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I've been trying to master your verbs, especially verbs of motion and with prefixes (приставки). it's interesting to me how verbs with the same root but different приставки can have dramatically different meanings. Let's take -секать/сечь, which afaik is an old Slavic word for "to cut", but in Russian also means "to whip/flog":

пересекать/пересечь: afaik this is the same as переехать, but without an intended destination, i.e., describes an incidental event. My prof explained this to me when I described a car accident where my sedan cut across two lanes on the highway: "машина пересекла две полосы [or do you say сплошные here? i forget =x]". The meaning is barely related to the original root IMO.

отсекать/отсечь: this retains the root meaning, to me it's the exact same as отрубить, "to chop off from, sever".

засекать/засечь: also still related, "whip to death" (I find that "cut" verbs with приставка за- tend to mean "to death," i.e., зарезать). A quick search in Yandex reveals another (mostly likely new) meaning, to "locate/pinpoint".
Can anyone give an example? I'm so afraid to use unfamiliar verbs now ever since I tried to ask my friend Elina if she "ran into" this guy by saying, "ты залетела в _?"... lol. They just have so many slang meanings now!

I know that in meaning these verbs are hardly related anymore, but it helps me organize and remember them if I group by verb root. I sometimes just plug a single verb root with different приставки into Yandex just to see what comes up.
Does anyone have more verbs with this root?

  • Just look at them as equivalents of phrasal verbs in English. – brilliant Jul 19 '12 at 22:37
  • "with приставка за- tend to mean "to death," i.e., зарезать" - It's one of the meanings of that prefix. Other meaning that comes to my mind is the beginning of an action: забегать (to start running), заxодить (to start walking), заволноваться (to start worrying), etc. – brilliant Jul 19 '12 at 22:46
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    засекать/засечь is rarely to whip to death. Usually it's to clock, or to catch somebody in an act. Also to notch. – Anixx Jul 20 '12 at 8:39
  • @Anixx - it is not rare as such, it is kind of outdated ;-) "Два крестьянина - Петр Добышев и Филипп Дубасов были засечены до смерти. Тело одного из засеченных духоборов крестьяне привезли в Тамбов..." [grekulov.narod.ru/glava7_134.htm] Also compare засека (abatis) – Alexander Serebrenik Jul 20 '12 at 14:09
  • I'd say it is the action of whipping someone to death that is outdated. – Olga Jul 20 '12 at 20:50
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This verb derives from proto-Slavic сѣкѫ / сѣкти and is akin to Latin-derived English words like section, insect etc. Russian word насекомое is a calque of the Latin word.

The root has three basic meanings: to cross, to cut and to flog, and a number of metaphorical meanings.

Here are some less used forms:

  • надсечь — to make a "starter" cut. Compare надрезать, надпилить.

    • И я тут же представил себе, как я надсеку веко, разведу их в стороны и… «И что… Дальше-то что? Может, это действительно из мозга? [М. А. Булгаков. Пропавший глаз (1926)]
  • иссечь — to cross, to cut, or to flog all over. Compare изрезать, изпещрить, искромсать.

    • С иссечёнными боками, весь облитый мыльной пеной прискакал домой Малек-Адель, и Чертопханов тотчас заперся у себя в комнате. [И. C. Тургенев. Конец Чертопханова (1872)]
    • Он стар, лицо иссечено глубокими морщинами, тонкими, как нити, глаза усталые, да и сам он устал от этой карусели. [И. П. Максимов. «А утром всё загремело!..» (Из фронтового дневника) // «Бельские Просторы», 2010]
    • Дверная коробка была по бокам вся иссечена многочисленными зарубками ― дети метили рост. [Людмила Улицкая. Медея и ее дети (1996)]

    In medical context it also means "to amputate":

    • Иссек массу разрушенной мышечной ткани, удалил свободные отломки кости. [Николай Амосов. Голоса времен (1999)]
  • осечь / осечься — to cut one's (or someone else's) action or speech roughly. Compare одёрнуть, окрикнуть.

