Questions tagged [этимология]

The history and the origin of words and phrases.

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What is the origin of "Русские"?

Just to recap. In Old Nordic something along the lines of "Rods" meant "rowers", "men who row" → then it gave name to one Swedish coastal region, "Roslagen" → ...
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How is "дача" related to "дать"?

I recently began working through "Leveraging Your Russian with Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes" by Gary Browning, David K. Hart and Raisa Solovyova. In it, they list дача as being derived ...
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The strange behavior of “обо” (=about), apparently valid only for two expressions? What is the historical reason?

In Russian, the preposition “o” when meaning "about" becomes “обо” when we say “обо мне” (=about me) and “обо всей книге” (=about all the book) but why do we then say: “о многих книгах » (=...
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On the etymology of Чубайс

I am curious about the origin of Anatoly Borisovich's family name. Is it derived from Чуб? Or, perhaps, do Чубайс and Чуб have a common origin? Is anything at all known about it?
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In the impersonal expression “Мне везёт” (=I am lucky), what was originally the implicit subject and what would be its literal translation?

I understand that in the expression “Мне везёт”, it is not the transitive verb “везти́” (to carry by transportation - unidirectional) that is used but it is the intransitive verb “везти́”, meaning to ...
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The perfective verb опереться (to lean on) has the strangest conjugation in the future and imperative, what is the etymological reason for it?

From the impf/pf pair опираться/опереться (=to lean on), опереться seems to be the only verb that exhibits the following strange conjugations, though apparently belonging to the -e- conjugation group: ...
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Why the distinction between animate/inanimate appears in masculine accusative but only in feminine plural?

What is the reason in terms of the history of the language and is there the exact same difference in other Slavic or non-Slavic languages ?
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Why do some Russian words look similar to English ones?

When studying Russian, I often encounter words that seem like they are coming from English. However, that is purely a superficial impression because the words are Latin or Greek. практиковать - ...
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Did the adjective рад used to have a longer form?

While I was searching for the longer form of an adjective рад, I found the following sentence: рад, рада, радо, рады are short form adjectives, and also the only commonly used short form adjective in ...
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origin of expression "да ладно"

since literal translation of "да ладно!" doesn't mean "are you kidding!" or "no way!" . I am interested to know the origin of such a expression. I guess it may be a ...
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да ладно meaning [duplicate]

I'm new to Russian language and I was wondering since Literal translation of да ладно doesn't mean "are you kidding" or "no way", I guess it should have some sort of irony like &...
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Анатолий - анатольев, but Анатолия - what adjective?

From the proper noun Анатолий we can form the possessive adjective анатольев (like in the expression анатольевы стихиры), but from the proper noun Анатолия (i mean the girl's name, not turkish region) ...
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2 votes
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Is it coincidence that “плуг” in Russian is so similar to “plough” in English (they mean the same thing) [closed]

The translation of “plough”, a farming tool, into Russian is «плуг», they sound very similar, why? What’s the etymology of these words?
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Why is the Russian word Лошадь (horse) so similar to the word площадь (square)? [closed]

I am just starting to learn Russian and I noticed that these 2 words are very similar. Are they actually related? Is a square a place to keep your horse? Thanks in advance.
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How to explain two almost opposite meanings of "лихой"

I am puzzled by the fact that while most earlier usage of лихой have distinctly negative connotations (лиходей, лихой человек is most certainly a villain, лихие времена - bad times, лихоимство - deeds ...
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2 votes
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Is there a link between the word "horse" and "rot"?

Today's French TV news covered the reconstruction of the Napoleonic army retreat from Russia in 1812 (it was held in Vyazma, and there was an official burial of Russian and French soldiers from that ...
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Before 1957, what word or phrase was used for satellites (natural and artificial)?

In 1957, Sputnik was launched. The word "sputnik" can be used for satellites in Russian or English. Before 1957, was "sputnik" used that way? Did Russians have a different word or ...
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2 answers
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Meaning of "каким боком"

I came across the phrase "каким боком" during my studies ("каким боком это тебя касается?"), and I can't wrap my head around what it means. Is it maybe interchangeable with "...
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Where does the colloquial word for the angle grinder ("угловая шлифовальная машина") come from?

Why is the angle grinder ("угловая шлифовальная машина") called "болгарка"?
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2 votes
3 answers
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Why is this Russian expression an idiomatic example of mutually exclusive things?

The Russian idiom "и рыбку съесть, и на хуй сесть", whose literal meaning is "to eat fish and sit down onto a dick too," is an idiomatic way to say that your interlocutor is ...
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Is there a Russian cognate of Ukrainian кравець, Polish krawiec meaning tailor?

Also, I'm curious if there is a reconstructed Slavic root or if it's a loan (nothing found in Derksen).
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Why are berries always used in singular?

I was recently translating a text from German to Russian and came across the following phrase: Salzbrezeln mit Preiselbeeren which means in English Salted pretzels with cranberries I translated it ...
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Is there a relationship between цель and "Ziel" (german)?

The other day I learned Russian word "цель". It struck me how similar it sounded to the German word "Ziel". Is there a connection or is it just a coincidence that they sound similar?
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29 votes
4 answers
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Why do Russians call some women a dynamo (динамо)?

In English, you call a person a dynamo to say that he or she is extremely energetic (e.g., she was a dynamo in London politics), but Russians mean something entirely different when they call someone a ...
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22 votes
6 answers
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Why do Russians call a joke a stake (прикол)?

In modern Russian, прикол is a very frequently used word and means a joke, a funny incident, or just anything funny, but the original meaning of this word is very different: a stake to which a ship, a ...
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Скрежет зубовный и мука мученская . Необычные формы прилагательных

Подбирала синонимы и нашла эти необычные формы прилагательных. Интересно, давно ли они появились и откуда. В каком контексте лучше употреблять?
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Why do Russians refer to flatterers as "downlickers" (подлизы)?

