Russian wiktionary claim that the word крест is loanword from Old High German krist. Is it traditional and valid etymology? Do Russian have any trace of proper (not borrowed) Protoslavic word with meaning of крест? The evolution of meaning cited in wiktionary is very "strange" for me also: Jesus Christ > crucifixion > cross. Russian language (Proto-Slavic) have had no word for very simple "cross"?!

EDIT: I asked the question not clear enough actually: 1) Why the evolution of semantics of Proto-Slavic(sic!) word *krьstъ start by meaning Jesus Christ, clearly Proto-Slavic (circa 7th to 8th centuries AD) was far before history of Christianity. How this meaning could be in Proto-Slavic?

3 Answers 3


Non-borrowed Slavic word is пересечение.

In PIE a crossover apparently was called pertus.

  • Side note: Пересечение, just like English intersection, has a notion of cutting. Крест, крестовина are not necessarily made by cutting out.
    – Vitaly
    Feb 14, 2015 at 14:19
  • @Anixx Thank you for not borrowed word in Russian. But the evolution of meaning of this word is still dubious for me. Do linguists any explanation on this evolution rather than the reconstructions of Vasmer?
    – lggdt287
    Feb 15, 2015 at 18:33

Native Russian words similar to cross are поперёк (adv., prep.) and поперечный (adj.). But the corresponding verb is rarely used in everyday speech: перечить - to cross/contradict someone. And the nouns поперечина and поперечник also have limited usage. Thus, in everyday speech we usually choose verbs and nouns starting with пере- or против-, if we need to say something 'cross-related'.

  • I'm not sure that Russian поперёк mean cross. I think it only mean "from side to other", antonym of lengthwise. Russian поперёк don't have notion of intersection or crossing, like two pieces crossing each other. In поперёк и поперечина are only one piece.
    – lggdt287
    Feb 15, 2015 at 18:28
  • Well, the difference is quite little. Being anti-lengthwise implies crossing something anyway. So the dictionaries usually translate поперёк as across and vice versa. While пересечение is literally the same as intersection.
    – Matt
    Feb 15, 2015 at 19:24

The same etymology of word "крест" is supported by etymological dictionary by Vasmer

Крест was borrowed from Church Slavic. Old Russian крьстъ was used in a treaty between Prince Igor and Byzantian Greece in 911 (that was before Kievan Rus adopted Christianity)

Originally *krьstъ meant Christ and it was derived Old German krist, christ

I am not aware of another word with the meaning of cross that would indicate/suggest Protoslavic origin.

  • I think he was Vasmer since he was a German working in Nazi Germany.
    – Anixx
    Feb 14, 2015 at 14:46

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