In English there’s the use of armchair as a modifier with a profession or occupation to ironically indicate that the person in question has mostly theoretical (and not necessarily expert) knowledge on a subject, lacking in practical on-the-ground experience. Examples include armchair linguist and armchair anthropologist.

What would be a good equivalent to a phrase like armchair psychologist in Russian?

Another similar expression to ironically refer to a person whose knowledge is purely theoretical is woolly academic, but I cannot find a Russian translation for that either.

  • person whose knowledge is purely theoretical - in casual speak it would be just "теоретик" pronounced with contemptuous slightly snobbish tone. Or, if you would like it really derogatory, then "теоретик кислых щей"
    – Arioch
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 10:04
  • Are you asking about person who lack of practical experience or about amateur, or even random guy who just read wiki article about topic?
    – talex
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 12:26

5 Answers 5


There is an expression "диванный эксперт" ("the sofa expert"), I think it is almost the same. It could be applied to any profession. Also, there is another one expression - "диванные войска" ("the army on the sofa"), which means a group of people who are "experts" in military questions or a group of people supporting in internet one of sides of the war (a singular will be "диванный воин").

  • 1
    Спасибо! Это как раз то, что я искал!
    – fanaugen
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:00
  • Does "диванные войска" necessarily apply to military-related topics? I htought it meant simply a mob of sofa experts (a sofa warrior being a more volatile variation of the sofa expert). Commented May 9, 2018 at 22:26
  • @Gallifreyan initially - yes. The idiom "диванные войска" mocks that crazy idea that all internet activists are actually "Kremlin trolls", directly hired or conscripted by the state as "informational war" grunts. Of course, as with any humorous expression, you might try to stretch it to other areas too.
    – Arioch
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 9:58
  • To compare, "диванные воины" idiom - "sofa warriors", plural - mocks another trait that those "armchair" people away from the battlelines are often more loud and radical than actual warriors, who risk their health and lives.
    – Arioch
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 10:01
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    "Диванный эксперт" is more related to random guy in internet than actual scientists that lack of "field" experience. I think "кабинетный историк" is better term to describe some historian who lack of field experience.
    – talex
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 12:23

Кабинетный учёный (your case), паркетный генерал, комнатный (офисный) журналист.

There's even a publishing house ironically named "Кабинетный учёный":


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    Those adjectives do not capture the meaning of "armchair" well. They stress the lack of practice, while not putting professionalism into doubt. "Armchair" implies that the person is an amateur, without a degree or military rank. Calling a real scientist or general "armchair" would be more offensive and imply that their ranks are fake.
    – Alexander
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 16:55
  • 1
    I disagree with the idea that the armchair component always 'implies that the person is an amateur, without a degree or military rank'. While that meaning is possible in proper context (especially combined with 'traveler', 'gardener' or 'expert'), definite word combinations with profession (in the context of the question) are well-applicable to people with training, position or duties. Examples below:
    – Alex_ander
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 6:41
  • 1
    Armchair science: philsci-archive.pitt.edu/10888/1/Armchair10.pdf Armchair theorizing: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armchair_theorizing Armchair general: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armchair_general ... a military commander who is not actively involved in warfare, or who directs troops from a position of comfort or safety Armchair journalism dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/…
    – Alex_ander
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 6:41
  • can not completely agree. First, "armchair theorizing" is not the same as "armchair <profession>" and it's not as offensive. Second (if you look closer into the wiki article), you are citing Alternate usage. Calling a civilian expert "armchair general" is humorous. Calling real general "armchair" is offensive and actually closer to a Russian term "штабная крыса".
    – Alexander
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 20:47
  • On those occasions when I met the phrase "кабинетный учёный" in literature, there was nothing ironic about it. Just a kind of real, competent scientist, who emphasizes theoretical work, or whose field doesn't require any outdoors activity.
    – Headcrab
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 0:44

I think "диванный" plays the same role in Russian:

Диванный аналитик
Диванный лингвист

  • Спасибо, Дмитрий!
    – fanaugen
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:00

As both Dmitrys have said, "диванный" is probably the closest match, however, there are other words in use, such as:

  • "Кухонный". Used to call a person who's expertise is only "applicable" at his own kitchen (to be clear, it doesn't involve cooking or other legitimate kitchen activities). I think, there's an actual idiom "кухонный психолог", which, in my opinion, is more to the point than "диванный" - after all, what's so wrong with getting your knowledge of psychology by reading professional literature while sitting on a sofa? There is also "кухонный эксперт" (which, again, is not an expert on kitchen equipment). "Кухонный диссидент" was a popular expression in late Soviet time, for people who would criticize the regime from safety of their kitchens.

  • "Доморощенный" (homegrown?) is similar to the above, but mostly used for occupations where formal training / official degree is deemed to be of most importance. E. g. "доморощенный специалист/эксперт/etc". For example, "кухонный политик" sounds pejorative, "доморощенный политик" - not quite so (yeah, of the people, for the people, what's wrong with that?). "Доморощенный нейрохирург", on the other hand...

  • "*-теоретик", a deliberately absurd expression for occupations where "practice is everything", like "ёбарь-теоретик".


I think that "диванный" is a neologism, probably not more than 7-8 years old, and comes from the direct (admittedly, good) translation of "armchair". It is used mainly to refer to self-styled military specialists ("диванный генерал", "диванный вояка", "диванные войска") and/or self-styled experts ("диванный эксперт", "диванный аналитик").

In contemporary Russian use, the use of "диванный" adj. actually voids the meaning of the noun to which it's applied (e.g., "диванный эксперт" = "not an expert actually") and has a ironic or sarcastic or even pejorative connotation. The older Russian analogues to that would be "кухонный <>" ("showing off with one's knowledge in the parlour, that knowledge never being good for use in the world outside") or "<> кислых щей" (just pejorative and a tiny bit vulgar), like other guys pointed out already. Or "<> доморощенный" (liter. "home-grown", "self-taught and so (supposedly) to a not very good extent").

That's what your English examples seem to denote, anyway.

Note 1: note the inverse order of noun and adjective, this strengthens the expressiveness.

Note 2: there's even more pejorative and vulgar "<> недоделанный" (liter. that adj. means "uncompleted, unfinished", but, again, in this use case it's very pejorative and vulgar).

On the other hand, to denote a lack of practical knowledge in somebody admittedly (well enough) theoretically trained, there is no direct one-word analogue. There's an ironic expression "молодой боец" ("just from the boot camp") or an ironic use of "молодой специалист" ("just finished studying, never worked seriously in this field").

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