English Words with Slavic Roots

Page last updated: Nov 13, 2017 @ 6:31 pm

Emperor Nicholas II of Russia with his physically similar cousin, King George V of the United Kingdom (right), in German military uniforms in Berlin before the war; 1913 [Wikipedia]

As was already mentioned on page Into The Origins of European Languages, Slavic group (along with Baltic) preserved many features inherited directly from Proto-Indo-European which most of the other living Indo-European languages have lost. But in reality no one really knows the exact rendition of “Proto-Indo-European” language which is theorized to have existed judging from the increasing similarities between European languages when traveling back in time on language lines. There are however numerous existing renditions of Slavic languages with Russian being the most “standardized” and widely spoken thanks to the sprawl of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. Also, there was no “Indo” and there was no “European” back in the day that the original ancestor language was theorized to exist. The word “Slavic” however goes back in time and is derived from a more basic word SLOVO which means “word.” It would have been much more appropriate to call “Proto-Indo-European” as SLOVIK which would be directly symbolic of a simple word-based language in ancient times.

Furthermore, if Balto-Slavic language group is known to be older and closer to the original than Germanic group, of which English is the latest variation, then why not look into a Slavic language for a potential source of any given word within the Germanic group? Yet any links to Slavic language and culture seem to be left in mysterious obscurity when it comes to the cultural consciousness in the West.

This page aims to reestablish that link by showing how numerous words in modern English can be easily understood by looking at similarly sounding words in modern Russian. Something to keep in mind when drawing that similarity is that sounds in Russian are pronounced quite clearly and distinctly which parallels a logical word structure that can be taken apart into its structural components: prefix-root(s)-suffix-ending (depending on what’s present in any given word). In English the sounds are softer and less distinct resulting in a case of what could be viewed as “phonetic mumbling” when comparing to the distinct sounds in Russian. Thus, certain sounds in a word can be softened, lost, or replaced with other sounds.

In addition, it is important to understand that the various language lines separated from each in language charts are raw approximations for the purpose of analysis. Virtually no European language developed in isolation. People moved around influencing each other’s cultures and languages. Before the widespread of printing press and “standard education” to hold a language in a relatively fixed form, all languages were spoken and easily susceptible to variations from generation to generation and between different regions. It means that words could even travel back and forth between language groups. For example, in formulating Latin words someone could have used a modification form ancient Slavic that existed during that time, and then later that Latin modification could end up back in some Slavic languages as a “Latin” word. Latin is dated to 75BC – that’s over a thousand years later than Vedic scripts. Sophisticated language(s) have been in existence for a very long time.

In the end, what makes a good WORD DERIVATION reference is not so much the different versions or renditions of the word across language lines but the BASIC CONCEPT(s) and PERCEPTION(s) from which it was formulated. This not only helps to better understand the word, but also helps to reveal and contact the state of ancestral consciousness (intelligence) at work and the logic used in formulating a given word and its meaning.

This is not intended as a “scholarly” comparison that relies on an in-depth study of language developments. There was also no effort to research to see whether a given word in modern Russian came from Latin or Greek or some other origin from a “non-Slavic” language line as again it is rather hard to establish something with certainty and know for sure whether something was borrowed, or it traveled back and forth along language lines or was originally created within a Slavic group. What we are interested here is a PERCEPTO-CONCEPTUAL DERIVATION of the word to gain better understanding of how the word was formed from basic perceptions and concepts. It is simply a statement of observation to serve as indication for further exploration should someone want to conduct it.

r.w. means “root word.” A hyphen within a word is sometimes used to isolate different parts of the word, but it is not part of any words below in their normal use.

You can use Google translate or  https://forvo.com/languages/ru/ to hear pronunciation of Russian words (remove hyphens from word spelling).


English Word Russian Word Notes Oxford Dictionary Derivation
Be Быть БЫТЬ means “to be,” but as usual it could be modified to form other words: БЫТ – the way of life – in a way someone lives; БЫТИЕ – philosophical concept of “existence.”  Old English bēon, an irregular and defective verb, whose full conjugation derives from several originally distinct verbs. The forms am and is are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sum and est. The forms was and were are from an Indo-European root meaning ‘remain’. The forms be and been are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin fui ‘I was’, fio ‘I become’, and Greek phuein ‘bring forth, cause to grow’. The origin of are is uncertain.
Beat Бить A derivative word БИТВА means “battle.”  Old English bēatan, of Germanic origin.
Berry Бери БЕРИ literally means “take” in Russian as in when you tell someone to take something, but it does not mean “berry” in Russian. “Berry” as a word in English may have been derived from a concept that it is something that is picked. Old English berie, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bes and German Beere.
Band Банда БАНДА is a word applied to any kind of gang style formation which is where the word БАНДИТ – BANDIT – also comes from. BAND: Late Old English (in band (sense 4 of the noun)), from Old Norse, reinforced in late Middle English by Old French bande, of Germanic origin; related to bind.

