In physics we would in English use the terms speed and velocity differently:

  • Speed is a number (magnitude).
  • Velocity is a vector (magnitude and direction).

In English this is traditional from more than a hundred years ago.

This is the case in several languages as well, such as the Nordic ones (fart and hastighed/t) as well as French (vitesse and vélocité) and Spanish (rapidez and velocidad). It turns out to not be the case in German (they have only one: Geschwindigkeit) and I heard something about Russian as well, which might only have one word for both: скорость.

Can anyone confirm this?

I am writing about the origin of these technical terms, and am doing this research to have a proper understanding on their use across languages/cultures.


4 Answers 4


The Russian word скорость is used for both speed and velocity. If you need to be more specific, use вектор скорости ('the vector of speed' or velocity) or модуль/величина вектора скорости ('the modulus/magnitude of the vector of speed').

To quote the Russian Wikipedia article https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Скорость:

Ско́ростьвекторная физическая величина, характеризующая быстроту перемещения и направление движения материальной точки относительно выбранной системы отсчёта; по определению, равна производной радиус-вектора точки по времени. Этим же словом называют и скалярную величину — либо модуль вектора скорости, либо алгебраическую скорость точки, то есть проекцию этого вектора на касательную к траектории точки.

My translation:

Speed is a vector physical quantity denoting the rate of movement of a point particle with respect to a frame of reference; by definition, it equals the derivative of the point's position vector over time. The same word is used to refer to a scalar quantity: either the modulus of the speed vector or the algebraic speed of the particle, i.e. the projection of this vector on the tangent of the particle's trajectory.

(Italics supplied)

  • 2
    "модуль вектора скорости" также называют просто "модуль скорости" Oct 4, 2019 at 10:44

On some occasions, in the engineering literature the word "speed" is translated as "темп".


В таком режиме обработки темп нагрева возрастает.


As far as I know, there are no different words for speed and velocity in Russia.

We can use the noun скорость to describe speed as a scalar quantity. Скорость машины высокая - a car is moving fast (literally: the speed of a car is high), but the direction does not matter.

In physics скорость движения (velocity of movement) is often used, where it is considered as a vector.

This at least proves that there is a word that works in both cases. I'm just a student, not (yet) at native level :)


The editor of the Russian translation of "General Physics" by Douglas Giancoli says that there are two words for "скорость" in English thus implying that in Russian there is no difference between speed and velocity.

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