basic russian words

185 Basic Russian Vocabulary Words and Phrases

Word frequency lists can be a great resource for Russian language learners.

But there’s a caveat: most word frequency lists are taken from written texts, not spoken language.

As a result, commonly-spoken Russian words like привет (hi) and здравствуйте (hello) might not even make it onto some Russian word lists.

This practical, user-friendly, conversation-focused list of basic Russian words promises to fix that!

Plus, we share links to several word lists in case you want to go even deeper into certain topics.

Contents

Greetings and Departures

Naturally, one of the first things any language learner should grasp is the ability to greet other individuals, so here are some of the most common Russian greetings:

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
Привет PrivetHiInformal
Здравствуйте ZdravstvujteHelloFormal
Добро пожаловать Dobro pozhalovat'WelcomeFormal or informal
Доброе утро Dobroe utroGood morningUsed between dawn and noon
Добрый день Dobryj den'Good afternoonUsed from late morning to sunset
Добрый вечер Dobryj vecherGood eveningUsed in evening hours before dinner
Спокойной ночи Spokojnoj nochiGood nightOnly use when you or someone else is going to bed
Пока PokaByeInformal
До свидания Do svidanijaGood-byeMost common way to say good-bye
До скорого Do skorogoSee you soonInformal, use with people you know you'll see again very soon

Introductions

You’ll want to be prepared to introduce yourself and cover some of the basics:

RussianRomanization and PronunciationEnglishNotes
Как Вас зовут? Kak Vas zovut?What's your name?Formal
Как тебя зовут? Kak tebja zovut?What's your name?Informal, used if asking a child or classmate
Меня зовут... Menja zovut...My name is...Formal
Я... Ja...I am...Informal
Очень приятно Ochen' prijatnoNice to meet youFormal or informal
Приятно с Вами познакомиться Prijatno s Vami poznakomit'sjaNice to meet youMore formal than Очень приятно
Как дела? Kak dela?How are things?Russians don't really ask strangers how they are, so you'll only use this with friends and acquaintances.
Как ты? Kak ty?How are you?More casual than Как дела?
Вы давно в России? Vy davno v Rossii?Have you been in Russia long?
Вам нравится Россия? Vam nravitsja Rossija?Do you like Russia?

Personal Details

Continuing the conversation from above, it’s helpful to be able to explain where you’re from and what you do for a living as these are the two most common questions asked of foreigners.

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
Откуда Вы? Otkuda Vy?Where are you from?Formal
Я из... Ja izI'm from...Formal and informal
Из какого Вы штата? Iz kakogo Vy shtata?Which state are you from?If you're from the U.S, a well-traveled Russian may want to know more details
Вы студент / студентка? Vy student / studentka?Are you a student?Male/Female
Кем Вы работаете? Kem Vy rabotaete?What do you do for work?Formal
Какая у Вас профессия? Kakaja u Vas professija?What profession do you have?Formal
Я... Ja...I am a...Used when telling someone your profession
Преподаватель Prepodavatel'Teacher
Врач VrachDoctor
Адвокат AdvokatLawyer
Есть ли у Вас хобби? Est' li u Vas hobbi?Do you have an hobbies?Formal
Я катаюсь на лыжах Ja katajus' na lyzhahI ski
Я играю в баскетбол Ja igraju v basketbolI play basketball
Я люблю путешествовать Ja ljublju puteshestvovat'I love to travel

Language Ability

These phrases can help you clarify and avoid misunderstandings:

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
Вы говорите по-русски? Vy govorite po-russki?Do you speak Russian?Formal
Вы говорите по-английски? Vy govorite po-anglijski?Do you speak English?Formal
Вы понимаете? Vy ponimaete?Do you understand?Formal
Я не понимаю Ja ne ponimajuI don't understand
Вы можете говорить медленнее? Vy mozhete govorit' medlennee?
Can you speak slower?Formal
Помедленнее, пожалуйста Pomedlennee, pozhalujstaPlease speak more slowly
Повторите, пожалуйста Povtorite, pozhalujstaPlease repeat that
Как сказать ... по-русски? Kak skazat' ... po-russki?How do you say... in Russian?

Agreement, Disagreement and Confusion

These words and phrases, including how to say “no” and “yes” in Russian, are self-explanatory and commonly heard multiple times a day:

RussianRomanizationEnglish
Да DaYes
Нет NetNo
Может быть Mozhet byt'Maybe
Что это? Chto eto?What is that?
Кто это? Kto eto?Who is that?
Я не знаю Ja ne znajuI don't know
Это... Eto...That is...

