Some examples:

Dutch Russian English
appelsien апельсин orange
broek брюки pants
dam дамба dam
jacht яхта yacht
kajuit каюта cabin
matroos матрос sailor
meubel мебель furniture
paprika паприка pepper
rugzak рюкзак backpack
stoel стул chair
storm шторм storm
straf штраф fine
stuurman штурман helmsman
vlaggenstok флагшток flagstaff
  • 2
    Just a note: “Paprika” is a specific thing in English (although pronounced differently. Does the Dutch “paprika” definitely translate to “pepper”? I thought the translation was “peper” to “pepper”?
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 0:14
  • 2
    @Tim in Russian pepper is перец, and I am unsure what паприка is.
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 2:02
  • 2
    Also, rucksack is a synonym for backpack in English — a bit less common than backpack today, but still well known, and I think more common in the past.
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 11:34
  • 1
    @Anixx: The “pepper”/“paprika” discussion has gotten a bit confused, since they have multiple meanings and regional variation even within English. So being a bit precise: we’re discussing three main things (a) “black pepper”, the spice/seasoning made from berries of the genus Piper; (b) “sweet peppers”, “chilli peppers”, etc, the fruits of the genus Capsicum; and (c) various spices made from dried + powdered peppers in sense (b). In English, pepper can mean all three; as a mass noun, it means (a) by default and, and as a count noun, it means (b) by default (for most speakers). [cont’d]
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 15:52
  • 1
    @PLL looks like Backpack is more common than Rucksack by about 10x in AmE, and about 2x more common in BrE (possibly regional). There’s also Knapsack, an older word (from the army) that’s similar in usage to Rucksack in AmE (and a similar amount in BrE). It’s about as common as it always has been, especially compared to the recent popularity of Rucksack / Backpack. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 18:16

4 Answers 4


The first Russian Emperor Peter I actually studied in what is modern-day Netherlands and was very inspired among other things, by the navy. Coming back to Russia he initiated the creation of the Russian naval fleet ("флот" is also a Dutch word by the way) - for the lack of local naval specialists, some foreign specialists had been hired. Also, a noticeable amount of Russian students went to study in the Netherlands.

Just as nowadays, originally-English terminology prevails in Russian IT slang, Dutch words found their way into nautical terminology. For example: боцман bootsman; буй boei; ванты vant; вахта wacht; верфь werf; вымпел wimpel; гавань haven (Dutch, not English); дрейф drijven; зюйд zuiden; камбуз kombuis; киль kiel; кильватер kielwater; кок kok; лоцман loodsman; мачта mast (Dutch, not English); норд noord; ост oost; рейд (anchorage) reede; рупор roeper; трюм truim; швартов zwaartouw; шкив schijf; шлюп(ка) sloep; штурвал stuurwiel; фарватер vaarwater; флагшток vlagstok; and various other more obscure or specialized words.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Netherlands was one of the most noticeable foreign influences in the Russian court, hence other terminology (not necessarily maritime) was adopted as well.

Also, as a side-note, some of the words you've mentioned were actually adopted from German as far as I know, but the mix-up is totally understandable ;)


The words you give fall essentially into three groups:

  1. Words that have been borrowed into both Russian and Dutch from some third source: meubel/мебель, from French, and paprika/паприка, from Serbo-Croatian (probably). Both of these are somewhat “international” words that are borrowed into many other languages too, like taxi, ananas, bank, etc.

  2. Words borrowed into Russian from another Germanic language (usually German, if recent, or Early Swedish/Old Norse, if older), hence similar to a Dutch cognate: стул (from Old Norse stol), штраф (from German Strafe), рюкзак (from German Rucksack). As @Gytis mentions, you can spot some of the German borrowings in particular by st- corresponding to шт-, following German pronunciation.

  3. Terms borrowed directly from Dutch — including in particular many naval/nautical terms as described in @shabunc’s answer, and a few more besides, e.g. брюки from broek and апельсин from appelsien.

A fourth group, which didn’t show up in your list but might have, is words that are similar because they happen to have stayed close to their proto-Indo-European ancestry, e.g. brauw/бровь/brow.

It’s worth mentioning also that your list exaggerates the difference from English a bit. In many cases, the listed English translation isn’t close to the Russian/Dutch, but there’s a synonym, near-synonym, or archaic synonym which is very close: breeches, paprika, rucksack, stool, steersman.

(Some parts of this have already been mentioned in other answers, as noted, but there wasn’t yet an answer summarising the whole situation.)

  • 2
    Great answer! I think summarizes well the whole ordeal. As for oranges, in modern German in such cases you have "pf", cf. Apfel (apple). I don't think that saying "Apfelsine" (s->z here in modern German) would present any difficulties to a Russian, so I'd go with Dutch. BTW I think it's a cool word, since it means "apple from China" de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Apfelsine
    – Gytis
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 14:09
  • @Gytis: Thanks for the catch on Apfelsine; yes, it looks like I’d misremembered about that, since checking several sources now (including Vasmer) all agree on it as coming proximately from Dutch. Will edit to remove that!
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 15:30

Actually at least some of them seem to be coming from German.

While e.g. Möbel (furniture) or Rucksack (this one pronounced almost the same in Russian except for the "soft" ryu) could be from either, anything "st" -> "sht" in Russian is probably German because in standard German "st" followed by a vowel is pronounced as "sht" and I think in Dutch "st" is pronounced like in English (the Russian "ш" is "sh"). So I'd put Strafe (fine), Flaggenstock (flagstaff) and maybe Sturm (storm) as coming from German.

  • 1
    While you are right in your assumption that some of this words are German, I'd rather advise you from assuming that modern pronunciation norms were the same 300 hundreds years ago. Also, strictly speaking Dutch and Low German dialects can be considered very close (especially, again, 300 years ago).
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 0:15
  • 1
    I certainly agree, I'd even say it could have gone either way and e.g. Bavarian was/(is?) much further from standard German than Dutch at that time and might have formed its own language with or without Austrians. Still the question remains why sometimes it's one-to-one and sometimes there's a sneaky "sh" popping up. Russian letter ш most certainly stayed the same, but when it comes to German only area around Hamburg pronounces "st" as "st" everybody else says "sht", as far as I know. Moreover, there was a shared border with Prussia
    – Gytis
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 0:30
  • 3
    Don't know if it ever was Rücksack, but at least today it is Rucksack where you carry your "Butterbrot" during a hike Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 9:18
  • 2
    @HagenvonEitzen etymologically it stems from the word which in modern German is Rücken - it never was spelled Rücksack to my knowledge as well.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 10:55
  • 1
    thanks edited! Was mispronouncing myself and Russian confirmed my bias, so learnt something useful
    – Gytis
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 14:01

This is because Dutch is close to German, while English is more distant. Russian had heavily borrowed from German historically.

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