What is the difference in usage, if any, between дыра and дырка? For comparison, my impression is that нуль and ноль are largely equivalent except that there are some standard phrases using one word but not the other, phone numbers with 0 use ноль, and technical settings with numbers use нуль.

5 Answers 5


In mathematics, neither дыра nor дырка are commonly used to denote an point/set that is excluded from another set.

However, the actual terminology is somewhat similar: If some set has the point A removed from it (usually with its neighbourhood included in the set), it is said: Точка A выколота. Similarly, a set that includes all points close to A but not A itself is called проколотая/выколотая окрестность точки A. The direct translation, Punctured neighborhood of A, is also used in english literature. I'm not aware of any english analog for the first phrase, though.

Also, generally, scientific nicknames for certain objects (adjective hole) tend to have hole translated as дыра only. The only two examples I can think of are ozone and black holes, but there's probably more. Although there are definitely some other uses where дырка is the only option.

There are also uses where only one of the words is commonly used, for example:
A hole in the ground (дыра only)
Vulgar synonym to "woman" (дырка only)

It would probably also be good to mention that there are at least three other words meaning holes of different sizes: дырень/дырища for exceptionally large holes and дырочка for small ones (smaller than дырка) or for exaggerating/pointing out the smallness.

Another fact worth mentioning is that дырка and дырочка almost always mean a "clean" hole, while дыра is often used to refer to holes with irregular/jagged edges.

All of those words, especially the three mentioned above, may also convey the feeling of the speaker in respect to the hole in question:
Using дырень/дырища usually implies awe, surprise, or disgust. Using дырка instead of дыра implies that the hole is no big deal/not worth your attention, unless you try to direct the listener/reader's attention to the hole, in which case дырка means a non-serious hole and дыра can mean both.

засунул руку в карман, а там дырка. the hole is no big deal, I'll fix it when I get home
засунул руку в карман, а там дыра. there's a big hole in my pocket, I should be careful not to put anything in until I fix it

посмотри, у тебя дырка в кармане!
посмотри, у тебя дыра в кармане!
these two sentences mostly mean the same: You have a hole in your pocket, fix it ASAP. The first of them implies a hole at least smaller than the pocket itself, though, whereas the second could refer to a hole of any size.

Finally, дырочка is probably the most emotionally-neutral of these words, meaning just a small (typically smaller than a finger, but could be anything depending on what is considered small in a particular context) hole.

  • 1
    Thanks for your reply. It led me to check some topology books online and I find дырка (not дыра) used in several books to refer to points missing from a surface, e.g., сфера с ручками и дырками or тора с двумя дырками, or группа гомологии измеряет количествo дырок в пространстве. It was precisely the last example that I was trying to translate into Russian.
    – KCd
    Jul 5, 2014 at 0:09
  • (Should have written тор, not тора, in my previous comment.) An example of this usage of дырка to describe a hole in a surface is in the caption to Figure 1 on page 3 of the book mccme.ru/free-books/mmmf-lectures/book.27.pdf.
    – KCd
    Jul 5, 2014 at 0:52
  • Hmm... I am not a matematician but now that you mention it in the context of topology — it does sound right, even though maybe there are less colloquial terms (отверстия?). "Тор с двумя дырами" sounds a little as if a torus has some cavities, holes in its surface, while "дырка" follows the analogy of "дырка от бублика" nicely :).
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 5, 2014 at 1:12
  • @Shady_arc: See the pictures at the top of the Russian Wikipedia page for род поверхности. A surface like you see there that has n holes in it is usually called, in English, a torus with n holes (or a sphere with n handles), so it seems the Russian analogue of n holes in this context is n дырок. The answer from two years ago by texnic had already suggested отверстие as a more professional option, but it seems like in math that refers more to holes made from cutting up a surface (see the Wikipedia page for бутылка Клейна), which is not quite the same thing, at least to me.
    – KCd
    Jul 5, 2014 at 3:10
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    In semiconductor physics, hole (electron vacancy) is translated as дырка, not дыра.
    – Ruslan
    Oct 3, 2017 at 10:47

Lev Landau submitted a manuscript of a book on solid-state physics to a publishing house. A corrector girl calls him a month later and says: "Prof. Landau, I am awfully sorry, but... you know... you are writing a serious book and are using such a childish language... I have replaced дырка with отверстие throughout your book."

Grammatically, дырка is a form of the word дыра, just like КатяКатька, рамарамка. In many cases, suffix -к- has a diminutive meaning, and this is just the case here. So one can say большая дыра и маленькая дырка.

In "normal" use the word дыра often implies that there is a defect (дыра в кармане, дыра в заборе), while дырка can also be considered as a colloquial synonym of the word отверстие: дырка в ремне (see Gramota for example), дырку в носу проковыряешь etc.

But дырка and дыра have a couple of uses where these are two different words:

  • 'black hole' is translated as чёрная дыра only.
  • 'hole' (in solid-state physics) is translated as дырка only
  • What do you mean by fleur?
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jul 1, 2012 at 17:10
  • @z7sgѪ: Wrong use of a word, actually, thanks. I wanted to say a shade of meaning. Corrected.
    – texnic
    Jul 1, 2012 at 18:45
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    Do you have a source on that story about Landau? I'm amused by that example because something similar inspired me to ask the question in the first place. I was really wondering if дыра and дырка are standard terms in mathematics; if a point is taken out the plane (so what is formed is a truly tiny hole), is it more common to call that дырка because it's small, whereas a hole in the plane formed by cutting out a disc (thus leaving behind a substantial hole, more than a missing point) would instead be дыра and not дырка? I hadn't been aware of the word отверстие before.
    – KCd
    Jul 2, 2012 at 5:05
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    @KCd: I tried to find this anecdote about Landau actually, but failed. I love such stories, and often read them, but of course most of them have never happened while many are repeated about different scientists. This one might be from the long version of the wonderful book Физики шутят. I don't have it any more and I don't know if it exists in the e-form.
    – texnic
    Jul 2, 2012 at 8:02
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    @KCd, I liked your math comment. So, whatever the difference between дыра and дырка, at least it's blind to homotopy :)
    – c.p.
    Nov 9, 2012 at 3:47

Дырка is deminutive of дыра. So these are not separate words. Usually дырка means small дыра.

  • 4
    Also, дыра may mean a godforsaken place (where there is no transport and hardly any civilization), дырка can't be used in this meaning. I think it may be because дырка implies the hole to be small, while дыра may be big, and the whole place may be called дыра to mean it been abandoned or undeveloped.
    – ovgolovin
    Jul 21, 2012 at 20:15
  • Once I've heard дырка to be used by a man to call his girl-friend. As for me, it's utterly rude usage, which objectifies women as it attributes them to their vagina. Дыра can't be used here to replace дырка.
    – ovgolovin
    Jul 21, 2012 at 20:18

Всё просто! Дырка это незначительная дыра, на которую можно не обращать внимание.

В носке с дыркой можно ходить (если не видно), а вот в носке с дырой ходить уже нельзя.

  • Please try to respond in English if the initial question was in English.
    – Aleks G
    Nov 8, 2012 at 15:22
  • 1
    @AleksG, the responder could have actually tried, we don't know.
    – texnic
    Nov 9, 2012 at 8:08

It worth to mention that, aside from the fact that "дырка" is definitely more colloquial, "дыра" has one very widely recognized and used meaning which "дырка" completely lacks.

"Дыра" stands for a remote and/or forsaken and/or ramshackle place. Example:

В какую же дыру мы с тобой попали or Слушай, ну какой Урюпинск, я туда не поеду, это же дыра, там нечего ловить!

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