Franois Micheloud 1998-

Archeology of the russian dictionary

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Russia has always been a westward looking country. Strong leaders imported new institutions and artefacts from European cultures, and the way the russian language assimilated them was to swallow the word. Other languages try to substitute it with an artificial new words instead of taking the word from the leading culture of the time (in french you say ordinateur for computer, but instead of walkman some people try to impose baladeur.

This page documents my personal efforts to shed some light on the huge number of russian words that come from languages I am familiar with, and to connect them with a period of russian history.

Under Alexis Mikhalovitch (1645-1676), many military and musical italian words were borrowed. Words I'm certain were borrowed during that time are written in the BLUE zone.

Under Peter the Great (1682-1725), a lot of german words, often with a latin origin, were adopted. More than a quarter described administrative structures.  Other came from french, especially military vocabulary. These words are in the Grey zone.

Under Kathrin II (1762-1796), many french words came from Versailles, often in indirect ways.

In the modern period, many international words came as in any other language.

As I'm neither a philologist by study nor by occupation, I am certain there are errors in this page and I'd welcome your comments if you happen to know more on some words.

Russian word English German   Italian French
Alexis Mikhalovitch (1645-1676)
handgun ? pistoletto pistolet
grenade ? ? grenade
engineer Ingenieur ingeniero ingnieur
Peter the Great (1682-1725)
emperor Imperator ? empereur
governor ? ? gouverneur
? ? ? chambellan
inspector Inspektor ? inspecteur
chancellor Kanzler ? chancelier
letter of change Wechsel ? billet ordre
? ? ? bail
fine Straf ? amende
archive Archiv ? archive
enveloppe ? ? enveloppe
constitution ? ? constitution
demonstration ? ? dmonstration
? ? ? mot de ralliement
camp Lager ? camp
low officer Junker ? junker
batallion ? ? bataillon
garnison ? ? garnison
orders ? ? parole
Time of borrowing unkown to me
chief of cossacks Hauptmann ? capitaine
tomato Tomato pommodoro tomate
scale Masstab ? chelle
accountant Buchhalter ? comptable