Here is the example where I found this word:

Адвокаты назвали стрелка из Колорадо душевнобольным

Shouldn't it say стрелок?

  • 4
    to make it clear - you asking why it is not "стрелока"?
    – shabunc
    Aug 10, 2012 at 4:59
  • "стрелок" means "of arrows".
    – Anixx
    Sep 16, 2014 at 2:02

4 Answers 4


"Стрелка́" is "стрело́к" ("shooter") in accusative.

In this sentence, "стрелка" is correct, because it is the object of "называть", which should have the accusative case:

Адвокаты назвали стрелка из Колорадо душевнобольным.
Attorneys called the shooter from Colorado a madman.

Here is how word "стрелок" changes:

Nom: стрелок
Gen: стрелка
Acc: стрелка
Dat: стрелку
Ins: стрелком
Prp: стрелке

The vowel "о" disappears in the suffix for historical reasons. This vowel stems from a reduced vowel "ъ" of the Old-Russian language. There were two reduced vowels in Old-Russian, "ъ" and "ь", and they disappeared in "weak" positions and changed into "о" and "e" in "strong" positions. One of the weak positions was the position before the stressed syllable, one of the strong positions was the position in the stressed syllable. This is exactly what we see in examples like "сынок":

Nom: сънъкъ → сыно́к ("ъ" under stress becomes "o")
Gen: сънъкa → сынка́ ("ъ" before the stressed syllable disappears)

Now, as @Quassnoi says, this suffix appeared in the sense of profession much later, when the reduced vowels has already disappeared. But by that time it already existed in a two forms: "ок" in Nom Sg and "к" in other positions.

That is why there are disappearing vowels (called "fleeting vowels", thanks to @Quassnoi for terminology) in Russian words (and not only in suffixes, but also in stems, as "сон"–"сна" ("dream")).

Of course, there is no way you may know whether some "o" in some word stems from a full Old-Russian vowel "o" of from a reduced Old-Russian vowel "ъ", that's why you have to learn two word stems for nouns where the stress can be both on the stem and not on the stem.

  • +1 for explaining why in modern russia some vowels are reduced.
    – shabunc
    Aug 10, 2012 at 7:48
  • 2
    +1. This phenomenon is called fleeting vowel (беглая гласная)
    – Quassnoi
    Aug 10, 2012 at 14:21
  • On second thought: are you sure the form стрѣлъкъ was ever actually used? I believe this is just the loss of the palatalization in стрѣлецъ (which occured much later than the fall of the reduced) and the fleeting vowel is the result of contamination (like in брелки < брелоки). The other words with this suffix (-ок < -ец), like игрок, ходок, ездок etc. do not have a fleeting vowel.
    – Quassnoi
    Aug 10, 2012 at 15:14
  • @Quassnoi There were two different suffixes: -ък and ьк > -ец. Suffix -ък can be seen in modern "палка", "сынок", etc. I am not sure about "стрелок", though, I'll try to check whether this word existed at all in Old Russian.
    – Olga
    Aug 10, 2012 at 16:44
  • Стрелец may be a borrowing from Church Slavonic.
    – Olga
    Aug 10, 2012 at 16:44

Since you've mentions suffix mutation in the title, I guess you question is about vowel missing.

The thing is in Russian the vowel suffix -ек and -ок is reduced in during declension. In words with -ик suffix the vowel remains. Compare:

  • мячик - мячика
  • кролик - кролика


  • стрелок - стрелка
  • замок - замка

But! There are indeed cases when word with -ок endings is different. Words like игрок do not lose о in the suffix, since this will cause a quite untypical combination of consonants - игрка is inappropriate from the point of view of Russian phonology.

Also, one should not confuse ок as suffix and ок as part of the root ot the word. Examples: порок, пророк.

  • 1
    курок is an obvious calque from German Hahn, "hammer of a firearm" (compare English "to cock a gun"). -ок is clearly the suffix here and has a fleeting vowel.
    – Quassnoi
    Aug 10, 2012 at 14:53
  • @Quassnoi - курок is root in modern russian. There are cases in language evolution when suffix becomes part of the root, but as far as I remember, even this is not the case. But this is definitely typo, I've no intention to provide this example in a list with пророк and порок - this is a typo. Thank you for pointing this out.
    – shabunc
    Aug 10, 2012 at 15:23

No, in this sentence стрелка is an accusative case of the word стрелок.


It would be стрелок in the following sentence:

Адвокаты назвали его так: "душевнобольной стрелок из Колорадо".

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