Wiktionary gives the following etymology of the word "арбуз" (watermelon):

From Turkic. Compare Ottoman Turkish خربز‎ (harbüz), خربزه‎ (harbüze), Tatar карбыз (qarbız), Bashkir ҡарбуз (qarbuz), Turkish karpuz. Ultimately from Persian خربز‎ (xarboz).

Some other Slavic nations seem to have been more resistant to the Turkic influence:

Slovak: Dyňa červená

Slovenian: Lubenica

Ukrainian: Кавун

My question is this: What is the indigenous Russian word for a watermelon, and can it be used in modern Russian?

For example, if I write a fairy tale in Russian about a watermelon, I will use the original Russian word in order to make the fairy tale sound truly Russian.

P.S. By "indigenous Russian word," I mean a word of Slavic origin that was the main Russian word for a watermelon before the word "арбуз" became such. Here, the adjective "Russian" refers to the ethnic group forming the core of the Russian nation - specifically, the people who lived in and around Moscow within a reasonable distance and shared the same language and culture.

For example, I recently asked what is the indigenous Russian word for a wild boar, and got the answer "вепрь." I am now asking for the same thing for a watermelon.

If there was no indigenous Russian word for a watermelon, then stating this makes a valid answer.

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    just a thought, if watermelon was imported, so was its name and there has been no indigenous one, fun fact in Ukrainian гарбуз is a pumpkin, so in Ukrainian the Turkic borrowing went some other direction Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 19:19
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    Please define "indigenous Russian". The split of the East Slavic family happened around XII century and all East Slavic languages use a Turkic word for "watermelon", which probably means whoever had been speaking East Slavic languages since that were not familiar with the very concept of watermelon.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 19:25
  • @Mitsuko By question [What is the indigenous Russian word for a watermelon?] you beforehand mean that existance of this word is 100% proved. If you ask [Is there indigenous Russian word for a watermelon?] most likely the answer would be: [no, there is not]. Instead of [what it is] in Russian there is pattern [Does such a word really exists? If yes, than what is it?]
    – Tchibi-kun
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 19:39
  • Info what could find. At year 1623 [арбуз] was not cultivated in Russia and was only imported and it was pain in the ass to deliver it fresh to the capital from foreign countries. Transport was slow and no cooling devices. Since 1660 they started to cultivate [арбуз] in Russia and in documents it was already called [арбуз]. This fruit was not for everyone. It was only for rich people. And it was looking not as today we see on pictures.
    – Tchibi-kun
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 20:07
  • 1
    You could invent some non-existent word such as тыквица. Of course, you will have to hint its meaning in your text.
    – alamar
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 9:24

2 Answers 2


original Russian word for watermelon is "арбуз".

There was no original Slavic word for "арбуз" exactly for the same reason there are no "original" word for "ананас", "киви", "маракуйя" and so on. According to wikipedia watermelons reach South Europe only in 16th century and started being cultivated only in 17th century.

In fact this is the case in the majority of European languages with only exception known to me is "lubenica" ("кавун" has Turkic origin, Slavic origin of "дыня" is actually disputable) which is indeed a word for watermelon in Slovenian and Croatian. It's derived from Slavic root however it's also an innovation as far as I know.

I have to add that this is a Stack if not only about modern Russian (but basically it is) but in any case not about some Russian in some alternative reality.

  • 2
    [There was no original Slavic word]. Also I want to focus your attention, that there is no special word for [watermelon] in English too. It is just [water] + [melon]. It is like in Russia there is no word for orange, we just say [апельсин] which is [апель] apple + [син] china. In Russian [апельсин] = [китайское яблоко]. [orange] = [Chinese apple].
    – Tchibi-kun
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 10:07
  • яблоко греха!!!
    – shabunc
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 10:09
  • 1
    [яблоко греха!!!] Well... Bible pictures should be redrawn then. It turned out that Adam and Eva have eaten an orange, not an apple. :-)
    – Tchibi-kun
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 12:07
  • @Tchibi-kun actually nowhere in a Bible it is told that it's an apple.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 12:43
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    @Tchibi-kun I neither see reasons to apologize nor don't think you joke is not funny ))) - I just wanted to mention the fun fact )
    – shabunc
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 18:00

There is no indigenous word, and what I could find (scroll to "Арбуз на территории России") suggests watermelons came to Russia via the same place as the word for them.

I get where you're coming from — I write a bit of "alternate-culture" fiction and always geek out on what's called what in-universe, but in this case, арбуз already sounds Russian enough and there's truly nothing to replace it with.

  • I would still suggest using кавун. While they are actually both loanwords, арбуз has the unpleasant property of starting with an a - a clear sign of its non-Russian origin.
    – Viridianus
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 18:11
  • "unpleasant property of starting with an a, non-Russian origin. " - it was topical thing 1000 years ago only :> Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 5:48

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