In Czech language, the word "вероятность" sounds like "pravděpodobnost" [правдеподобность], and means "it is truthlike" (подобно правде). This made me look to Russian word - вероятность. Does it have something to do with "вера"? For example "ятный вере" or something like this, where the first word is obviously an archaism...

  • 1
    As a side note, there is word правдоподобный in Russian, meaning exactly the same as in Czech.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 12:47
  • 1
    It neve had been ятный вере for the same reasons that there never existed phrase ятный приятию instead of приятный.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 12:49
  • @shabunc, it was just a guess, I never wrote that this expression existed.
    – petajamaja
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 12:50
  • @AleksG, no, the word "правдоподобный" is translated into Czech as "věrohodný", not "pravděpodobný".
    – petajamaja
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 12:52
  • I'm not saying it's translated as such, just that it has the same meaning.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


My two cents. It is obviously connected to вера it's just that this connection is not that straightforward as it claimed to be in other answers provided: it is neither direct derivation or a straightforward calque.

It is actually another cognate word, вероятие (вѣроятie in old orphograhy) from which the word вероятность had evolved. Вероятие can be translated as likelihood, so it is synonymous to modern Russian достоверность, возможность (besides the fact that it had been used as in sense of вера as well).

To my knowledge вероятие is not very old word, most probably it came to usage in XVIII century. For example in book "Приключения Фемистокла" by Fyodor Emin (published in 1763) we can find following quote:

Многия так от докторов как и от безумных баб облехчение получают; что дѣлается чрез сильное воображение желаемаго, и вѣроятие тому, кто нас лѣчит.

This word has not been some kind of bookish slang not quite used in colloquial speech. On the contrary it was quite colloquial and less pathetic than вера. Moreover, it even had been used in so-called феня jargon (some stick to term cant language), the slang of russian semi-crime vagabonds: дать вероятие meant to check out, to test something/someone.

The word вероятность has been in use at least from late XVIII century and it's first usages had not been related to any strict scientific terminology. Is had been used by analogy with вероятие and gradually (and relatively slowly, word вероятие had been use in XIX century as well) replaced first form.

One of the first usages can be find in Eulers Russian letters dated 90-s of XVIII century:

Вѣроятность того мнѣния, что каждая неподвижная звѣзда есть такоеж Солнце как наше.

Just to avoid possible questions: Euler lived in Russia for years, had been a fluent speaker and had no problems with writing in Russian.


Wiktionary article on вероятность cites Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary:

Происходит от прилагательного вероятный, далее от др.-русск., ст.-слав. вѣрѫ ѩти, букв. «принять веру», «уверовать»


  • вероятный - такой, в который можно поверить;
  • вероятность - мера веры во что бы то ни было

So, at least Vasmer agrees with you on connection between вероятность and вера

  • 3
    One would also notice parallel variant with the same roots but in reverse order: "имоверность". Currently it isn't present in active vocabulary, except its derivatite "неимоверный" which is the same as "невероятный" (incredible) but with flavor of "incredibly big". OTOH "імовірність" is Ukrainian literature language variant.
    – Netch
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 6:03

Вероятный (along with other compound words like милосердный, самостоятельный, необходимый etc.) most probably is a German calque (cf. German glaubhaft).

It is definitely connected to вера. Compare Ukrainian не йняти вiри - "not to trust"

  • учитывая тот факт, что математическая терминология шла к нам всё-таки через французский, всё-таки скорее всего это калька с французского.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:16
  • @shabunc: from which word?
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:16
  • 1
    @shabunc: Probabilité derives from Latin probabilis which means "provable". I don't see how вероятный may be a calque from this. Just in case: a calque is keeping an internal (grammatical or morphological) structure of a borrowed word or a phrase while translating its parts. The German word originates from Glaube ("faith") and -haft (suffix akin to haben - "have")
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:51
  • 1
    nope, it is slightly different: probabilité derives from French probable which is translated exactly like вероятный. And the word probable, in turn, evolved from Latin root.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 19:08
  • 1
    @shabunc: I don't get it: does this all make вероятный a French calque?
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 19:13

The both words derive from PIE u̯ee̯ros meaning "true".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.