Manners and Polite Phrases

Russians are often perceived as being unfriendly, but good manners are appreciated, especially if you’re asking someone for assistance:

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
Пожалуйста PozhalujstaPlease
Спасибо SpasiboThank you
Спасибо большое Spasibo bol'shoe
Thank you very much
Пожалуйста PozhalujstaYou're welcomeDoubles for "please"
Извините IzviniteI'm sorryFormal/plural
Простите ProstiteExcuse meCan be used interchangeably with Извините
Всё в порядке Vsjo v porjadkeEverything's okIn response to Извините and Простите
Я не могу... Ja ne mogu...I can't...Fill in according to your needs, especially important for someone that has a dietary restriction or limitation

Food and Drink

Russians love their traditional foods. While you may not eat borscht or smetana on a regular basis, it’s good to know some basic food vocabulary:

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
У Вас есть меню на английском? U vas yest' menyu na angliyskom?
Do you have the menu in English?
Я хочу есть Ja hochu est'I'm hungry
Я хочу пить Ja hochu pit'I'm thirsty
Что Вы рекомендуете? Chto vy rekomenduyete?What do you recommend?
Борщ BorshhBorschtTraditional sour soup
Сметана SmetanaSmetanaType of sour cream
Блины BlinyBlinyRussian crêpes
Икра IkraCaviar
Пироги PirogiPie
Пельмени Pel'meniPelmeniType of Russian dumpling
Водка VodkaVodka
Фрукт FruktFruit
Яблоко JablokoApple
Банан BananBanana
Овощи OvoshhiVegetables
Лук LukOnion
Морковь Morkov'Carrot
Помидор PomidorTomato
Картофель Kartofel'Potatoes
Салат SalatSalad
Мясо MjasoMeat
Колбаса KolbasaSausage
Рыба RybaFish
Курица KuricaChicken
Говядина GovjadinaBeef
Соль Sol'Salt
Чёрный перец Chjornyj perecPepper
Хлеб HlebBread
Масло MasloButter
Макароны MakaronyPasta
Сыр SyrCheese
Чай ChajTea
Кофе KofeCoffee
Вода VodaWater
Сок SokJuice
Молоко MolokoMilk
Сахар SaharSugar
Счёт, пожалуйста Schot, pozhaluystaCheck, please.

Family and Friends (Including Pets!)

You’ll likely be asked about family members, so be ready to talk about your relatives as well as any pets:

RussianRomanizationEnglish
Семья Sem'jaFamily
Родители RoditdeliParents
Мама MamaMom
Папа PapaDad
Брат BratBrother
Сестра SestraSister
Сын SynSon
Дочь DochDaughter
Бабушка BabushkaGrandma
Дедушка DedushkaGrandpa
Друзья Druz'jaFriends
Парень Paren'Boyfriend
Девушка DevushkaGirlfriend
Домашнее животное Domashnee zhivotnoePet
У тебя есть домашнее животное? U tebja est' domashnee zhivotnoe?Do you have a pet?
Собака SobakaDog
Кошка KoshkaCat
Птица PticaBird
Черепаха CherepahaTurtle
Кролик KrolikRabbit
Рыба RybaFish

Useful Adjectives

Here are some common adjectives you’ll need to know:

RussianRomanizationEnglishNotes
Красный KrasnyjRed
Белый BelyjWhite
Чёрный ChjornyjBlack
Синий SinijBlue
Зелёный ZeljonyjGreen
Жёлтый ZhjoltyjYellow
Розовый RozovyjPink
Оранжевый OranzhevyjOrange
Красивый KrasivyjBeautiful
Симпатичный SimpatichnyjCute/niceNice, in reference to temperament; or cute, in reference to appearance
Вкусный VkusnyjDelicious
Большой Bol'shojBig
Маленький Malen'kijSmall
Хороший HoroshijGood
Плохой PlohojBad
Жаркий ZharkijHotIn reference to weather or climate
Горячий GorjachijHotIn reference to an object
Холодный HolodnyjColdWorks for weather and objects
Старый StaryjOld
Новый NovyjNew

Introductory Verbs

There are a few basic verbs that most Russian learners almost immediately use. Here are a few to get you started:

