The Red Square means “red” or “beautiful”?

Who Else Wants To Know About “Interesting Russian Words”?

One British guy asked me recently – is «The Red Square» means “red” or “beautiful”? This question inspired me to tell about some groups of words in Russian language which can look identical, but have different meaning.

1. The first group of words is words which are written equally, but when you put stress on different syllables the meaning of the word changes. There are a few of such words, so it’s possible to remember then simply understand where to put the stress. Here some of such words:

Замок – castle

Замок – lock

Кружки – cups

Кружки – mugs

Атлас – atlas

Атлас – satin

Мука – Flour

Мука – Torment

2. The second group of words are words which are written similar, but have different meaning in different situations. For understanding the meaning you need to look at situation and remember this exact case. Examples:

красный  красна

We say красный when we mean color. Красный флаг – a red flag, красный мяч – a red ball, красный карандаш – a red pencil.

Красна (красная) is an old expression, which means “beautiful”. Красна девушка = the beautiful girl. Красная площадь = the beautiful square (so to answer the headline of the article – «The Red Square» in the center of Moscow so is called so because it is very beautiful).


Здоровый – means healthy. It’s necessary to understand the context of a conversation. If conversation goes about health, illnesses, medicines and so forth, then здоровый means healthy

Здоровый – other meaning is huge, big, strong. We usually speak so about physically strong men. Он здоровый – means he’s big, strong. There is an interesting story about Leo Tolstoy (the famous Russian writer). He was more than 2 meters high and very strong – in general, здоровый мужчина. Once he was attacked by a bear. Tolstoy has killed the bear by a knife. Imagine, killed a bear one-by-one by a knife!!! Здоровый!

Хороший – хорош!

Хороший – means good. Хороший фильм – good movie

хорош!  – means «stop!» «enough!» – We speak so when we wish to stop any process. I beg you, remember this expression very well when are going to visit Russia, it will help to stop the person who pours vodka to you J


Крошка – means crumb. Крошка хлеба – Crumb of bread.

Крошка – means baby. We speak крошка in this meaning when we speak about the child or about the pretty girl. That was a funny story about national Russian soup – Окрошка (okroshka) when one American guy first came to Russia at summer and one of his notes at the blog was “This Russians are quite crazy. They take potatoes, eggs, sausages, onion, parsley, cucumbers, mix all this with sort of alco-free sweet beer and sour cream and eat with pleasure! The joke is how they call it: OH, BABY!” hehehh))) Kroshka – informal word you can call a girl you love

3. The third group is idioms

As well as in any language, in Russian there are common expressions – idioms, in which some words are used not literally, but in a different meaning. These expressions need to be remembered. Here are some examples:

Где раки зимуют (where crayfish live at winter)

Cancers were always considered as very strange animals in Russia. It was very difficult to find their house in the winter. We usually speak – я тебе покажу, где раки зимуют (I will show to you, where crayfish live at winter). It means, I will do with you what you even cannot imagine (I will strongly punish you somehow).

За пояс заткнуть (to put under a belt)

The belt always was a part of Russian clothes, both men’s and women’s. So people always put under a belt different things – an axe, gloves and so on (not to disturb the master). За пояс заткнуть means to make something better than another.

Кровь с молоком (blood with milk)

This expression came from a fairy tale – Ivan a young king has bathed in boiling milk after he has made all feats. After that he became even more beautiful, than was before. Кровь с молоком means beautiful, fresh.

Не в своей тарелке (Not in the plate)

This expression has gone from French «n’est pas dans son assiette», that means «to be not in mood». Assiette means “mood” and “plate” at the same time, and this expression is simply the French word incorrectly translated into Russian.

I believe learning idioms will be useful for you, because we use them very often in speech. I will add new expressions every week.

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Oleg Vinzhegin,

Your personal guide into the world of excellent Russian speaking

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