I'm writing a short story with a Russian character who is getting a tattoo in an English speaking country. There is a moment where the tattoo will be particularly painful, and she will make some kind of exclamation, kind of like 'Ouch' but stronger, more like 'fuck, that hurts!' The tattooist is actually also Russian, but the main character doesn't know until the tattooist says they don't usually get other Russians in their store.

I've tried to look up a suitable word/phrase for her to say that would sound natural in the situation but is not overly aggressive, but all the options I have found are either too hostile or otherwise does not suit.

The best term I have found is 'охуеть' as it seems to be used when one is (negatively) surprised about something, but I still have my doubts about a Russian speaker using this in front of a stranger (even if they think the stranger cannot understand Russian)

Any help would be appreciated :)

  • 3
    Accents never really wash off. In real life, your character would know the tattoo artist grew up speaking Russian the moment he would open his mouth to say hello, and vice versa
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 19, 2021 at 11:21
  • 2
    "Ай !" or "ой !" Sep 19, 2021 at 12:56
  • 1
    also - the word "чёрт !" - tr. "devil/dickens !", in "jezz" style Sep 19, 2021 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Quassnoi, not necessarily. Depending on the age of migration (and skills, obviously), the accent may be detectable, but hard to pinpoint. Especially on a few common phrases. After all, most Slavic accents sound similar.
    – Zeus
    Sep 20, 2021 at 1:19
  • 4
    'охуеть' is definitely NOT what one would be screaming in pain.
    – Alexander
    Sep 20, 2021 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


A strong exclamation of pain would be ай, блядь or ай, бля (the shorter form of the former). Блядь literally means "whore".

In the TV show "Altered Carbon", around the fifth minute into the first episode, a Russian-speaking character is using this exclamation in the same situation.

A milder, PG version would be ай, сука (literally, "bitch")

Note that both of them are impersonal, they are not perceived as insults, even though they might seem like this.

There are thousands of more colorful expressions, but for a short exclamation of pain from a sudden sting these two would probably work best.

As was mentioned in the comments, some people employ orthography to distinguish between the interjection and the noun, and use the spelling блять for the former.

I should note that it is not uncommon to use orthography to distinguish between two meanings of the same word: "flour" / "flower” in English, аггелъ / ангелъ in Church Slavonic, миръ / мiръ in pre-1918 Russian etc.

However, the spelling блять for the interjection is not codified by any authoritative source (not that I'm aware of), and, as far as I can judge, those using it are still minority. I, personally, don't use this spelling either.


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