by Don  

The Russians have a special word for boiled water which is кипяток. It is derived from the verb кипятить “to boil,” so etymologically кипяток means “boiled stuff.” Nowadays we Americans are convinced of the healthful benefits of water. We drink it from from the tap, from special spigots on refrigerators, from dopey coin-machines that charge us extra money for water delivered through the same distribution system as the water that flows into our kitchens and bathrooms, and from environmentally-assinine plastic bottles with designer names. Americans are so water-focused that we are stunned to learn that many Russians believe that drinking tap-water is unhealthy.

That's right: unhealthy. Truth to tell, city-wide distribution of clean water is a recent phenomenon in the history of man, and one that is not even consistent in the United States. Water quality in Russia still varies widely. As recently as 1997 one study reported a 95% incidence of giardiasis (nasty diarrheal disease) among travelers to St. Petersburg.¹ So when a Russian tells you that it's not a good idea to drink tap water, they are not passing on some quaint superstition, but rather a serious concern. For that reason, seasoned travelers to Russia often drink and brush their teeth in кипяток. Well... that's not quite right. Кипяток is water that is still boiling hot. Once it has cooled off, it is no longer кипяток. So experienced travelers drink and brush their teeth with water that was once кипяток. The noun has a fleeting vowel, so it declines like this:


Sample sentences:

Я попросил горничную, чтобы она приносила мне каждый день кувшин кипятка. I asked the maid to bring me a pitcher of boiling water every day.
Он случайно ошпарил руку кипятком. He accidentally scalded his hand with boiling water.
На дне Тихого океана обнаружены сверхгорячие источники с температурой воды от 250 до 400 градусов Цельсия, и в этом кипятке живут бактерии, гигантские черви, различные моллюски и даже некоторые виды крабов. (adapted from this source) On the bottom of the Pacific Ocean superhot springs have been discovered with water temperatures from 240 to 400°C. The boiling water is inhabited by bacteria, giant worms, various mollusks, and even some types of crabs.
Нарезанные фрукты сложить в миску, облить их десятью стаканами кипятка. (adapted from this source) Place the sliced fruit in a bowl and cover it with 10 cups of boiling water.

¹ Ortega YR, Adam RD. Giardia: overview and update. Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Sep;25(3):545-9.


Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Я не согласна с предыдущим комментатором. Вполне можно пить кипяток, имея ввиду только что вскипячённую воду, тем более, многим людям всё равно, что их чай или кофе очень горячий. Например: “Я всегда пью кипяток, не понимаю, почему на меня все так косятся?".

02/07/14 @ 05:19
Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]  

Well the phrase “drink and brush their teeth in кипяток” is not correct. Кипяток does not only mean boiled water, but a water that just boiled, which is extremely hot, nobody can drink that. If you can drink hot water, it’s not a кипяток anymore, it’s just горячая вода. You can use this word to point that the water can not be used for drinking or bathing:

Ты набрала ванну для купания ребенка? Ты хоть сама ее пробовала? Кипяток же!

If you want to name a cold water that has been boiled, you can use кипячёная вода but not кипяток.

As for drinking tap water I can confirm it’s true, nobody drinks tap water here, plus in the place I live we don’t even use it to make food and drinks because it doesn’t taste good.

And the last thing: you can’t облить фрукты 10 стаканами кипятка, because облить does not mean cover something with water, in this case I would rather user залить.

Don responds: Thanks for your comments! I had already corrected the кипяток error before I saw your note. As for облить, it was a native speaker of Russian who adapted the sentence to use the word облить. She cooks regularly, so I’m tempted to trust her judgment and leave the облить version in the blog, even if it’s an imprecise usage. Warmest wishes, Don.

04/22/10 @ 04:30

Form is loading...