that there are fewer Latin and Greek loan words in Russian than there are in German and in English. Is my impression right, and is there documentation about this?

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    I think Russian has less Latin borrowings than English but bmaybe more Greek borrowings. Some of them became so much indistinguishable from Russian words that the majority of speakers would not even say they are borrowings. Like, say кукла, скамья, свёкла.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 7:36
  • One of the difficult things is whether you count the words borrowed through other languages, including French, German, English, Polish etc. A word may be ultimately Latin or Greek but underwent changes in meaning and form on the way to Russian.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 11:32

2 Answers 2


I think it is, although I can't prove it, or maybe I can by comparing the number of originally Latin words used in an English sentence with their number in its translation into Russian.

And it's explainable, I think, mainly by the fact that the territory of the eastern Slavic tribes was never subjected to direct Roman influence and influence of the Catholic church.


Заметный след (некоторые считают, что наибольший[5]) оставили грецизмы, пришедшие в древнерусский язык в основном через посредство старославянского в связи с процессом завершения христианизации славянских государств. Активную роль в этом процессе принимала Византия. Начинается формирование древнерусского (восточнославянского) языка. К грецизмам периода X—XVII веков относятся слова:

научные термины: математика, философия, история, грамматика;

бытовые термины: известь, сахар, скамья, тетрадь, фонарь; наименования растений и животных: буйвол, фасоль, свёкла и другие;

из области религии: анафема, ангел, епископ, демон, икона, монах, монастырь, лампада, пономарь.

Более поздние заимствования относятся главным образом к области искусства и науки: хорей, комедия, мантия, стих, логика, аналогия и другие. Многие греческие слова, получившие статус интернациональных, попали в русский язык через западноевропейские языки.


К XVII веку появились переводы с латинского языка на церковнославянский, в том числе Геннадиевская Библия. В русский язык с тех пор начинается проникновение латинских слов. Многие из этих слов продолжают существовать в нашем языке и поныне (Библия, доктор, медицина, лилия, роза и другие).


It appears that online there's no definitive stats info on the loan words by origin, or their total number for that matter, but relative numbers of Latin and Greek ones can be derived from Словарь иностранных слов (The dictionary of foreign words) where origin is indicated, although it'd be a tedious task unless processed programmatically.


I tried to run some search on the online Dictionary of foreign words

and the results are as follows

of Greek origin - about 210
of Latin origin - about 305

The data is from the dictionary released in 1933

  • Thank you! I leave the question open to see if some can find more support or even do some tedious task. :)
    – Sapiens
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 20:48
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    well, sure... there're professional philologists here whos contribution can be more substantial Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 20:54
  • This dictionary of foreign words does not include old borrowings. For instance, I checked свёкла, кукла and скамья, neither of them is present.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 7:46

I think Russian has less Latin borrowings than English (but not necessary German!) but maybe more Greek borrowings. Some of them became so much indistinguishable from Russian words that the majority of speakers would not even say they are borrowings. Like, say кукла, скамья, свёкла.

I would warn you against relying on the dictionary from the answer by Баян Купи-ка. The dictionary is called "Dictionary of foreign words", not "dictionary of borrowed words". So it does not include old borrowings integrated will into Russian language, for instance it does not include any of кукла, скамья, свёкла. On the other hand it includes many words I had never encountered.

  • I don't think a comprehensive dictionary of borrowed words has ever been published or even compiled, and there're not that many such dictionaries available online, so this is perhaps the best we currently can have. There's purportedly an authoritative Толковый словарь иноязычных слов by Krysin, but it too only covers lexis of 18th - 21th cent and therefore lacks these 3 words, and it doesn't list the words' origins, which precludes statistical analysis. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 10:21
  • Indeed if some very old borrowed words are absent from a dictionary, data derived therefrom should be taken judiciously, yet if such words are not numerous, their lack can be disregarded, as the stats are not absolute anyway, they only give a ballpark Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 10:21
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    @Баян Купи-ка such words are very numerous. Consider for instance, изба (< lat. eхtūfāre ), князь, сарай, кафтан, сапог, ботинок, доска (<discus< δίσκος), стул, ковёр, собака, богатырь, репа, комната, терем и т.д. This dictionary only covers some most recent borrowings of 1930s (most of them even did not survive in the language).
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 11:14
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    @Frode Bjørdal This depends on what you call a Latin borrowing. English for instance borrowed many words from Old French, the words ultimately of Latin origin, of course. Russian, besides Greek and Latin also extensively borrowed from German and French. I do not know whether you prefer to call borrowings from French "Latin borrowings". Or, say, Rusian word "kompjuter". It is borrowing from English, but Latin in origin.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 15:48
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    @Frode Bjørdal there are some international words that made it into many modern languages such as words for mathematics or architecture. These are well recognizable. But old borrowings could change the form and/or meaning a lot.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 16:10

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