by Don  

Let's say a first year Russian student wants to know how to say “paragraph.” He looks it up in the dictionary (and then does some reverse dictionary sleuthing) and finds that the word абзац means “indentation,” that bit of space that one leaves at the beginning of a paragraph before the first letter. Thus a paragraph that begins «с абзаца» “with an indentation” (lit. “from an indentation”) will look like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

From that meaning, the word абзац extends to mean the space between two such indents, in other words, a paragraph:

Размещайте заключение или ключевые новости в первом абзаце статьи. (source) Put your conclusion or most-significant news in the first paragraph of an article.

Another phrase for indentation is красная строка. Красная in this context has nothing to with the color red, but rather with the old fashioned meanings of красный, which sometimes had the sense of beautiful, special or honorable:

Существует два способа обозначения нового абзаца — красная строка и увеличенный интервал между абзацами. (adapted from this source) There are two ways to indicate [the beginning of] a new paragraph: indentation or increased space between paragraphs.
В изданных в США романах абзац обычно начинается с красной строки. In novels published in the USA paragraphs usually begin with an indentation.


Comment from: Dmitry [Visitor]

Я думаю, что термин “Красная строка” происходит от старинного манера оформления текстов (особенно сказок) в книгах, где первая буква абзаца выделялась красным цветом, узорами и была значительно крупнее остальных.

07/30/10 @ 19:01
Comment from: Albert R. [Visitor]  

Might красная строка harken back to the practice of rubrication?

Don responds: Possibly. I haven’t researched the question, but so far I am assuming that красный in this sense meant ‘decorative,’ not ‘red.’

06/01/10 @ 21:06
Comment from: Henrik [Visitor]

The Russian word obviously comes from German “Absatz", wich means the same thing. Literally, “Absatz” can be translated as “(something that is) set apart".

05/27/10 @ 08:09

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