When to use one or the other, and in wich context?

  • 1
    Excellent question, definitely +1.
    – David
    Mar 12, 2015 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


Let's broaden your set of dark and depressive feelings.

Грусть ≈ sadness. The shortest and the lightest. May be caused by bad weather or a sad film/song/book.

Мне грустно от этой книги.

Серое осеннее небо навеяло на него грусть.

Тоска ≈ melancholy, depression. May be caused by a separation with someone or something.

Я тоскую по любимой.

Его съедала тоска по родине.

Уныние ≈ despondency, dejection, melancholy. Can be result of грусть,тоска,печаль. Characterized by ultimate lack of motivation. May be caused or result in apathy.

Не впадай в уныние - все еще можно исправить.

Хватит унывать - начни что-нибудь менять!

Печаль ≈ grief, sorrow. Somewhere between грусть,тоска,уныние.

Печально видеть результаты ваших ссор.

Он бы опечален грустной вестью.

Скорбь ≈ sorrow, grief. In most cases is caused by a loss of a close person.

Он был удивительно светлым человеком, я скорблю вместе с вами.

  • 4
    I should add that "Уныние" is also a Russian (church) canonical term for a one of seven deadly sins en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia
    – Matt
    Mar 6, 2015 at 9:44
  • So, let's say someone loses a leg or contracts cancer or, dare I say it ... comes down with COVID-19? Which is the best word to use in a phrase such as "It's sad." And along this line of thinking, I would assume the word to use for someone with a mild case of COVID-19 would be different than for someone who is just barely hanging in there with an intubator ... right? Likewise, would different words be used for someone who lost a leg versus someone who just merely broke a leg?
    – Lisa Beck
    Sep 18, 2021 at 7:00

Although the dictionaries can write about some minor differencies, all these words are very close synonyms. Consider the following excerpts from Pushkin:

Князь печально отвечает: "Грусть-тоска меня съедает..."

Мне грустно и легко; печаль моя светла; Печаль моя полна тобою

In my opinion грусть is indefinite, печаль - some bad feeling implied by objective circumstances (from печа = care), and тоска - feeling lonely, missing for smth. Although the dictionaries seem to insist on another meanings.

  • there is no such word as печа in russian language. Probably, you meant "опекать", "печься" (о ком-то)
    – Burundanga
    Mar 18, 2015 at 10:44
  • 1
    @Burundanga Almost never used but exists. dal.sci-lib.com/word025750.html
    – Matt
    Mar 18, 2015 at 10:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.