Categories: "Body parts"

Пуп, пупок

by Don  

One Russian root word for navel is пуп. That's enough to make any American laugh. And most of us will be so amused that we aren't going to bother to investigate the word further. But here at Russian Word of the Day we pride ourselves on taking interest in all sorts of things that other people simply ignore, and today the belly button is it. It is an end-stressed noun, so it declines like this:


I know, I know: the dative singular made you laugh again.

Anyhoo, пуп is etymologically the source word for navel, one that you will find once in a blue moon in a formal, scientific, or medical context. Thus Russian Wikipedia gives us this info:

Пуп — рубец на передней брюшной стенке, остающийся после удаления пуповины у новорожденного ребенка. Пупком обладают все плацентарные млекопитающие, у большинства из которых он выглядит небольшой линией без волосяного покрова. The navel is a scar on the anterior abdominal wall that is left over after the umbilical cord is removed from a new-born child. All placental mammals have a belly button. On the majority of them it appears as a small hairless line.

But when talking about a person's belly button, the Russians almost never say пуп. Instead they use the end-stressed diminutive пупок.


Sometimes you see belly dancers in movies and you can see their navels, but my mother, who used to take belly dancing classes, tells me that that is a no-no:

В традиционном арабском танце танцовщицы никогда не показывают свои пупки. In traditional Arab dance the dancers never show their belly buttons.

Every five or ten years I get into a conversation about the lint that can show up in one's belly button. It seems to be a gender based issue: men have it happen more often than women. Тhe subject was even brought up recently on the web:

В конце долгого дня я снимаю рубашку и в течении миллисекунды проверяю благополучное состояние своего достоинства перед тем, как принять душ. Оказывается, что почти всегда в пупке есть пушок. At the end of a long afternoon I take off my shirt and do a millisecond body check to ensure my manhood is still intact before taking a shower, and there always seems to be lint in my belly button. (source)

One of the amazing things about Russian is that you can make a diminutive of a diminutive, so the dimiminutive of the diminutive пупок is — are you ready for the? — пупочек. This one turns out to be stem stressed:


The word is mostly used to refer to a baby's belly button. There is a bit of a gender difference in the use of this word. Adult men will rarely use it. Mothers and grandmothers will use it more often. (I actually had one Russian man tell me no one used it, but that's simply not true.) For instance, on I found this little gem:

Ещё в РД мне сказали обрабатывать пупочек только зелёнкой, на курсах нам говорили, что сначала перекисью. Back in the Maternity Center I was told to treat [the baby's] belly button just with brilliant green. In class we were told that we should start with peroxide.

And as long as we are talking about belly buttons, we should mention the English word omphaloskepsis, which is meditation using the belly button as a focus. That's got nothing to do with Russian. I just really like the word.


by Tatiana  

I’ll have to admit that I can’t take credit for today’s word of the day: my kitty helped me come up with it. She woke me up this morning by tickling my nose with her tail as she lay comfortably on my pillow. Still sleepy, I tried to move the little bugger without having to get up and inevitably being forced to start my day. After a few unsuccessful attempts to redirect that fuzzy fur piece, I gave up. (It was time to get up anyway :D).) Meanwhile, I thought that the word “tail” was worth writing about.

In Russian tail is «хвост». It is a noun of masculine gender. The plural form is «хвосты» and diminutive is «хвостик».


In Russian this word has a few meanings, just like in English. The main one is an animal's body part.

Я где-то читал, что когда кошка падает с высоты, ей хвост помогает найти равновесие, чтобы приземлиться на все четыре лапы. "I read somewhere that when a cat falls from a height; her tail helps her find balance in order to land on all four paws."

Another meaning is ‘ponytail’ (the hairstyle). For example:

Ну что ты волосы опять в хвост собрала? Распусти - они у тебя такие красивые! "Why did you make a ponytail again? Let your hair down – it is so beautiful!"
Моей дочке очень нравится, когда я ей волосы в хвостик собираю. "My daughter likes when I gather her hair in a little ponytail."

Also, it could mean a tail of something very long, such as a ship or an airplane.

— Ты видел хвост самолёта Гавайских авиалиний?
— Да, видел, на нём девушка нарисована с цветком в волосах.
“Did you see the Hawaiian Airlines aircraft tail?”
“Yes, I did, there is a girl with a flower in her hair on it.”

Just like in English, this word can mean to chase or to follow someone.

— Полиция у нас на хвосте! Что делать будем?
— Поворачивай направо на следующем перекрёстке!
“The police are on our tail! What are we going to do?”
“Turn right at the next intersection!”

Also, the word «хвост» has a very interesting meaning in student life. It describes an assignment that a student has not turned in in time, and because of which his grade is pending.

