Russian terms of endearment

12 August, 2019

As you’re reading this, I can presume that you are currently studying or interested in studying Russian. You’ve probably already mastered the basics of how to introduce yourself, can have small conversations or maybe you’re already way past this level. Either way, I can almost guarantee that whether you’ve been having lessons online or in real life you won’t have been introduced to the world of Russian terms of endearment, otherwise known as pet names. Each language has a totally different relationship with this aspect of vocabulary- how, when, where and who it is acceptable to use these types of words with can vary totally from culture to culture, region to region, and between age groups. This will be a relatively basic guide through some of the words I’ve become most acquainted to since living in St Petersburg for the past year, but let me know in the comments if you want another post that takes you through some regionally specific differences to do with these types of nicknames!


Котик (kotik)

All things cat will be relevant when it comes to discussing Russian terms of endearment. Котик (Kotik) is a derivative of the Russian word Кот (Kot) meaning cat. This is only one in a long stream of words surrounding a feline subject that can be taken and used as sweet ways to call your partner or friends. Котик (Kotik) starts us off, but then we also have котёнок (kotyonok) and кошка (koshka), which essentially all can be translated as kitten in some form. This relates to another important aspect of the Russian language- if a word is altered to have the sounds шкa (shka), ик (ik), ок (ok), or some sort of ‘k’ sound at the end of the word, it generally makes it cuter and less formal. This can even be seen in the most common way to say water- instead of вода (voda) as I originally learned, it is far more common to use водичка (vodichka). But do be careful if you’re going to use this one, placing the stress on the ‘о’ (o) instead of the ‘и’ (i) changes the meaning of the word from water to vodka, which is a mistake I’ve experienced first-hand far too many times.


Зая (zaya)


This word is short for заяц (zayats) which is the Russian word meaning hare! Thus essentially this classic term of endearment again refers to an animal, but this time we’re moving away from the sphere of kittens and closer to bunnies. This word is frequently translated as honey, babe or lovely, as these are comparably common English terms of affection and this is because although this word does have a direct dirivitive relating to bunny, it is just used to be generically sweet. My Russian friends have advised me however that this is so traditional as a way to call a partner that it has taken on an aspect of cringe – so do beware about using it without a hint of irony!


Пупсик (pupsick)


Now we are onto the final term of endearment that we will be discussing today, which happens to be my personal favourite, because of its pure oddness. Пупсик (pupsick) entered my vocabulary around eight months ago when the person I was dating used it casually in conversation. To anyone with a broad knowledge of the English language, it is clear why this might have struck me as strange, and vaguely disgusting, as I heard myself being addressed as what sounded to me like ‘poop-sick’. To Google Translate, the word was also a mystery, meekly replying to me with the exact sound equivalent of the word in Latin letters rather than a translation. After investigating further, I discovered that this can be used as an equivalent to the word ‘baby’, ‘sweetie’ or ‘baby-doll’ in English, due to the fact that dolls like this (see the picture on the right) have been called this way throughout recent Russian linguistic history. Still, this word has really taken some getting used to as an English speaker, and I’m still learning new words all the time.


I hope this has been a helpful introduction to a few Russian terms of endearment! Many of my Russian friends get very creative with their nicknames, and love altering words to make them sound sweeter, which is both hilarious and difficult as someone still trying to get to grips with the core of the language, let alone with this sort of word play!


Thanks for reading, see you next time!


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