Why does мартышка exist, but *мартыха does not?

The rest of the words seem to follow this productive pattern. Cf:

  • картошка <=> картоха;
  • плашка <=> плаха;
  • Антошка <=> Антоха;
  • Машка <=> Маха

And so on.

  • @Olga, to be a stickler about your edit: the last part should be formatted as a list, not as a block quote, because it is one, and not the other.
    – theUg
    Jan 19, 2013 at 5:58
  • I always give examples in block quotes. You can turn it into a list within the quote, if you wish, each question and answer here is more or less a common product.
    – Olga
    Jan 19, 2013 at 11:21
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    I ran "мартыха" by my 9 years old daughter, and she had no problem translating it for me. I mean, the fact that nobody used the word before you does not mean that it does not exist, only that it dis not exist until you found it ;-) Jan 20, 2013 at 13:00

6 Answers 6



  • Картофель — official, full form.
  • Картошка — informal, common speaking form.

When we are trying to say “Go to the shop and buy some potatoes”, we don’t say “Иди в магазин и купи картофель.” — it’s too official for shopping. We say “Иди в магазин и купи картошки.”.


  • Плаха is scaffold for executions: a half of wooden barrel or block. This word is very old and we don’t use it in everyday life.
  • Плашка — it’s a little plate, or nameplate, or screw-thread die (a cutting tool). We never say “Метчик и плаха — режущие инструменты” (“Taps and dies are cutting tools”) — it sounds very weird. “Метчик и плашка — режущие инструменты” is OK.

So we use the diminutive form плашка, but we almost do not use the full form плаха.


Антон, Мария — official, full form (passport, forms, at work, etc.). Антоша / Антошка, Маша / Машка — diminutive form. We use it with children and good friends in good mood. Антоха — very light, brute form, only for good friends. This form is very similar to cases of use like “How are ya, you old bastard?”. It’s very tricky to define when you may it use, and when — not. I think that for foreigners it’s better not to use that form. By the way, I can’t remember that I have had heard Маха. Maybe, it’s too brute to call a girl that.


Мартышка evolved from Март (March). We never needed light, brute form of this word for good friends. So it sounds weird.

However, in everyday life some people sometimes use мартышка for the brand name Martini, and, maybe, мартыха. But these cases are infrequent. And I don’t suggest them for foreigners to use.

  • 2
    Those forms are called “diminutive” (уменьшительное), and not “shortened” (сокращённое). After all, Антошка is not shorter than Антон. Also, a reference as to why the word мартышка was derived from the name of the month?
    – theUg
    Mar 5, 2013 at 0:44
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    @theUg: the two words are remote cognates indeed: мартышка < Мартын < (H.G.) Martin < (L.) Martinus < (L.) Mars, март << (L.) Martius < (L.) Mars. Of course, мартышка does not directly descend from Russian март.
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 5, 2013 at 9:44

The other thing is that such transforming does change the emotional additional meaning.

Машка is just a girl, Маха is "свой парень", a good friend. (same for Антоха) Пожрать картошки is to fill the emptyness in the stomach, навернуть картохи is to have some great event, some gastronomic fun. Плаха (in first association) is a place for killing a person. Плашка is anything at all (плашка памяти DDR, for example).

So, in -ха case, we show more respect than in -шка case. Showing any respect to a funny monkey is... Well, yes, everyone will understand the word Мартыха, but almost no-one really use it.


Woktionary says origin of this word is deutch "marten" or dutch "martijn" (and refers to M.Fasmer dictionary). So this probably happened about 200 (+-100) years ago (my own number). Мартын - at that time popular russian male name. So natural association occurs. And Мартын would 200 years ago be Мартышка. Just like Иван-Ивашка, Петр-Пертушка. This is quite natural for aristocrates of that time to use -шка- suffix when talking to peasants (just recalling Pushkin, Gogol, Saltykov-S.). No idea how you call this form of a name scientifically in English.

Also russian language has suffix -их- which is dedicated to female species of animals. Слон-слониха, заяц-зайчиха. Which borders мартыха which has suffix -х-. But not the same (almost) obviously.

Then suffix -х- is quite new compared to -шк-. I suspect (from my memory) that is was not widely used even 50 years ago, and probably has to do with borrowing words from Ukraine/Poland. I.e Петруха - is definetly Петр in Ukraine. So мартыха would sound as 'ukrainism(украинизм)'. Those who consider examples as картоха, братуха - are not aware those are ukrainisms, and try to follow the patterns, so naturally suffix -х- becomes kind of "Russian". But still very limited compared to -шк-.

This day native Russian speaker is not aware мартышка is a form of Мартын. So someone might use "Мартыха" occasionally. But мартышка has so many strong associations so it is hard to imagine to widely use other forms. "Мартышка и очки" by Krylov is on top. "Мартышкин труд", "кривлятся как мартышка". Those are unseparable strong forms. If you say "мартыхин труд" association will not ring.

Plus see that мартышка is just a 'meme' in real life we would very very seldom see мартышка and refer to it, and memes tend to keep it's original form. (ie "All your base are belong to us")


*мартыха exists too. If you say "мартыха" for russian native, he (she) wil understand you. But some of this forms (*ха: Антоха, Маха, картоха, мартыха) belongs to colloquial speech. So you may not find them in dictionaries. Exception:

плашка <=> плаха

In this case плаха is literary form, and плашка is diminutive form of it.

Excuse me for my poor English.

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    The word "плашка" is used mostly in its meaning of a threading die, not a diminutive of "плаха". Jan 20, 2013 at 12:56
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    minus one for these one. Мартыха is not something belonging to colloquial Russian speech. The fact that this would be understandable proves nothing. The word "слонидзе" will be also understandable, but it definitely not exist in Russian. Though in yandex there are almost as many found "слонидзе"'s as "мартыха"'s.
    – shabunc
    Jan 20, 2013 at 15:14
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    Кроме того, исторически мартышка произошла от слова "мартын", а не мартыха.
    – shabunc
    Jan 20, 2013 at 19:40
  • @shabunc If the word is being used, it exists.
    – theUg
    Jan 22, 2013 at 23:15
  • @theUg existence and non-existence is not something discrete and binary. We can think of some coefficient we can use to measure existence. In that sense almost any word you can understand as native speaker (крол, норвег, переборщ etc.) can be considered as existent to lesser or greater extent.
    – shabunc
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:52

Мартыха is not a real Russian word. It's being used as a joke. For example,

мартышка - мартыха is like as monkey - monkie

  • Please use more expanded answers and do not repeat information already present in other answers.
    – Aleks G
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:46
  • The question was "why is this way".
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 26, 2013 at 11:16

"Мартышка" reflects disparaging attitude. Marmosets are small, ugly and human-like (that is why this word often may be used in Russian to offend African American). "Мартыха" may be possible as a poetical description of some very big marmoset, deserving respect. But nobody ever seen marmosets like those.

As a reverse example you may take "Гиббон". There is no stable form "Гиббонишка", because Gibbons are big apes, they are strong, noble, and deserving respect by their own nature.

Just as an example, try to analyze also word "Америкашка"...

  • some very big marmoset, deserving respect most probably is called ape, though I'm not sure whether apes deserve or don't respect )))
    – shabunc
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:55
  • No-no, if you want to emphasize, that it is not just some ape, but big and deserving respect marmoset. Like "человечище" for humans. Jan 24, 2013 at 13:57
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    what about "мартышище"? )))
    – shabunc
    Jan 24, 2013 at 14:10
  • Phonetically hard to spell. Also "мартыха" have associations with "братуха". Jan 24, 2013 at 15:15

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