I need to know the approximate time учёный was substantivised.

Dahl has no separate entry for the word as either noun or adjective, but he does use it as a noun when defining other terms (e.g. «учоный, этимъ предметомъ занимающійся»).

The Russian corpus gave me identical-looking timelines for all instances and adjectival instances of ученый, and only a slightly different one for substantival instances. I have no idea how reliable these are.

Trying to find a direct answer doesn't lead anywhere. I'd be grateful for any pointers.

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    this is likely a shred of the collocation ученый мужъ, perhaps some chronological hints could be obtained from comparison between the stats of decline in its frequency and those of rise in frequency of учёный by itself Dec 22, 2018 at 8:07
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    учёный, as any other adjective, has been used as a noun since time immemorial, the same way слепой or толстый are. The difference is that by now учёный has fallen out of use as a participle or adjective: you can't really say учёный математике or хорошо учёный without sounding archaic. Did you mean to ask when did that happen?
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 22, 2018 at 11:48
  • 1
    @nikolayershov: I doubt you can make it work with учёный. There's probably a chance of pinpointing the use of образование (in the sense of "education") around late XVIII, not sure how would it fit with your goal though.
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 22, 2018 at 15:25
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    my assumption was incorrect, judging by Google corpus учёный мужъ in Nominative is a collocation of extremely low frequency, the earliest source listed there in which учёный is used substantively is from 1760 in the first Russian journal of popular science "Ежемесячные сочинения и известия о ученых делах" founded in 1755, which i guess is a good starting point since this is when science began to be understood in Russia in the modern sense with application of the word наука in the corresponding meaning "из высоких наук" Dec 22, 2018 at 20:13
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    From the RNC: "Художники и ученые истощеваются от трудов, чтобы что изящное соделать, и имена свои при сочинениях своих полагают." [М. М. Щербатов. Разговор о бессмертии души (1788)] or "Будучи как француженка жива и под старость, она имела около себя круг иностранный; актеры, художники, ученые к ней съезжались, и всякий день на детской половине был для них особый стол." [И. М. Долгоруков. Повесть о рождении моем, происхождении и всей моей жизни, писанная мной самим и начатая в Москве, 1788-го года в августе месяце, на 25-ом году моей жизни / Части 1-2 (1788-1822)]
    – Alex B.
    Mar 10, 2019 at 20:01

4 Answers 4


"научный деятель" is still used to mean a science worker, or someone who is professionally employed, or widely recognized, as an active contributor to scientific research.

But to answer the question how to trace how the word became used instead of a phrase, the best tool to use is probably Google's ngrams.

Here's a graph of use of "ученый мужъ" vs "ученый деятель" vs "научный деятель".

You can graph other combinations to see which words became used instead of others.

It looks like "ученый мужъ" made a brief appearance in 1788-1793, but its use was eclipsed by the simple "ученый". While "научный деятель" came into use in 1889.

Although if you use the modern spelling, "ученый муж", you can surprisingly find earlier periods of high correlation between "ученый муж" and "ученый". This maybe due to the Google scanning modern publications of early Russian books (which use modernized spelling).


I doubt there will be any definitive answer to this. It is occasionally used as an adjective "учёный специалист", "учёный секретарь", but predominantly is used as a noun, and has been so seemingly always. You are looking hundreds of years ago, plus minus hundreds of years for the uncertainty

  • 3
    this does not answer the question - you basically say you don't know.
    – shabunc
    May 7, 2020 at 8:45

На русском языке есть два слова - омонимы, ученый(прилагательное) и ученый(существительное). Можно говорить, к примеру, "великий ученый Ломоносов сделал монжество открытий"(где ученый существительное), а можно: "Че умный такой, ученый человечек? (где ученый прилагательное). Таких слов в русском очень много. Вожатый - предводитель группы(сущ), вожатый человек(прил). Вообще я русский, мой родной язык русский, и я надеюсь помочь Вам, англичанам, в изучении этого прекрасного, красивого языка!

  • 3
    вы не ответили на вопрос - вопрос о том когда слово "учёный" стало использоваться как существительное - и не все, кто здесь задают вопросы англичане или неносители языка.
    – shabunc
    Sep 4, 2021 at 11:42
  • Автор вопроса — Николай Ершов. Вы можете щелкнуть по имени этого пользователя и почитать его ОТВЕТЫ на вопросы "всяких разных англичан" о русском языке
    – Elena
    Sep 4, 2021 at 13:05

History of this word is closly connected to history of science in Russia.

The first "true scientist" in Russia was Lomonosov (1711-1765, scientific activity strated at 1740).

The Russian Academy of Science was established by Peter I in 1724.

This are good reference dates to start with. I believe that Peter I was the man who introduced this word.

  • 4
    this does not answer the question.
    – shabunc
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:24
  • Strange. Man asked : "I need to know the approximate time учёный was substantivised?". I've gave an approximate time (with some justifications). Why it is not an answer?
    – ksbes
    Jun 28, 2019 at 8:41
  • In the question the word "time" refers to an occasion, circumstance, or event. For example, if I ask you "Do you remember that time I crashed my car into a tree?" I am not asking you to remember the date, I am asking you to recall the incident. An answer to this question should explain the circumstances under which this term was coined.
    – David42
    Apr 29, 2021 at 14:51

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