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Commonly Used Russian Curse Words and Insults 

 August 5, 2020

By  Olya Amburg

The Russian language is amazingly descriptive, and alongside the many adjective and metaphorical expressions, curse words are also abundant. It is always better to live in peace; however, we do not have control over what other people say.

So, to understand how others address us and make sure we prevent any embarrassing situations, it is worth studying the insulting slang.

The variety of Russian swear words are called мат [mat], which comes from the ancient loud voice, scream. Ironically most of the curse terms in Russian have innocent and entertaining etymology. For better memorization, the article will cover some of it.

Since several Russian curse terms are gender-specific all the slang is split into four groups:

Commonly Used Russian Curse Words and Insults
  • Russian curse words addressing women
  • Russian curse words addressing men
  • Swear words with different gender forms
  • Some bonuses and basics
Argument

(source: argumenti )

Russian Curse Words Addressing Women

Стерва [sterva] / Bitch

This curse word is one of the few that almost improved its meaning throughout history. Originally sterva was a term for decaying meat or carrion. In the old times, men started calling especially cunning prostitutes stervoza, referring to the fishy or "smelly" nature of their deeds.

Despite the unappealing origin (really, who likes the smell of meat gone bad!?), the term had a somewhat positive connotation since bad behavior was also considered seductive.

To this day this curse word causes mixed feelings in a woman as it refers to her unbearable but still femme fatale nature.

Мымра [mimra] / Old stick

This swear term can be barely considered as мат but is likely to offend a lady much more than the previous one. In the Asian part of old Russia, mimra meant to be surly, to be a homebody.

It was thought women sitting at home always wore dirty old clothing, messy hair and were generally untidy. Now a female who is a loner, behaving oddly, and looking unkempt can be addressed this way.

Блядь [bl' at'] / Whore

The most unpleasant curse word of the three originates from the verb блядити meaning to lie, make a mistake, and was used to refer to people who are pathological liars. Over time, the profane name transformed into another term to address a woman of easy virtue.

Curse

(source: atkritka)

Fun Fact!

The Russians often joke that if one wants to never use profanities, they just have to stop talking completely. Somehow the root of the word [bl' at'] transferred to many verbs in the Russian language, for example, употреблять [upatriblát'] or to consume.  Whether you want it or not by saying, Can she consume dairy? or Она может употреблять молочные продукты?, you swear just a little.

Russian Curse Words Addressing Men

Подлец [padlec] / Squirt

This is an old Russian slang word formed under Polish influence. The initial meaning "a man of non-noble origin" somehow turned into "a man doing dirty business behind one's back."

Подонок [padonak] / Scum

This term originally had nothing to do with cursing. It comes from the word дно or a bottom. Any liquid remaining at the bottom of a dish with the residue was called padonki.

Paupers used to go around old pubs and drink the remaining alcohol from the bottoms of the cups. Metaphorically these people at the bottom of the society became known as podonok.

Наглец [naglec] / Rascal

There is no certain answer as to how the current meaning of the word naglec came about. The adjective наглый [nagliy] was originally used to address someone acting who acts quickly, rapidly. Today if a man behaves shamelessly and grossly.  

Ублюдок [ubl'udak] / Son of a bitch

Historically bastards, the illegitimate children of the king were called this way. Having an illegitimate child was considered shameful and disgraceful for the ruler and the kingdom. In the modern Russian language, the term is applied to people that behave this way. 

Cursing Man

(source: fatherly)

Swear Words With Different Gender Forms

Идиот/Идиотка [idiot/ka] / Idiot

You can see a word with similar pronunciation and meaning in English and other languages because idiot has an ancient Greek origin. Idiots were people highly involved in politics, only pursuing personal interests and disliked by the commoners. 

Idiots in ancient Greece were disrespected, and soon, the term got a derogatory tone to it. Today like in other languages in Russian, an idiot means someone acting stupidly and selfishly.

Дурак/Дура [dyrak/ra] / Fool

Even though this word is technically a profanity, one can find it in the majority of Russian fairy tales in the name of the most popular character - Ivan-durak. That is because originally, the term did not have any negative connotations.

This slang comes from an old Russian 15th-century tradition to give a child the second last name "durak" to protect him or her from evil spirits. Since the word was supposed to make fools out of the angry ghosts in time, the term durak turned into a name for people who are acting silly and recklessly.

Лох/Лохушка [loch/yshka] / Sucker

This modern slang is more common in a company of youngsters. It is used to address someone out of the loop, weird and unfashionable.

Мерзавец/Мерзавка [mirzaviz/ka] / Git

This term has its roots in the verb мерзнуть [merznyt'] or to be cold. Initially in the northern part of Russian and now all over people who are cold-hearted, ruthless, inhumane are referred to as merzavez or otmorozok.

Негодяй/Негодяйка [nigad'ay/ka] / Scoundrel

Coming from the verb годный or being a good fit for something, negodyai is used to address a person whose behavior is not a good fit for the situation or inappropriate.

Today the term is somewhat offensive, but in the past, only young men who were for some reason not a good fit for the army were called negodniy (не годный) or negodyai.

Cursing

(source: stanforddaily)

Some Bonus Russian Swear Words & Basics

Зараза [zaraza] / You pest

This word is not necessarily offensive, but one cannot call it a compliment either. Another meaning of the word zaraza is an infectious disease. But from the 18th century on Russian poets started calling women that are unforgettable or in a way "contagious" zaraza.

Nowadays, the meaning is less poetic and translates to a person acting annoyingly and causing trouble.

Болван [balvan] / Dummy

One calls a person bolvan if they are silly, inconsiderate, stupid. Hundred years before this term referred to wood as a material. It is also said that one who is not smart has a wooden brain. A person that behaves as if they have a wooden brain is called bolvan.

Чмо [ch'mo] / Schmuck

Another curse word denoting a person who came to the very bottom socially, almost a criminal. The term originates from the old Russian word чморить [chmorit] or to have a decline in health and energy. Thus chmo is someone who declined morally.

Сволочь [svolach'] / Jerk

Another offensive word with an innocent origin coming from a noun волочь [voloch'] or carry some trash to the garbage area. Today the name is used to address anyone behaving like trash.

Do you have any funny stories about learning swear words in a foreign language? Before you go share with us in the comments.

Olya Amburg


Olya is a globetrotter, a Russian native inspired by people, cultures, and interactions. A love for the Russian language and literature led her to become a journalist. Olya shares her knowledge and passion for language learning, traveling, and communication as a freelance writer. In her spare time, she studies psychology and neuroscience, teaches yoga, and plans international adventures with friends.

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