Usually used to refer to a flatterer, the Russian word подлиза literally means a downlicker: the prefix под- means down, below, beneath, or under, and the root -лиз- is common to Russian words about ...
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Where does the phrase "кто девушку ужинает тот ее и танцует" come from?

While listening to Pozner I've heard the phrase "кто девушку ужинает тот ее и танцует". Where does it come from?
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«Женское счастье», «мужское счастье»: как различаются эти выражения, какова их этимология?

Что конкретно имеется в виду, когда говорят о "женском счастье", откуда это выражение пошло, и почему гораздо реже встречается "мужское счастье"? (речь здесь идет не об одноименных цветах) Пример: ...
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Origin of the Russian idiom "like a grass snake on a frying pan"?

When Russians say that you are like a grass snake on a frying pan ("как уж на сковородке"), they often mean that you are grilled by tough incriminating questions and desperately trying to save your ...
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8 votes
7 answers
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What are the meaning and etymology of "выпендриваться"?

I am very much puzzled by the frequently used Russian verb выпендриваться and cannot understand it. Dictionaries and Reverso Context give a variety of translations, but I feel that none of them hits ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Что такое «купаленные донья»?

В стихотворении Пастернака «Определение поэзии» есть строфа: Всё, что ночи так важно сыскать На глубоких купаленных доньях, И звезду донести до садка На трепещущих мокрых ладонях. Я никак не могу ...
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25 votes
5 answers
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How come the Russian cognate for the Czech word "čerstvý" (fresh) means entirely the opposite thing (stale)?

In Russian, черствый хлеб (chorstvy khleb) is stale bread. And to my great surprise, I recently learned that in Czech, čerstvý chléb is precisely the opposite thing: fresh bread. My question is: ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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The origin of "отморозок"

Отморозок is a contemptible and objectionable person. It looks like the word comes from the verb отморозить, or the noun мороз. Why is отморозок originally associated with getting frostbite, ...
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4 answers
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What is the origin of the suffix -он?

I learned that the Russian language has a number of words with the suffix -он: музон, закидон, выпивон, закусон, расслабон, etc. This suffix is indeed not a part of the root, as can be seen from words ...
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5 votes
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Who is Goddess Khalyava?

I just read an article about Russian students in Russian newspaper Комсомольская правда and saw the following: Каждый студент хоть раз в своей жизни слышал это заветное слово - Халява. Что же оно ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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Why do phonetically same Russian and Polish obscenities mean very different things?

Let us compare the meanings of some phonetically same Russian and Polish obscenities: Заебать (Russian): to get to, to pester. Zajebać (Polish): to beat someone up, to steal something, to brutally ...
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8 votes
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Why do Russians refer to money as grannies (бабки)?

I read the following in a poem published in 1769: Два въ бабки мальчика играли: За бабки заорали: Къ войнѣ за бабки собрались, И подрались. These lines initially made no sense to me, but then I ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What is the etymology of the word крутить?

Is it connected to корчить and короткий? Vasmer does not answer.
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2 answers
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What is the actual origin of the aphorism about intentions and capabilities?

UPDATE: It turns out that even Russia's president Vladimir Putin himself quoted Bismarck as saying that phrase! (Source1, Source2). It thus seems unlikely to be a made-up quotation, because it is ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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What does "не" negate in "нечто" and "нехай"?

The prefix "не" is used to negate or reverse the meaning of the word: вежливый (polite) → невежливый (impolite) слабо (weakly) → неслабо (strongly) Following this logic, "нечто" ...
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8 votes
3 answers
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Why was the Russian letter X called "хѣръ"?

The official name of the letter X in the old Russian alphabet was хѣръ, which is how modern Russians call a dick. The names of most other letters of the old Russian alphabet are understandable: азъ (...
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7 votes
5 answers
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Why are "охотиться" and "рыться" with "ся"?

My understanding of the concept of возвратный глагол is simple: учить себя (to teach oneself) → учиться (to learn) готовить себя (to prepare oneself) → готовиться (to get prepared) ложить себя (to ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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What is the logic of the expression "только и всего"?

Some time ago I watched the excellent Russian movie "The Horde" with English subtitles and got intrigued by a few expressions from there, with one of them being "только и всего." The movie is on ...
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What is the original Russian word for a watermelon?

Wiktionary gives the following etymology of the word "арбуз" (watermelon): From Turkic. Compare Ottoman Turkish خربز‎ (harbüz), خربزه‎ (harbüze), Tatar карбыз (qarbız), Bashkir ҡарбуз (...
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5 votes
3 answers
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Etymology of "Володино"

Numerous villages are called "Володино", does it mean something?
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8 votes
2 answers
2k views

The origin of "за двумя зайцами погонишься"

За двумя зайцами погонишься, ни одного не поймаешь. We have the same proverb, 二兎を追う者は一兎も得ず, which is considered borrowed from somewhere, so I am curious whether we borrowed it from the Russians or ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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Etymology of "чёрта с два"

I believe I understand the meaning of the expression чёрта с два, but I don't understand its origin or grammar: Why is чёрта in the accusative/genitive case? Why is два in the nominative case after с?...
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The original word for a wild boar

I recently accidentally discovered that the Russians call wild boars by a word borrowed from Turkic languages - "кабан." The etymological dictionary by Preobrazhensky clearly states: Заимств. из ...
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-1 votes
2 answers
462 views

Why is the Russian informal phone greeting "алё" equivalent to the Turkish one?

I recently discovered that the Russian informal phone greeting, алё, precisely coincides with the Turkish one. When you hear "алё," you absolutely cannot tell whether it is a Russian or a Turk who is ...
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