9 Russian Slang Words Every Russian Learner Should Know

St Basil's Cathedral, in Red Square, Moscow, Russia
Pola Damonte via Getty Images / Getty Images

The Russian language is filled with amusing (and sometimes confusing) slang terms, some of which have existed for centuries. If you want to speak and understand everyday Russian conversations, you need to add some Russian slang words to your vocabulary. From casual greetings to a curse word that literally means "fig," this list of Russian slang will have you sounding like a native speaker in no time. 

of 09

Давай (DaVAY)

Literal definition: come on, let's

Meaning: goodbye

This slang version of "goodbye" entered the language in the 1990s, first as a way of ending a telephone call and later as a more general way of saying goodbye. It's said to be a shortened version of the statement, "Let's begin our goodbyes."

Russian farewells tend to be lengthy because it is considered rude to finish a conversation abruptly. Давай is a way of shortening the farewell without appearing impolite. You will sound more Russian if you use it, but be prepared for disapproval from more traditional Russian speakers. 

of 09

Черт (Tchyort)

Literal definition: devil

Meaning: an expression of annoyance or frustration

This word is commonly used to signify annoyance or frustration. Its usage isn't too frowned upon, as it's not a curse word. Several common phrases include this word, including черт знает, meaning “God knows/who knows.” and черт побери, meaning "shoot." 

of 09

Блин (Blin)

Literal definition: pancake

Meaning: an expression of annoyance

Блин is similar in pronunciation to a vulgar Russian word, so it's often used as a relatively appropriate substitute, much like "fudge" and "sugar" in English. While its meaning is approximately the same as черт, it's a more casual and informal term.

of 09

Здорово (ZdaROva)

Literal definition: hello or great/excellent

Meaning: informal greeting

When the stress is placed on the second syllable, this term is an informal greeting used among friends. Don’t say it when talking to someone you don't know well—it would be perceived as overly informal.

However, if you place the stress on the first syllable, the word is an appropriate and commonly used term meaning "great" or "excellent." 

of 09

Кайф (Kaiyf)

Literal definition: kaif (Arabic word meaning "pleasure")

Meaning: pleasurable, enjoyable, fun

This slang word is derived from an Arabic term and has been a part of the Russian culture since the beginning of the 19th century. It was even used by Fyodor Dostoevsky to describe the blissful feeling of relaxing in a good company with a nice beverage.

The word fell out of popular usage after the Russian Revolution, only to return in 1957, when a wave of English words like "jeans" and "rock n' roll" penetrated the Soviet borders after the World Youth Festival. (Кайф sounded English to the Russian ear, hence its inclusion on the list of newly popular words.) The word continues to be a popular slang term.

of 09

Хрен (Hryen)

Literal definition: horseradish 

Meaning: an expression of annoyance and frustration

This popular, highly flexible slang term is stronger in register than черт, but is used in much the same way. For example:

  • хрен знает (hryen ZNAyet): who knows
  • хрен с ним (hryen s nim): to hell with him
  • хреново (hryeNOva): bad, terrible (describing an unpleasant situation)
of 09

Шарить (SHArish)

Literal definition: to fumble

Meaning: to know or understand something 

If you talk to a Russian teenager and they tell you that you шаришь Russian, congratulations – they just complimented your language skills. Although this word technically means "to fumble," it's become popular as a slang term for knowing or understanding something. 

of 09

Го (goh)

Literal definition: n/a

Meaning: to go 

This word was lifted directly from the English language word "go." The term is favored by young people and is not commonly heard in professional settings. However, using it will definitely get you some cool points with hip young Russians.

of 09

Фига (FEEgah) and фиг (Feek)

Literal definition: fig 

Meaning: a rude gesture (a fist with the thumb pressed between the index and middle finger)

The words фига and фиг are used so frequently that many of the most popular Russian expressions use some variation of them, including:

  • Фиг тебе (Feek tiBYE): nothing for you (often accompanied by the rude gesture that the word refers to)
  • Иди на фиг (EeDEE NA fik): get lost, beat it (can be rude or friendly)
  • Офигеть (AhfeeGYET’): an expression of shock or surprise or an arrogant individual 
  • Фигово (FeeGOHva): bad, awful 
  • Фигня (FigNYAH): nonsense, useless

Keep in mind that this word (and the related expressions) is often considered a curse, and should not be used in polite company. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nikitina, Maia. "9 Russian Slang Words Every Russian Learner Should Know." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/russian-slang-words-4172691. Nikitina, Maia. (2020, August 27). 9 Russian Slang Words Every Russian Learner Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/russian-slang-words-4172691 Nikitina, Maia. "9 Russian Slang Words Every Russian Learner Should Know." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/russian-slang-words-4172691 (accessed March 25, 2023).