BANDIT: Late 16th century: from Italian bandito, ‘banned’, past participle of bandire ‘to ban’.

 Deal Дело ДЕЛО is a noun meaning “activity.” Verb of this word is ДЕЛАТЬ meaning “to do.” Another related word is ДОЛЯ which means “portion.” Also ДЕЛИТЬ means to divide something which may have initially been ДОЛ-ИТЬ and then changed in pronunciation over time.  Old English dǣlan ‘divide’, ‘participate’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch deel and German Teil ‘part’ (noun), also to dole. The sense ‘divide’ gave rise to ‘distribute’, hence deal (sense 1 of the verb,; the sense ‘participate’ gave rise to ‘have dealings with’, hence deal (sense 2 of the verb)
Delete Удалить УДАЛИТЬ means to remove something with a second meaning “to move something into a far distance” from the root word ДАЛЬ meaning “far” (as in “far away”).  
Desk Доска ДОСКА mean a “board” as in wooden board. Late Middle English: from medieval Latin desca, probably based on Provençal desca ‘basket’ or Italian desco ‘table, butcher’s block’, both based on Latin discus (see discus).
 Curve Криво КРИВО – means twisted as in a twisted fashion. Late Middle English: from Latin curvare ‘to bend’, from curvus ‘bent’. The noun dates from the late 17th century.
Cry Крик КРИК is a noun for “scream” or a “calling” such as of an animal. This is why English “cry” can also be used in a sense of “scream.” Middle English (in the sense ‘ask for earnestly or loudly’): from Old French crier (verb), cri (noun), from Latin quiritare ‘raise a public outcry’, literally ‘call on the Quirites (Roman citizens) for help’.
Evident Виден This is based on root word ВИД which means “view” and can be used to form words such as “to see” ВИДЕТЬ or “visible” ВИДИМЫЙ and many others of similar meaning. A word like VIDEO is based on the root word VID. Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin evidens, evident- ‘obvious to the eye or mind’, from e- (variant of ex-) ‘out’ + videre ‘to see’.
 Charms Чары ЧАР-Ы means more than just “charms” which is mostly used in a positive sense. ЧАРЫ is a sort of “energetic influence” that someone can generate over others and as usual can be used to form other words. О-ЧАР-О-ВАТЬ means “to cast glamour over (someone).” ЧАР-О-ДЕЙ – a word for a malicious wizard; ДЕЙ is shortened for “action” so it is someone who engages in actions of manipulating others on a level of consciousness / energy. ЧАР-О-МУДРИТЬ means to come up with sophisticated deceptive schemes to manipulate others; МУДР means “wise” and МУДРИТЬ is a verb that basically means to applying wisdom, but is usually used in a more negative way as in overthinking things or making things more complex than they should be.  Middle English (in the senses ‘incantation or magic spell’ and ‘to use spells’): from Old French charme (noun), charmer (verb), from Latin carmen ‘song, verse, incantation’.
Kill Кол КОЛ means a sharp stick and can be used to form other words such as КОЛОТЬ – to poke with a sharp object. Mid 17th century: from Dutch kil, from Middle Dutch kille ‘riverbed, channel’.
Length, Long, Line r.w. ЛИН  Д-ЛИН-А means “length,” Д-ЛИН-НЫЙ means “long,” ЛИН-ИЯ means “line.” Basically, the concepts of “length” and “long” come out of a simpler concept of “line” based on the original root word LIN. LENGTH: Old English lengthu, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch lengte, also to long.

LONG: Old English lang, long (adjective), lange, longe (adverb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German lang.

LINE: Old English līne ‘rope, series’, probably of Germanic origin, from Latin linea (fibra) ‘flax (fibre)’, from Latin linum ‘flax’, reinforced in Middle English by Old French ligne, based on Latin linea.

Lie Лож It may seem mysterious why English word LIE has two very different meanings (to tell untruth and to assume a resting position on a supporting surface) – that is until we look at the related words in Russian. ЛОЖ – means untruth; ЛОЖА means a bed (or something to lie on) derived from ЛЕЖА meaning “lying down;” ЛЕЖАТЬ means “to lie” on a surface. Sound Ж did not make it into English at all. Old English lyge (noun), lēogan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch liegen and German lügen.

Old English licgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch liggen and German liegen, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek lektron, lekhos and Latin lectus ‘bed’.

