The Longest and Hardest Words in the Russian Language

The harsh and cold Russian
The harsh and cold Russian | © 8moments/Pixabay | | © 8moments/Pixabay
Anastasiia Ilina

Russian is not a language that can be learned overnight. After mastering a new alphabet, some very complicated grammar and frustrating spelling rules, there are still some lengthy words to remember. Here are some of Russian’s one-word tongue twisters; try not to get lost in this array of vowels and consonants.

Облагодетельствованный (o-bla-go-de-tel’-stvo-van-ni-e) / to receive favours

The length of this word is mostly owed to the many suffixes. The root can be traced back to the word благо (bla-go) which is synonymous to ‘good’ when used as a noun. So, it basically describes a person for whom someone else is doing favours. This word is gradually becoming archaic and is losing many of its common uses but can still be used in written Russian.

St Basil’s Cathedral in winter

Интерпретировать (in-ter-pre-ti-ro-vat’) / to interpret

This is a word of Latin origin that found its way into Russian (many long Russian words that aren’t heavy with prefixes and suffixes come from a foreign language). In English, ‘interpret’ can be used two ways: to describe how you’re understanding the meaning of something, or ‘to translate’. However, in Russian, it’s only used for the former.

Выгравированый (vi-gra-vi-ro-van-ni) / engraved

A word of French origin, it first appeared in Russian during the 18th century when it became popular for noble people to speak French with each other. The original French meaning refers the art of engraving. In the English and Russian though, it can also mean to carve something out.

Orthodox church in Sergiev Posad

Усовершенствование (u-so-ver-shen-stvo-va-ni-ye) / improvement

With the eventual goal of achieving совершенство (so-ver-shen-stvo), the prefix у (u) adds the meaning of getting closer to perfection. Усовершенствование can be made to just about anything, be it a skill, an object or pronunciation of Russian. A frightful cluster of four consonants makes this word a delightful mouthful.

Предшествовавший (pred-she-stvo-vav-shi) / preceding

This is an interesting word to take apart: the root comes from the verb шествовать (shes-tvo-vat’), which once meant “to march in a festive manner.” Used with the prefix пред (pred), the word describes something that comes before something else, or it ‘precedes’ it.

Skating on Lake Baikal

Покровительствовавший (po-kro-vi-tel’-stvo-vav-shi) / to cover

Digging into the roots of the word, it literally means to provide cover for somebody. In English, the equivalent is similar to when you ask someone ‘to cover’ for you. In the past tense, there is an additional suffix, which makes it even longer.

Компрометирующий (kom-pro-me-ti-ru-yu-schi) / compromising

The English and Russian versions of these words sound similar and have the same meaning: ‘to arrive at a mutual agreement’. The root is derived from the French word promettre, which means ‘promise’. Russian inherited the term in its entirety and has a derivative noun, verb and adjective, as seen above.

View onto Vasilievksy Island

Воспользовавшийся (vos-pol’-zo-vav-shiy-sya) / used

Although the general translation is ‘used’, the more precise translation is somebody who has made use of something. So, this word refers to the subject rather than the object. In Russian, this differentiation is made in the prefixes.

Беспрецедентный (bes-pre-tsen-dent-niy) / unprecedented

Yet another Latin word that was incorporated into Russian, this one refers to something that has never happened before. There are other Russian words with similar meanings, but this is a more formal expression and is often used in a legal context.

A snowy Russian forest

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