I was hoping somebody could help me understand the connection (or lack thereof) between the two translations I have seen of the adjective 'снисходительный' on Wiktionary, respectively 1.'indulgent' or 'lenient' and 2. 'condescending'.

I see that the related verb 'снисходить' only gives the translation 'to condescend to', rather than 'to indulge'. Can someone explain this relationship between lenience and condescension please? It is really not clear to me. Many thanks.

1 Answer 1


"Condescend" comes from an ultimately Latin word literally meaning "to let oneself down". The Russian word is its calque.

When you judge someone, you may want to "get down" off your high horse and make some allowances for human nature and the circumstances, thus being lenient or indulgent.

According to Online Etymological Dictionary, this word has been used in this sense in English as well:

mid-14c., of God, a king., etc., "make gracious allowance" for human frailty, etc.

In Russian, there are two words which are doublets (words etymologically descending from a single source): снисхождение and снисходительность. They are interchangeable to an extent, but the former is more frequently used in the sense of "indulgence", the latter in that of "condescension". The adjective снисходительный can be used in either of those meanings.

  • 1
    Спасибо большое! Very helpful answer. It makes a lot more sense to me now.
    – Will C
    Dec 26, 2022 at 11:49
  • Indulgence in the sense of humoring someone's account, explanation or view of something, which you don't necessarily agree with, but you smugly allow them to continue nonetheless, which is actually condescending. — Oh, you know for a fact that I'm going to die next week and you have proof? Go on, I'll indulge you, but only because I'm fascinated, not out of fear.
    – CocoPop
    Dec 27, 2022 at 20:27

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.