Every non-native language induces different emotions in foreigners. When it comes to Russian, opinions differ a lot: from a "baby language" for Bulgarians, to "a barking fest" for Italians. Some Russian learners even find it similar to Japanese. But no matter what the overall impression is, every tongue has its beautiful words, and Russian is no exception.
Now language is more than many sounds beautifully or not so beautifully blended. Thus making this list, which is no way complete, we considered not only the pronunciation harmony of the words but also their origin, interpretation, and cultural background.
Before you carry on, take a look at the 10 beautiful Russian words, try to pronounce and guess their meanings:
Вера, Надежда, Любовь [vEra, nadEzhda, l'ubOf']
It was imperative to start the top 10 with the combination of these three words. They sound beautiful not just because of the phonetic structure but also due to their meaning - faith, hope, love. To add to that, all three words are girl's names in the Russian language. Needless to say, any combinations of these are popular for female twins or triplets.
The names first appeared in Russia during the adoption of Christianity and are associated with a story about three daughters and their mother София [safiya]. Here you can find the complete tale. Also, a fun fact: in old Russia, the Nameday date for all three names was the same. It was considered an ancient version of modern Women's Day since all ladies were celebrated regardless of their names.
Whether wild strawberries are the yummiest berries is a matter of personal taste. However, it is hard to deny that the Russian name for this fruit - земляника [ziml'yanika] is the most beautiful berry name of the language.
Земляника literally means soil berry in Russian mimicking the German version erdbeere. That is because the original wild variety of this plant can only be found in the forest. Its bushes are tiny, and when the berry is ripe, it gets too heavy for the thin twig and lies straight on the ground. So one would pick up zemlyanika straight from the soil.
There is nothing freaky about this dish as the transcription in English might suggest. Фрикаделька is a name for small round cutlet made of meat, poultry or fish mince with an addition of onion, spices and is a size of a walnut. The Russian version is very much like the infamous IKEA dish but served in warm bullion.This word sounds so sweet because it has stayed in the language as a diminutive form of the French fricadelle. The combination of the sizzling sound [f] next to the harsh [r] and the soft high-pitch [l'] that is unique to the Russian language make this word so melodic.
Having another soup in this list is especially symbolic because the Russians are famous for having the first course during lunch. The closest translation of щи to English is cabbage soup since the dish that can be cooked with meat or vegetable bullion and has regular cabbage as a base.
The pronunciation of this name can be slightly confusing even though it is a single sound. In the Russian language, there are two hissing-like sounds ш [sh] as in she and щ [shch]. It is hard to find an example for the latter in any other language but mixed with the consonant и this unique sound gives щи a particularly pleasing resonance.
Нижний Новгород [nIzhniy nOfgarat]
In one of the many international surveys on the topic, Нижний Новгород was named the most beautiful sounding Russian city. Indeed there is something unusual about the double n, the sizzling sounds [zh] and [f] in the middle of the words and the soft [iy] and [t] and the end.
This old town was built in the year 1221 and originally called the new city or новый город [noviy gorat]. Soon after, two more Novgorods were founded. To distinguish between the three, adjectives were added. Нижний / low described the first since the city was situated in a lowland, great and Northern identified the other two.
Божья Коровка [bOzh'ya karOfka]
Russian name for a ladybug - божья коровка, can subjectively contend for the cutest title with the English version. The literal meaning of the word combo is God's little cow. Wondering what does an insect have to do with cows and Gods?
The cow part comes from an old observation that if one a ladybug the insect releases an orange secretion. For ancient people, there was a clear connection to the cow and the milk. It was also noted that the more active ladybugs were during the summer months, the more bountiful harvest was in the fall, hence, a blessing from God.
This word is one of the few in the Russian language that only exists in a diminutive form and means snowflake. The strong [zh] and the sonorous [n] only emphasize the cuteness of the term. In fact, all diminutive noun forms in Russian produce the same warm feeling. Try to pronounce: капля - капелька [kapl'a - kapel'ka], блюдо - блюдечко [bl'uda - bl'udichka], тапки - тапочки [tapki - tapachki].
The Russians love this word so much, not just because of its sweet sound. During the New Year celebrations, a lot of girls are dressed as snezhinka or a snowflake. So even more than with winter, people associate the term with cozy festivities.
In this case, it is especially important to stress the right syllable because кaпель [kApel'] is a form of the word капля [kApl'ya] or a drop. Putting stress on the second syllable turns it into a beautiful term with a different meaning капЕль. It describes the droplets of the melting snow in spring that fall on the ground from roofs or branches and produce a high-pitch sound.
The word originates from a merge of the word капля and a name of pagan deity Лель [lel'], a protector of rejuvenation, love, and marriage.
The dull, lusterless sound of this word reflects its meaning: an ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for. One may try to find alternatives for the term in other languages, but nothing truly fits. Yearning, sadness, anguish, nostalgia all miss an essential part of the word тоска.
The term is often used by poets and writers to describe the internal search of the tender Russian soul. You can find one of the best descriptions of the state of toska in Nabokov's Lolita.
Авось, not to be confused with авоська [avos'ka], a type of traditional Russian bag, is best translated to English as may be. But there is much more meaning to the word! The soft, almost nave sound of the term reflects its spirit: a person acting blindly, doing something crazy with the only faith in luck.
This concept was used for centuries to describe the dramatic and positive character of the Russians and the ability to stay optimistic in the darkest of times or even expecting a positive outcome without taking action. One can find the term in expressions like Авось пронесет! / Hopefully, nothing wrong will happen or Пойти на авось / Acting with only hope for luck.
Do you find these words beautiful? Perhaps, you have some other favorites. Share them all with us in the comments.