RussianRomanizationEnglish
Думать Dumat'To think
Знать Znat'To know
Любить Ljubit'To love
Жить Zhit'To live
Хотеть Hotet'To want
Смотреть Smotret'To watch
Слушать Slushat'To listen
Играть Igrat'To play
Спать Spat'To sleep
Читать Chitat'To read
Писать Pisat'To write

Requesting Assistance and Getting Around

It’s always good to know how to ask for help and read basic signs so you can find your way:

RussianRomanizedEnglish
Туалет TualetToilet
Где туалет? Gde tualet?Where is the toilet?
Открыто OtkrytoOpen
Закрыто ZakrytoClosed
Вход VhodEnter
Выход VyhodExit
Помогите! Pomogite!
Help!
Пожар! Pozhar!
Fire!
Полиция! Policija!Police!
Стой! Stoj!Stop!
Я болею Ja bolejuI am sick
Больница Bol'nicaHospital
Где...? Gde...?
Where is...?
такси taksiTaxi
метро metroMetro
аэропорт aeroportAirport
гостиница gostinitsaHotel
ресторан restoranRestaurant
Один билет, пожалуйста Odin bilet, pozhaluystaOne ticket, please

https://www.fluentu.com/blog/russian/shopping-in-russian/

Basic Russian Slang

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to impress a new Russian acquaintance with some fun slang phrases, here are a few you can try:

RussianRomanizationEnglish
Мобильник Mobil'nikCell phone
Чёрт! ChjortShoot
Бомба BombaAwesome
Класс KlassGreat
Круто KrutoCool

Tips for Learning Russian Words

Here are some important tips and tricks to advance your Russian studies:

1. Learn the Alphabet

Hopefully, you’re already aware that Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, not the Roman alphabet.

Be sure to learn the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet and the corresponding pronunciations. To a large extent, Russian sounds the way it’s spelled, so you can see words written and sound them out if you know how the individual letters are pronounced.

2. Emphasize Listening and Speaking

Linguistic input is crucial, especially when starting a new language. Input-based learners may attempt to immerse themselves in a language by reading, practicing with flashcards, listening to music, watching movies or a host of other techniques.

If your aim is to communicate with people, be sure you’re training your ear. Don’t hesitate to watch YouTube clips with vital words over and over again.

By the same token, be sure you’re speaking. Listen to a clip and then repeat it. Your mouth needs to become comfortable making the unfamiliar sounds common in Russian.

Tutors are also invaluable resources. They can help you perfect your pronunciation to ensure you’re well understood. They can also get you accustomed to the pace of speech.

As with any language, some Russians speak quickly, mumble or run their words together. A tutor can help you get used to deconstructing what you’re hearing.

Getting into authentic Russian content is also important. As a beginner, this might get a bit overwhelming, so you might want to start with material aimed at children.

Some programs make it a bit easier to sort media according to difficulty. FluentU, for example, has six learner levels in its virtual immersion program.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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3. Focus on Simple Sentences First

You’re not going to be able to form complex grammatical sentences as soon as you learn the Cyrillic alphabet. As with learning any language, you need to start with basic constructions such as:

Я хочу яблоко.  — I want an apple.

Я хочу собаку.  — I want a dog.

Я хочу парня.  — I want a boyfriend.

As you learn new grammar concepts, your sentences will become longer and more complex, but it’s important to start small and build from there.

4. Keep Formality in Mind

Similar to French or Spanish, Russian uses two versions of the word “you” that differ based on formality.

Ты   (you) is used in informal situations when speaking to an individual.  Вы  (you) is used in two instances: when speaking to two or more people and when speaking to an individual in a formal manner.

As a general rule, ты should really only be used when addressing children or close friends. The formal Вы should be used any time you’re speaking to strangers, acquaintances you don’t know well, anyone older than you or someone in a position of authority. 

 

The list of basic Russian words and phrases above is far from comprehensive, but should help set you on track to start feeling comfortable speaking Russian from day one.

If you’re feeling up for it, you could even check out some more challenging words now to impress your Russian friends! 

Удачи! (Good luck!)
 

And One More Thing...

If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!

FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:

learn-russian-with-authentic-russian-videos

FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

learn-russian-with-subtitled-videos

Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.

learn-conversational-russian-with-dialogue

All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.

practice-russian-with-adaptive-quizzes

The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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