Пожалуй, стоило бы намылить ему шею за то, что из-за него я так долго был лишен вашего общества.

I wonder if this expression means "give him a (verbal) dressing-down"? Does "намылить" have anything to do with "soap"? In French, there is a similar colloquial expression "passer un savon{soap} à someone" to mean exactly that.

I don't know in which register it is used, but are there synonymous expressions for "намылить ему шею"?

  • 4
    It does mean that - to give a dressing down, and not necessarily verbally. It can be interpreted as a threat to kick someone's ass, although the expression is pretty lighthearted. It sounds a bit childish, really. Not sure where it came from, but probably from the soap and the rope for the hanging. Although I think it's actually the rope that's been soaped normally rather than the neck.
    – AR.
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 6:36
  • I read that намылить голову and головомойка are both independently derived from German den Kopf waschen - взбучка. Probably the expression намылить голову was later transformed to намылить шею. It might be contaminated with взмыленная шея which means sweaty neck of a horse after fast run (взмыленная лошадь is also used, and sometimes a human is metaphorically called взмыленный if he is forced to work hard, and his work is not sedentary).
    – user31264
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 9:14
  • It means clobber. He "wants" to beat him. But this is more a mocking expression than a serious one.
    – Mogekoff
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 18:42
  • For synonymous expressions please see (in Russian) - kartaslov.ru/…
    – HEKTO
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 20:16
  • I don't think i ever heard "намылить голову" but i guess i heard "намылить холку". May it imply forced shaving?
    – Arioch
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 20:56

4 Answers 4


In this example «намылить ему шею» – is an idiom. It's a kind of «give a good lesson» or «reprimand».


As written in the Словарь церковнославянского и русского языка (1847)

Намылить шею, значит поколотить по шее.

From this it follows that the meaning of expression Намылить шею (to apply soap on a neck) was initially “beat on the neck someone”, and then transformed into a simple “beat up someone”.

P.S. It's very interesting that from the same dictionary we've got.

Намылить кому либо голову, значит сделать выговоръ. “За чужую вину мне намылили голову.”

Намылить голову (literally to apply soap on a head) also has a negative color, but in this case had different meaning similar to english idiom “rake over the coals“


it's also phraseology meaning "to do somethink rude with him". To scold or punish.

One theory says that this phrase comes from epoch when criminals were executed by hanging. Rope for them was soaped for better slipping.

  • welcome to Russian SE! Please keep in mind that each new answer provided should contain something new compared to the answers already given.
    – shabunc
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 11:21

Some say "намылить" is to "put some frothy soap on", "to lather" and actually this phrase has pretty grim etymology - for execution via hanging the know was usually lubricated by soap (or wax) to ensure it smoothness. Sometimes neck of one who's executed was lathered as well.

So "намылить шею" (according to this version) initially had more dark connotations that not just non-existent - it's quite soft actually.

This is at least the most popular version.

However personally me never found this version convincing enough - it's just that there's not enough evidence that support this version.

Actually намылить meant to stand for: "намыливая в воде, растирать, натирать":

enter image description here

If you've ever seen how laundry looks like before the invention of washing machines you've most likely seen something like this:

enter image description here

This device is called washboard (or стиральная доска in Russian) and Wikipedia got it right:

Clothes are soaked in hot soapy water in a washtub or sink, then squeezed and rubbed against the ridged surface of the washboard to force the cleansing fluid through the cloth to carry away dirt.

So, it's rubbing forcibly against some ridged hard surface. One can imagine that it's quite uncomfortable if we'll make the same with the neck. So may be etymology is not that grim after all.

  • Намылить means to put soap not, not to rub it against a washboard Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 16:22
  • @MichaelFreimann than you've missed the screenshot with an excerpt from a dictionary - it actually also had a meaning "to rub with soap".
    – shabunc
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 16:27
  • Yes, to rub with soap, not against a washboard Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 16:28
  • 1
    Yes, she put soap on it. I am sorry, are you russian? Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 17:07
  • 2
    So what I am trying to say, is that намылить just means put soap on, not necessarily rubbing anything. Basically, because there are no other words that mean “put soap on”. Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 17:29

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