Если не хотите, чтобы вас отчислили, сдайте все хвосты до первого числа! "If you don’t want to be expelled, turn in all the late assignments before the first of the month!"

The latter sounds funny and provokes lots of jokes about students literally turning in their tails... &#59;)

Here is an episode from the Russian version of Winnie the Pooh, where the donkey loses his tail!


by Don  

The Russian word for paw is лапа. It is a perfectly regular second declension noun:


Just as in English, we can use this word when talking to a dog to make him perform tricks:

Дай лапу! Shake a paw!

Unlike English, Russian can produce a bundle of diminutive forms to say the same thing:

Дай лапку!
Дай лапочку!
Дай лапушку!
Shake a paw!

Sometimes the word is also used as a derogatory word for human hands as well. For instance, if man makes an unwanted advance, a woman might say:

Убери лапы, идиот! Я не из таких. Get your paws off me, you idiot! I'm not that kind of girl.

But the place where this word gets a lot of mileage is in the diminutive лапушка, which is roughly the equivalent of “a sweetie” or “a cutie” in American English. For instance, if your neighbor shows you a boxful of newborn kittens, you might say:

Ой, какие лапушки! Можно подержать? Oh, what little cuties! Can I hold one?

Tanya, who occasionally writes for this blog, has a little dog named Wiggles. Sometimes she will say to him:

Виглз, лапушка ты моя, иди, садись к маме. Wiggles, you little cutie pie, come over here and sit next to Mommy.

And sometimes that form is even used with people:

Ванечка, лапушка, как красиво ты сегодня выглядишь! Johnny, my little sweetie, you look so handsome today!


by Timur  

Сердце is the Russian word for that muscular, blood-pumping organ ticking in your chest known as the heart. And, of course, in various cultures around the world it’s not simply an organ, but also a poetic symbol for love and the spiritual being of a person.

Here are a couple of words and a saying that derive from сердце:

Сердечный— This adjective can be used to describe a medical heart condition or warm feelings. When referring to a heart attack, say сердечный приступ, and when mentioning a close, good-natured friend, say сердечный друг. In medicine, cердечный is usually translated as cardiac.

Сердцеед— A perfect word to describe Casanova, Don Juan and other ordinary, skirt-chasing womanizers who constantly break some poor heart. The term is a combination of the words heart and eater, literally translated as “heart-eater”. Сердцеедкa is used to describe a female with the same qualities.

Сердце не лежит— The saying explains the feelings of someone who is resistant, objecting and just not in the mood for something. For example, “y него сердце не лежит к этой профессии,” can be translated as, “His heart is not really in this profession.”


Here’s a short, vacuous dialogue about heartache between a sorrowful man and his doctor friend.

— Вадим, ты знаешь, мне нехорошо уже несколько дней. Эта боль не проходит ни на секунду. “Vadim, you know, I haven’t been feeling well for a few days now. This pain does not leave me for a second.
— А что у тебя болит? “What is troubling you?”
— Сердце, Вадим... у меня болит сердце. “The heart Vadim... my heart is in pain.”
— А от чего оно у тебя болит? Ты же еще молодой, сильный и здоровый. “And why is it in pain? You’re still young, strong and healthy.”
— Оно болит, потому что его разбила Света. Oна окончательно ушла. “It hurts because Sveta broke it. She has left for good.”
— Сожалею, Андрей, но ведь я кардиолог, а не психолог. К тому же, у меня много пациентов, которые ждут за этой дверью. А теперь, до свидания, и не вздумай опять просить меня достать антидепрессанты.” “I’m sorry, Andrei, but I’m a cardiologist and not a psychologist. Plus I have many patients who are on the other side of this door. So, goodbye now, and don't even think about asking for antidepressants again.”


by Don  

The Russian word for voice is голос. Notice that it is end-stressed in the plural and has an irregular nominative plural:


Here are a few sample sentences:

Голос — звук, издаваемый человеком при разговоре, пении, крике, смехе, плаче. (source) “Voice” is the sound made when a human being talks, sings, shouts, laughs or cries.
Дедушка иногда говорил таким звонким голосом, что стекло в наших окнах буквально трясло. Granddad sometimes spoke with such a loud voice that the glass in our windows would literally shake.
Не удалось взять мужика фигурой — берите голосом! Этого более чем достаточно, чтобы не быть отвергнутой. (adapted from this source) If you haven't managed to catch a man with your figure, then catch one with your voice! That's more than enough to keep you from being rejected.
Не верьте голосу по телефону, призы обещающему. (source) Don't trust a voice on the phone that promises you prizes.

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