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I am unclear as to whether the word for a female teacher is учитель, учительница or училка. I believe it could be the first as, although the word is masculine, it refers to a profession and is like врач which I believe could refer to either a man or a woman. Am I correct?

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    Thank you. It seems this could be an example of how language changes in a piecemeal way over time. However, a contrasting example in English, is that a serious female thespian prefers to be called an actor rather than an actress, regarding the latter to be a dismissive description. – Bob Daley Apr 16 at 15:13
  • Bob, please avoid leaving an answer which is not an answer. – shabunc Apr 16 at 15:30
  • учительница is the word you are looking for. that is the feminine Russian word for teacher. – yes itsme Apr 18 at 5:58
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Училка is extremely disrespectful and nobody calls teachers like that apart from pupils, учительница is a widely accepted feminitive, so just go with it. There's ongoing discussion in Russian-language communities whether we should or shouldn't go with feminitives but the truth is that de-facto for some professions feminitives were already a thing, and "учительница" was one of the most known examples.

However it's very unlikely that a feminine teacher will be offended with a phrase like "вы мой лучший учитель". Учитель is acceptable, учительница is appropriate and usually nobody is offended.

Keep in mind that this is very personal. One can be offended to be called поэтесса one can insist that she is поэтесса and by no means a поэт.

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    As a teacher and Ukrainian, I'm closely following the usage of учитель and учительница in Russian media, and I should say учитель for 'female teacher' overwhelmingly prevails, especially in official media, which is rather strange for me, since учительница is quite an established Russian word. In Ukrainian feminitives exist practically for all the names of professions and there's a growing tendency to create feminitives for those professions that still don't have them. Канцлерка, президентка, and прем'єрка are common Ukrainian words now. – Yellow Sky Apr 15 at 15:25
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    @Alexander I guess it's very subjective, -ца is present in a lot of words and never any of this words sounds like something less "solid" than its masculine counterpart. – shabunc Apr 15 at 16:40
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    @Alexander - Царь - царица, красавец - красавица, певец - певица, волк - волчица, наследник - наследница, лыжник - лыжница, пленник - пленница — dozens and dozens of similar pairs exist in which the feminitives in -ица are not "felt as a something lesser". – Yellow Sky Apr 15 at 17:01
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    @Alexander the thing is that. "вещища", "рожица", "кожица", "дверца" are derived from "вещь", "рожа", "кожа" and "дверь" which all are feminine, so there's no gender opposition here. "Ящерица"/"ящер" is a nice example though. – shabunc Apr 15 at 18:11
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    @Alexander I also don't see why that would be a problem. For example in Croatian (Serbian also) we have "učitelj" (учитель) and "učiteljica" (учителица), both are in usage, children address their female teacher with "učiteljice" (звательный падеж), and male with "učitelju" (also з.п.). If you want to make diminutive of male teacher, it would be something like "učiteljić" (учителич), but you could also be playful with something like "učiteljčić" (учительчич) or "učiteljek" (учителек). Well, I guess it really is subjective. P.S. It never stops to amaze me, the power of Slavic languages. – dosvarog Apr 16 at 8:50
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Whilst the previous answer gives a general understanding, I think it's worth adding a few more points here.

All three options: "учитель", "учительница" or "училка" may actually take place and merely depend on how formal the communication is. In the formal, official speech style, the word "учитель" will be used nearly all the time as a name of the profession. Examples are the official letters, certificates, honours etc.: "Учитель Года", "Лучший учитель школы".

Mind that whereas some of the profession names might be used as feminine (mainly, those that are equally common for men and women), many of them would still stay masculine all the time including "педагог" (also meaning "teacher" but a bit broadly), "депутат" etc.

When using an informal, colloquial speech style, it's more common to use feminines when they're available, like in the case of "учитель" -> "учительница". E.g. in parent-child communications or even in school (teacher-pupil communication), it's common to use "учительница": "что тебе учительница сказала?", "Марья Ивановна -- ваша новая учительница географии".

"училка" is clearly the jargon/slang word that teenagers & students often use. Same as "препод" for "преподаватель".

Overall, it's often not obvious and seems barely possible to learn them all, unless you really have to, or are exposed to the demanding environment. However, it's quite easy to check when you need this. E.g. Rosental's could be a great reference: http://rozental.gramatik.ru/xxxvi-formy-imen-sushchestvitelnyh/ss-148-rod-nazvaniy-lic-zhenskogo-pola-po-professii-dolzhnosti-i-t-d

I'd also recommend the Yandex translator tool which is far ahead of Google or any other online Ru-En translators I know: https://translate.yandex.ru/?lang=ru-en&text=%D1%83%D1%87%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%BA%D0%B0 (not affiliated with them anyhow though).

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    Your reference is great. Now, I'm excited to check out Yandex for Ru-En stuff. Have you tried DeepL? If so, how do you think Yandex compares? – bballdave025 Apr 16 at 18:28
  • @bballdave025 thanks! I haven't tried DeepL before, but after having a brief look it also feels like a solid choice especially given the fact that they aim to perfect in various languages. However, I'd generally favour what's been "made for a purpose" and has potentially more insight about the domain, like Yandex translator. These guys invest a lot of technology & intelligence into algorithms working with the Russian language and apply all of that for their translator app as well. – Vladimir Salin Apr 17 at 13:25
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Училка (very informal) is usually used between the students, commonly when they don't like them. It is kind of disrespectful.
Учительница (both formal and informal) is what you are looking for, but let me continue!
Преподаватель (formal) or Препод (informal) can be used for both male and female.
Педагог (both formal and informal, but more formal) is the exact same as upper.

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Согласно словарю Ушакова, да и по практике применения, можно употреблять слово "преподавательница". Звучит весьма внушительно и уважительно.

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