Ровесники, сверстники, однолетки, одногодки

by Don  

The word for “someone of the same age” in Russian is ровесник when applied to a man and ровесница when applied to a woman. We have a similar word in English, coeval, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone use it out loud. If the question «Кто из вас старше?» “Which one of you is older?” is directed to a couple of men of the same age, they may respond «Мы ровесники», and if the question is directed to a couple of women, they may respond «Мы ровесницы». If the question is directed to a groups of mixed gender, then the masculine form is used, «Мы ровесники». (By the way, that's generally true in most Indo-european languages. The masculine form of a word often has two roles: the gender-specific masculine meaning, and a generic meaning that can be used for mixed groups.) There is another pair of words, masculine сверстник and feminine сверстница, which mean the same thing and can be used the same way, however they are not quite as common as ровесник/ровесница; they are still pretty common, though.

Of course, if those were the only ways to express the idea, Russian wouldn't be very interesting. Here are some alternatives:

Мы одного возраста. Lit., “We are of one age.”
Мы однолетки. Lit., “We are coevals.”
Мы одногодки. Lit., “We are coevals.”
Нам по двадцать пять лет. Lit., “To us are twenty-five years each.”

The «Мы одного возраста» phrase is perfectly good written and spoken Russian. The phrase with masculine однолеток or feminine однолетка is conversational; I don't recommend writing it. The same holds true for the phrase with masculine одногодок or feminine одногодка.

The phrase with «по» may be the most natural sounding in response to «Сколько вам лет» “How old are you?”, but you wouldn't expect it in response to «Кто из вас старше?»


Comment from: Dmitry [Visitor]

brutal comic effect if you using ЙО instead Ё
Йожик - ёжик

11/28/09 @ 08:55
Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

Yes. Some people have crude sense of humor and use the “Yo” variant to imitate the sound of the taboo word, especially when expressing dislike.

09/22/09 @ 17:20
Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]

Maybe it is a kind of humor: using ё instead of е often produces a bit brutal comic effect.

09/18/09 @ 11:03
Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]

OMG, Don, are you checking if I am still here? How did you get that horrible Ё in свЕрстник?

masculine свЕрстник and feminine свЕрстниЦА

No Ё-s!

Don responds: Wow, now that’s embarrassing. I actually have a Russian acquaintance who says свёрстник, and I didn’t think twice about writing it that way. It just goes to prove that even native Russians will occasionally mislead us foreigners. I recall one professor of Russian who insisted that Брежнев really was pronounced Брежнёв. Fortunately, almost no one ever believed her.

09/18/09 @ 00:42

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