The prefix "не" is used to negate or reverse the meaning of the word:

вежливый (polite) → невежливый (impolite)

слабо (weakly) → неслабо (strongly)

Following this logic, "нечто" should be interpreted as "nothing," but the actual meaning of "нечто" is "something."

The word "нехай" means "may it happen that ...," so it is unclear as to what is negated by "не" in this word.

My question is this: What does "не" negate in "нечто" and "нехай," or how can you explain the presence "не" in these words?

P.S. I found a question about "нечто," but my question is different because it is not about the meaning of the word, but about the composition of the word, specifically about the logical role of "не".

  • @БаянКупи-ка : I see in dictionaries that this word is a part of the Russian language... And even if it is originated from the Ukrainian language, I am curious about the role of не. It must be a Slavic word. – Mitsuko Jul 2 '19 at 17:55
  • 'ЧТО' can act very much like a pronoun in Russian—Чтo покупаем, а что сами делаем.—Some things we buy, and some things we make. – VCH250 Jul 3 '19 at 4:06
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    не-что —means there is no specific 'thing' (no specific 'what'), but instead there is something (unspecific) that the speaker can't or won't give details about. НЕ —there is no ЧТО— (specific) what (thing) – – VCH250 Jul 3 '19 at 4:08
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    I think нехай is not a Russian word. – Anixx Jul 3 '19 at 12:08
  • нехай is totally not a russian word – spbnative Jul 4 '19 at 11:36

нехай is not Russian, but Ukrainian, although it may be in use regionally in Southern Russia, Ставрополье and Кубань, which are historically and geographically connected with Ukraine.

In нечто не could be not a prefix of negation but one of indeterminateness like in other similar pronouns некто, некогда (in the sense of once upon a time), несколько

In one Ukrainian article etymology of нехай is traced to a protoslavic verb nechati, nechajati glossed as not to worry, not to bother, not to attend of which it is an imperative (as is obvious from its morphology), with reference to the Vasmer dictionary.

  • and what about нечего? – Mitsuko Jul 2 '19 at 17:57
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    нехай is common Slavic, it's not a Ukrainian innovation. It has died out in Moscow dialect which is the base for the literary Russian, but lives in pretty much every other regional Russian dialect out there. – Quassnoi Jul 2 '19 at 18:00
  • @Mitsuko in нечего it's a negation like in некого, незачем – Баян Купи-ка Jul 2 '19 at 18:01
  • @Quassnoi i didn't say it was an innovation, but it's not a part of formal Russian as far as i'm aware while many bona fide foreign words are – Баян Купи-ка Jul 2 '19 at 18:03
  • @БаянКупи-ка : It looks like Efremova disagrees with your point: dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/efremova/197137/… – Mitsuko Jul 2 '19 at 18:07

I agree with Баян Купи-ка's answer about "нечто," and he is also right about the Ukrainian origin of "нехай".

The word "нехай" can be found in other Slavic languages: Belarusian няхай; Polish niech, niechaj; Czech necht’, nech; Slovakian nech, etc. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *nexati, nexajati 'not to disturb, not to take care of, not to prevent' which was used for making analytical imperative mood forms of the verb, just like the English 'to let' with a very similar meaning. In Ukrainian, "нехай" is registered since the 14th century, in the 16th century it became widely used and later its shortened form "хай" appeared. Some western dialects of Ukrainian know another shortened form of "нехай", най, with the same meaning. Since "хай" is short for "нехай", the two words have the same meaning, in the modern Ukrainian they are completely interchangeable. And to tell the truth, I've never met "хай" or "нехай" in Russian language texts.


[нечто] is short version of full [некое что-то]
[нечто] is not [something]
[нечто] is [something unknown]
[нечто] is [something undefined]

In [нечто] stress must be on first part [н'ечто] = [something undefined]
In [ничто] stress must be on second part [ничт'о] = [nothing]

[хай] = [resistance]
[нехай] = [without resistance] = [let it be] = [пусть]

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    "Хай" has nothing to do with resistance. What are you talking about? – Yellow Sky Jul 2 '19 at 20:47
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    I'm talking about [поднять хай] [хаять] – Tchibi-kun Jul 2 '19 at 21:12
  • Нехай = не будем это хаять – Elena Jul 3 '19 at 5:29

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