    • Докладывать будет Янко, ― осек его Дашевский. ― И черт его знает, как это все так нескладно вышло, ― повинился Андрей. [Семен Данилюк. Бизнес-класс (2003)]

    • Синичкин осек свой не начатый полет и правильно решил, что будет день, будет и пища! [Дмитрий Липскеров. Последний сон разума (1999)]

    Осечься also means to misfire (both directly and figuratively)

    • Но «тэтэшка» (means TT-30, a Soviet-developed pistol) осеклась. И опять осеклась. И опять. [Андрей Измайлов. Трюкач (2001)]
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высечь - of course, closest to original meaning: either beat up with a stick, whip, etc. or cut from stone, marble, etc. Yes, the same word is being used in two completely different meanings, imagine all the jokes.

пресекать/пресечь - put a stop to something (usually by means of applying one's authority and possibly coercion). The perfect form is more frequently used than the imperfect one.

усекать/усечь - make shorter, cut a part off, also has a slang meaning of "understand, get it" (Усёк? - Усёк. = Did you get it? - I got it.) In the latter case you can sometimes have more rare просечь - which is also "understand", but has a meaning of deeper understanding. Though this is a bit of dated slang, not used that much anymore.

рассечь - cut in two, also wound by cutting (я рассёк губу - I've cut my lip).

подсечь - take somebody down by foot sweep (подсечка) or when fishing, jerk the line when the fish takes the bait in order to hook the fish.

That's all I can remember now, will add if I have any more :)

  • усечь means to remember, просечь - to understand – Anixx Jul 20 '12 at 9:13
  • @Anixx AFAIK no, both mean to understand, just different flavors of it. The former is more like long-term understanding, the latter is more like finding out, realizing. – StasM Jul 20 '12 at 18:44
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The verb also has two meanings, which play around the idea that "to cut" is a certain mental action, like understanding, figuring out, noticing. The verbs are used in these meaning only in colloquial speech.

засечь - to notice something (usually bad), to see someone doing something forbidden

Я засёк его рядом с твоим домом.
I've seen him next to your place.

Я засёк его, когда он собирался отравить вино.
I saw him when he was going to poison the wine.

просечь - to realize or to understand something

Он быстро просёк, в чем дело.
He realized quickly, what it was about.

он не просекает юмор твоих шуток
he doesn't latch on to your jokes

усечь - to understand and to take a mental notice of something

Look the answer of StasM for the example of its most common use. It is a very rude expression. The verb is also marked as "slang" in "Большой толковый словарь" by Kuznetsov. Another example from this dictionary:

Наконец кто-то усёк, что от него требуется.
Someone has finally got what they are required to do.

The dictionary suggests that усечь is used also in the same cases as просечь (to realize, to figure out, to latch on), but I cannot really say if it is so or not.

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  • пересекать/пересечь simply means "to cross" (a road, a square, a line, etc.) or to intersect.
  • засекать/засечь is often used in засекать/засечь время, meaning "to note the time", usually the beginning of some process to see how long it takes. засекать/засечь can also mean to detect something or to pinpoint the location of something (e. g. by triangulating on a radio source, or by using a radar). Example: Мы засекли неопознанный летающий объект (We have detected a UFO).
  • пересекать: it reminds a bit of intersect (Latin intersecare). – Giorgio Aug 1 '12 at 17:25
  • @Giorgio, that's exactly what it means. – Dima Aug 1 '12 at 18:23
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  1. засекать / засечь is rarely to whip to death. Usually it's to clock, or to catch somebody in an act. Also to notch.

    засекать время - to clock the time
    Я засёк время
    Я засёк пять минут

    засечь подчиненных за игрой в карты на работе
    to catch the subordinates at playing cards at their workplace

  2. усекать / усечь - trim, truncate.
    For example, to cut the budget. To reduce the functionality.

    Бесплатная версия этой программы имеет усеченные функции.
    Руководство усекает бюджет нашего отдела.

  3. иссекать / иссечь - to cut or flog in multiple places, to cover with scars or flogs.

    У него лицо, иссеченное шрамами.

  4. обсекать - to rough-hew, to round something by cutting

  5. пересекать / пересечь means to cross, intersect in general, not just переехать.

    Эти две линии пересекаются.

    also may mean to meet in slang

    Давай пересечёмся в центре города.
    Может быть, пересечёмся на неделе.

  6. насекать / насечь - to make насечки

  7. рассекать may also mean to demonstratively move at high speed.

    Он рассекает по городу на новеньком мотоцикле

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