by Don  

The most common word for big or large in Russian is большой. Notice that it is an end-stressed adjective: end-stressed adjectives always end in -ой in the masculine nominative singular. It declines like this:

Masc Neut Fem Pl
Nom большой большое большая большие
Acc * большую *
Gen большого большой больших
Pre большом
Dat большому большим
Ins большим большими

Sample sentences:

Большой бриллиант был найден в 1905 году. A large diamond was found in 1905.
Я купил дочке куклу с большими глазами. I bought my daughter a doll with big eyes.

One phrase that the Russians use often is большие деньги, which word for word means “big money,” although it is often better translated as “a lot of money”:

Моя сестра зарабатывает большие деньги. My sister earns a lot of money.
Наших футболистов стимулируют большими деньгами. (source) Our soccer players are being motivated with big money.

One of the fun words that has developed in English over the last decade or two is “gynormous,” a combination of gigantic and enormous… in other words, really, really big. Russian has a similar word большущий, a combination of большой “big” and могущий “powerful,” which also means really, really big:

Всем большущий привет! (source) A gynormous “hello” to everyone!
Красивый кот по кличке Флинт жил на море на большущем корабле. (adapted from this source) A handsome cat by the name of Flint lived at sea on a gynormous ship.

One last thing: it is easy to confuse the word большой with the word больший. They mean different things. We'll address the latter word tomorrow.

1 comment

Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]

powerful is могуЧий
The only meaning of могуЩий is a present participle of мочь.

ущ is rather general colloquial suffix for adjectives which means “very much". For example: дорогущий - very expensive, злющий - very angry etc.

Don responds: It-ogo, thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. You are of course right that the -ущий suffix is sometimes used to add the idea of “very.” The question is what is the source of that meaning? The most common instance of -ущий is in present active participles. One can posit that as the source, but by itself it doesn’t explain how the “very” idea gets in there. My current interpretation is that the meaning is influenced specifically by могущий, the antiquated form of могучий powerful. Powerful means “very strong,” so by drawing a parallel with that word, we provide an explanation of the “very” idea.

Of course, the -щ- also shows up in irregular comparative forms like слаще sweeter, проще simpler, and гуще thicker, which may also have some relevance. Those forms don’t explain the presence of the -у-, so for the moment I’m sticking with могущий as a likely source. If any grad students in historical linguistics are looking for a potential short paper topic, this might be a good one. And if you write it, please send me a copy!

Prof. James Augerot of the University of Washington’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures pointed out several other words that have this “aggrandizing” suffix: грязнущий very dirty, длиннущий very long, проклятущий completely damned, здоровущий really big/powerful. The latter, by the way, does not mean “really healthy.”

08/17/09 @ 14:08

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