Will Воля ВОЛЯ also appropriately means “freedom” Old English willa (noun), willian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch wil, German Wille (nouns), also to will and the adverb well.
Wall Вал ВАЛ is usually used to denote a fortified barrier Old English, from Latin vallum ‘rampart’, from vallus ‘stake’.
Parcel Переслать ПЕРЕ-СЛАТЬ means to send something over. ПЕРЕ- is a prefix similar to a companion word “over” in English. СЛАТЬ means “send” (indefinite action); ПО-СЛАТЬ means “to send” as a complete action. Late Middle English (chiefly in the sense ‘small portion’): from Old French parcelle, from Latin particula ‘small part’.
 Parade Парад РАД means “happy/excited” and is usually used in combination. ПО-РА-ДОВАТЬ means “to make (someone) happy” as a completed action (prefix ПО-) and literally means “to give light”: РА – light, ДОВАТЬ – to give [spelled давать in modern Russian]. So PARADE comes out of a concept of expressing happiness / excitement. Mid 17th century: from French, literally ‘a showing’, from Spanish parada and Italian parata, based on Latin parare ‘prepare, furnish’.
 Pervert Переворот ВЕРТ- is a root word that means to twist/turn/revolve something. Prefix ПЕРЕ- means “over” so to twist/revolve/flip over. ПЕРЕ-ВОРОТ is a word that is commonly used to describe “uprising,” “upheaval,” or a “coup” that specifically leads to an “over-turn” of existing order. ” RE-VOLUTION is a Latin equivalent.  Late Middle English (as a verb): from Old French pervertir, from Latin pervertere, from per- ‘thoroughly, to ill effect’ + vertere ‘to turn’. The current noun sense dates from the late 19th century.
Secret Секрет СЕКРЕТ seems to be a phonetic variation of СОКРЫТЬ which means “to hide” something. КРЫТЬ means “to cover.” Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart’, from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift’.
 Skate r.w. КАТ  КАТ is a root word meaning “to roll” and is used to form numerous words. СКАТИТЬ – a completed action of rolling something (such as down a hill).  Mid 17th century (originally as the plural scates): from Dutch schaats (singular but interpreted as plural), from Old French eschasse ‘stilt’.
 Screw Скрутить КРУТИТЬ means to rotate something. With prefix С-, it means a completed action. Russian word КРУГ means “circle.”  Late Middle English (as a noun): from Old French escroue ‘female screw, nut’, from Latin scrofa, literally ‘sow’, later ‘screw’. The early sense of the verb was ‘contort (the features), twist around’ (late 16th century).
Small Мал МАЛ is a root word that can be used as its own word but more often to form more complex words.  Old English smæl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch smal and German schmal.
Stupid r.w. ТУП ТУП-ОЙ means “dull” as in a dull knife and is a word that is also used for “stupid” in Russian. So a “dull mind” vs. a “sharp mind.” Mid 16th century: from French stupide or Latin stupidus, from stupere ‘be amazed or stunned’.
Scribe Скрябать СКРЯБАТЬ means to scratch on something. Middle English (in scribe (sense 2 of the noun)): from Latin scriba, from scribere ‘write’. The verb was first used in the sense ‘write down’; in sense 2 it is perhaps partly a shortening of describe.
Swirl Сверло СВЕРЛО is a noun meaning a “drill” – something that spins to make a hole. СВЕРЛИТЬ is a noun meaning “to drill.” There are other words with ВЕР of similar meanings though it is not a known root word. ВЕРТЕТЬ means to “spin.” СВЕРНУТЬ means to “roll up” something, and also to “twist” in some uses. Late Middle English (originally Scots in the sense ‘whirlpool’): perhaps of Low German or Dutch origin; compare with Dutch zwirrelen ‘to whirl’.
Talk Толк ТОЛК means “sense.” ТОЛКОВЫЙ means “sensible.” The verb of this concept ТОЛКОВАТЬ means to basically explain or interpret something – a communication of meaning through verbal language. Middle English: frequentative verb from the Germanic base of tale or tell.
Trade Труд ТРУД means “work” especially in a more skilled sense. Verb ТРУДИТЬСЯ means to “work hard.” Adjective ТРУДНЫЙ means “difficult.” Noun ТРУДНОСТЬ means “difficulty.” Late Middle English (as a noun): from Middle Low German, literally ‘track’, of West Germanic origin; related to tread. Early senses included ‘course, way of life’, which gave rise in the 16th century to ‘habitual practice of an occupation’, ‘skilled handicraft’. The current verb senses date from the late 16th century.
Watch Очи ОЧИ is an archaic word meaning “eyes” and is still used as such in Ukrainian. It is used to form a word for “evident” – ОЧЕ-ВИДНЫЙ where ВИДНЫЙ literally means “visible” so “visible to the eyes.” Old English wæcce ‘watchfulness’, wæccende ‘remaining awake’; related to wake. The sense ‘small timepiece’ probably developed by way of a sense ‘alarm device attached to a clock’
Weather Ветер ВЕТЕР means wind. Old English weder, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weer and German Wetter, probably also to the noun wind.
Semen Семена СЕМЕНА is a plural for “seeds.” СЕМЯ is singular – “seed,” and a slight modification of this word – СЕМЬЯ – means “family” (emphasis on Я) which can also be used as an informal plural for “seeds” (emphasis on Е). Late Middle English: from Latin, literally ‘seed’, from serere ‘to sow’.

More words may be added with time…

This page was inspired by the works of a philologists Aleksandr Dragunkin [Александр Драгункин] and numerous forum posts with word lists, especially this one: https://zelenyislon.livejournal.com/36430.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *