21 unique Russian words you have to know

In Russian, “porosha” is the fresh, new snow that falls on a windless night. What could be more Russian than that? Expand your vocabulary with these 21 uniquely Russian words.

21 Unique Russian Words You Have to Know
21 Unique Russian Words You Have to Know

AVOS' (ABOCЬ)

Blindly trusting in pure luck. "Avos" means seizing an opportunity if there's even just a chance of success. Maybe this concept explains the infamously wacky antics in Russian YouTube videos…

 

ВАВА (БАБА)

"Baba" went from meaning "a female witch doctor" to "a common, uneducated woman. "Possibly comes from everyone's favorite Russian word, "babushka." It sounds offensive nowadays, so be careful.

 

BELORUCHKA (БЕЛОРУЧКА)

Literally "a person with white hands" and roughly means "someone who doesn't want to get their hands dirty." Beloruchki are seen as lazy.

 

BYTIYE (БЫТИЕ)

This means "to be"… not in the physical sense but in a metaphysical, hyperconscious sense. Good word for befriending Russian philosophers.

 

 

BRODYAGA (БРОДЯГА)

This word is often translated as "hobo," but it's more like a voluntary hobo. It's someone who likes living in various places. "Nomadic" might be more fitting.

 

DACHA (ДАЧА)

A summer house, but a distinctly Russian one. Pack all of Russian culture into a charming Soviet-era cottage, and you've got a dacha.

 

GLAZOMER (ГЛАЗОМЕР)

Made up of "eye" and "measurement," this word describes someone who can measure weights and distances by appearance alone.

 

КАPEL' (КАПЕЛЬ)

This word describes the day when the icicles start to melt. It may be far too late in the year for many people's tastes, but kapel' is always a happy time.

 

KHALYAVA (ХАЛЯВА)

Receiving something for free and taking advantage of that fact. People who do this are called khalyavshchiki, or freeloaders.

 

ODNOLIUB (ОДНОЛЮБ)

Essentially the opposite of a womanizer, an odnoliub is a man with only one woman in his life. It's the type of man any Russian woman would want.

 

MUZHIK (МУЖИК)

At first, a muzhik was a married peasant man, but the word became a title of pride after the Russian Revolution, as muzhiki were the opposite of the bourgeois. Nowadays, muzhiki may be machos or uneducated boors.

 

PEREPODVYPODVERT (ПЕРЕПОДВЫПОДВЕРТ)

This word refers to something done in a complicated, incomprehensible way. Never before has a word been more characteristic of itself.

 

РОСНЕМUСНКА (ПОЧЕМУЧКА)

The Russians have a cute, endearing word for a or a curious child who incessantly asks questions about the world. But pochemu (why)?

 

POPUTCHIK (ПОПУТЧИК)

Ever traveled and just totally hit it off with a stranger on the train? Well, the Russians have a word for that. Now, if you find a Russian poputchik, you'll be able to impress them.

 

POROSHA (ПОРОША)

A perfectly Russian word, "porosha" describes the pristine, untouched white snow that falls on a windless night or evening.

 

SAMORODOK (CAМОРОДОК)

This literally refers to a nugget of precious metal, but it's also a compliment. Samorodki are innately intelligent people with no formal education.

 

SMEKALKA (CМЕКАЛКА)

"Smekalka" refers to a certain type of creativity to solve problems quickly and efficiently. It's a cherished Russian trait, displayed by many Russian fairytale heroes.

 

STROYNIY (СТРОЙНЫЙ)

This word is too versatile to have a single translation. It can mean many things, but in general, it conveys elegance, harmony, symmetry, and balance.

 

TOSKA (TOСКА)

This poetic word describes a longing when there's nothing to long for. At its weakest, it can simply be boredom, but at its strongest, it's a form of untranslatable spiritual anguish.

 

ZAPADLO (ЗАПАДЛО)

Originally prison slang, this expression has become commonplace in everyday Russian slang. "Mne zapadlo" ("For me it's zapadlo") is a simple (albeit somewhat vulgar) way to express that something is beneath your dignity.

 

ZAVODILA (ЗАВОДИЛА)

A zavodila is a motivator, inspiring people through goodwill, confidence, and setting a good example. A zavodila can be either a good or a bad influence.