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

  • Excellent question, definitely +1. – David Mar 12 '15 at 23:22

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.

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  • 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 '15 at 9:44

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.

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  • there is no such word as печа in russian language. Probably, you meant "опекать", "печься" (о ком-то) – Burundanga Mar 18 '15 at 10:44
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    @Burundanga Almost never used but exists. dal.sci-lib.com/word025750.html – Matt Mar 18 '15 at 10:55

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