I'm a student of formal linguistics and Russian language, my question has been surprisingly hard to google -- I've studied a little Ukrainian, and I've read that its structurally similar to Russian but has absorbed a lot more of its vocab from Polish, supposedly a hugely influential culture at one time in Ukraine's history?

I was wondering if anybody could tell me whether there is any specific source (aside from English, Latin, Greek) that Russian had historically absorbed a lot of vocab from, or whether there were any specific national languages that had absorbed huge amounts of vocab from Russian?

Thanks for the help

  • Found an interesting link here: languagesoftheworld.info/historical-linguistics/… and also this stuff en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… Wiktionary also has some stuff on English and Turkish loanwords, but its lite on story -- I was hoping somebody might have some more history of context --
    – user173361
    Mar 4, 2018 at 2:04
  • I read that French was heavily influential in the 17th century, German in the 19th, and England in the 20th, but I was curious if there are particular institutions or domains that they might have influenced, if some of this stuff is dialectical more than part of the formal language, if there are regular suffixes or prefixes that identify loanwords as foreign or as from a specific time, stuff like that...if anybody has a line in on that or a resource that points to it, I'd be much obliged.
    – user173361
    Mar 4, 2018 at 2:04
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    Russian has lots of borrowings from the Turkic and Finnic languages, they are old ones. Also, Russian is brimming with Old Church Slavonic borrowings, tons of them, often having original Russian doublets. The scale of OCS borrowings is so great that even separate word-building morphemes (both prefixes and suffixes) were borrowed. Also, most borrowings from the European language got into Russian via Polish, and there are original Polish words borrowed. All the musical terminology was borrowed from Italian, and all the naval - sailing terminology from Dutch.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 4, 2018 at 10:52
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    i'm not sure it's fair to say that Ukrainian borrowed Russian lexis, because they both stem from the common not so distant ancestor, and i believe the majority if not all vocabulary which is identical (differences in pronunciation aside) is their common heritage and not borrowing, save for foreign words and neologisms which would be absorbed into Ukrainian by the virtue of Ukraine being during some 300 odd years a part of the Russian state and its cultural space
    – Баян Купи-ка
    Mar 4, 2018 at 16:46
  • @Yellow Sky Are there many borrowings from Finnic languages? The lists, like the one on Wiktionary usually contain a handful of examples.
    – Vitaly
    Mar 4, 2018 at 17:00

4 Answers 4


You can find examples of words borrowed into Russian language on Wiktionary RU. However, this is far from being a comprehensive list. The number of words borrowed from Turkic languages is somewhere around 2-4 thousand. Probably the largest number of words was borrowed by Russian language from Church-Slavonic.


My guess is this question has more to do with history and culture than language per se.

You can say that English was influenced by French 'a lot' due to the Norman conquest (you can probably speak of 'specific source' of influence in this case). In this sense there is no any specific modern national language from which Russian had to borrow on a massive scale (the exception is Church Slavonic which was (since the Middle Ages) and is used in services by the Orthodox Church, and which influeced other Slavic languages). However Russian was and is borrowing from different languages due to various reasons and at different speeds: French and German were popular 150-200 years ago, now it's mainly English.

But as for the opposite direction, the speakers of languages of the ethnicities who live in Russia (and there are quite a few of them) have to use Russian words and concepts due to cultural reasons. In that sense one can probably say these minor languages are influenced by Russian which usually occurs when a certain thing or concept doesn't exist in a local language. Besides the Soviet Union meant that all ethnicities had to learn Russian, hence massive bilingualism (local language at home + Russian as major official language) and influence of Russian on minor local languages.

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    If there is a language from which Russian borrowed on a massive scale that's Church-Slavonic. Take a look at a dictionary by Памво Берында «Лексикон славеноросский. Имен толкование».
    – Vitaly
    Mar 5, 2018 at 13:50
  • @Vitaly Thanks, agree 100% and edited the answer. I was thinking more about a national language. From a historical perspective Church Slavonic did certainly cause some changes and in fact took part in shaping the Russian language itself.
    – alexsms
    Mar 6, 2018 at 5:31

To quickly address the first question only - about the most common donor languages, here's what Lopatin and Ulukhanov 1997 mention:

  • Old East Slavic (aka Old Russian);
  • Church Slavonic;
  • Turkic languages;
  • Dutch;
  • German;
  • French;
  • English.

As a side note, a quote from As Lopatin and Ulukhanov,

"в совр. лит. языке производные (словообразовательно мотивированные) слова составляют примерно 95% всего словарного запаса" (p. 444).


Besides the languages already named in other answers (Turkic languages, Finnic languages, German, French, and English) Greek should be mentioned. It seems that Russian prefers borrowing technological vocabulary from Greek where English takes a Latin loan, as observed in pairs like cosmonaut/astronaut.

Of course, Russian also has a lot of loans from Latin, even in places where some Western Slavonic languages retained a native word (e.g., the month names).

One notable thing is the etymological nativisation that renders foreign /h/ as Russian /g/. This is obviously motivated by the relationship between Ukrainian and Russian, an Ukrainian /h/ corresponds to a Russian /g/ (hospod' : gospod') and Russian generalised thei relation to other languages as well (see Principles of Historical Linguistics by Hans Henrich Hock (1991))

  • French had no longer any h's when Russian started borrowing from French. Mar 6, 2018 at 17:49
  • Well, for one thing, the loss of "h aspiré" in French was variable and occured over a long period of time. There are actually still modern accents of French that have remnants that are more than just the hiatus of the standard accent. See the comments by the French-speaking linguists marie-lucie and Etienne in the following Language Hat thread: languagehat.com/aitch-or-haitch Mar 6, 2018 at 17:54
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    But of course, "hospital" doesn't have "h aspiré" in French, so that's a bit of a side point. Probably a more important factor is spelling pronunciation (something that I believe is also apparent in the forms of a number of Russian loanwords from English, or Russian versions of English names; and of course, English also has /h/ due to spelling pronunciation in a number of words that originally were taken from French, like "hotel" for many speakers). Mar 6, 2018 at 17:55
  • I thought that госпиталь was borrowed from German or Dutch (perhaps via Polish), originally from Latin.
    – Alex B.
    Mar 7, 2018 at 3:11
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    As for космонавтика (and космонавт), these words were not borrowed from Greek. They were created in Russian using the Greek stems.
    – Alex B.
    Mar 7, 2018 at 3:16

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