The only sites answering this question are in Russian text, so I wanted to ask it here.

  • 5
    Those two words are synonyms meaning "Monarch", but generally not interchangeable. "Царь" means Russian (or sometimes Slavic) monarch, while "король" is used for western, post-Carolingian monarchs. Most other monarchs (who are not Emperors), particularly ancient ones (like "King David") are presented as "Цари", not "Короли".
    – Alexander
    Feb 27, 2018 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


The difference is mainly in word origin. Царь comes from Caesar and король comes from the name Карл, and its derivatives are used in Eastern Europe (however, it's цар in Bulgaria). The word king coming from German root is usually translated into Russian as король while Russian царь is used as tzar/tsar in English.

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    I'll just add that the referred name "Карл" belongs to a particular person - Charlemagne (Charles the Great), who is Karl der Große in German and Карл Великий in Russian.
    – Abakan
    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:55
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    I'd only add that biblical kings are usually "Царь" (as in Царь Соломон). But it's better to check somewhere (Wikipedia will do)
    – Alissa
    Feb 27, 2018 at 11:00
  • Well, the origin is not the main difference of these words...
    – Avi Gordon
    Mar 1, 2018 at 12:43

Historically царь has been used to refer to any Russian monarch (as a general title) since Ivan IV (first to use it) till the last tsar Nicholas II. It was borrowed from the Byzantine Empire (cf. Ceasar) and traditionally used in Russian. Король on the contrary is used to refer to Western (Catholic, Latinized, etc.) kings. In Russian language король is associated with the west (Old World kings). In Russian historical texts you can see such titles as король Швеции (king of Sweden), король Пруссии (king of Prussia) - of almost any European country. All these terms usually mean either an absolute monarch or the most important ruler. Царь is the ruler of Russia. As the term 'emperor' (император) has been used since early 18th century for a Russian monarch, царь became a more traditional title.

  • 7
    "Царь" also refers to the Bulgarian, Serbian, Ancient Persian, and Biblical monarchs.
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 27, 2018 at 11:04
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    Thanks for the comment, basically in Russian we would use it to mean any ruler of an Orthodox culture (historically considered 'ours' as opposed to 'their' Catholic rulers), and may be in Africa too (if it's not some князёк or something); all references in the Bible are to царь (including Christ by the way, if not in the Gospels then in the commentaries) - король implies a more modern ruler (compared to Ancient or biblical texts) - the logic behind this is that probably король as title is appropriate after Charlemagne (or may be some time before, but not for ancient times).
    – alexsms
    Feb 27, 2018 at 12:31

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