Core Russian Vocabulary

By OptiLingo • 6 minute read

Learn common Russian words and vocabulary

Once you learn the Russian alphabet, the next step is to move on and memorize a few key words. At this point, there are probably two groups of readers: those who agree that memorizing words is helpful and those who think it is a waste of time. No matter which category you fall into, you probably hate doing it. Learning any language is partly about memorization, but that is only a small fraction of what you need to do. This isn’t about dedicating hours and hours to memorization either, although you will have more memorization to do when you first get started. Pick 50 or so keywords based on what you need to know.

This section gives you some recommendations, but they are based on learning the basics of Russian. If you are going to need to learn business Russian or technical aspects, you are going to require a more focused set of keywords too (they are not included in this guide though). If you need to know other types of words, select 35 or 40 from this list, and then look up 10 to 15 words that are more specific to what you need.

While grammar tends to be one of the trickiest aspects of a language to master, new vocabulary is something that you will need to learn for the rest of your life. Consider how many words there are in English that you don’t know. Now apply that to the language you are interested in learning – you will never be through learning new words. However, that does not mean it isn’t well worth the effort and time.

To really learn a language, you have to have enough vocabulary words to talk; after all, you can’t get by on just knowing how to structure the sentences. Fortunately, vocabulary is one of the easiest things to work into your day. Whether you use flashcards or an app, any time you have a few minutes of just standing around or waiting, you can work on getting the words into your head.

There are also a lot of different ways to learn vocabulary. Starting with basic reading books, even if they are for children, you can start to absorb a lot in a short amount of time. While you shouldn’t focus just on vocabulary, as you become comfortable with the grammar of your chosen language, you can start working new vocabulary words into your conversations. Over time, incorporating new words will be easier.

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Why It’s Important

Learning vocabulary words is always pure memorization, but once you have learned the basics, you will find that there are many related words to the ones you already know. Also, once you know the basics, you can use context clues to understand the words in a sentence that you don’t know. Since you will be learning survival skills soon, memorize the words you can now. The survival phrases give you a way of seeing how the most common Russian words are used. This provides a fantastic introduction to the grammar.

Ultimately, fluency is not something that you can learn without a considerable amount of memorization. Even when using English, you probably only know about 15% of all the words in the language. This is, in large part, because many words are not actively used in daily communication, but that doesn’t mean that they are never used. Written language often includes more words that aren’t as common in the spoken version of that language.

Just as you can keep learning English over your entire life, you can spend time memorizing new Russian vocabulary words long after you have become fluent. The best words are typically ones that are less often used because they have more specific meanings. Long after you have become fluent, you should keep memorizing vocabulary.

Common Words

The following are nearly 200 words that will be incredibly useful to know. You can create flashcards for them, write them on a daily basis, or find an app that will help you practice them. Other basic words that you need (such as numbers and days of the week) are not covered here because they are included in the section just for numbers.

The words are divided into parts of speech to help you better remember their meanings. This should help you pick a few of each type so that you can memorize the ones you think you are most likely to need.



большойbig, large, importantнеnot
хорошийgood, niceбыwould
новыйnew; modernвотhere, there, this is, that’s
должныйdue, properдажеeven
конечныйfinal, last


последнийlast, the latest, newонhe
белыйwhiteэтоthat, this, it
главныйmain, chiefонаshe


тыyou, thou
такso, thus, thenмыwe
ещёstill, yetвыyou
ужеalready, by nowэтотthis
гдеwhereкоторыйwhich, who, that
тамthere, thenтакойsuch, so, some
тутhere, now, thenкакойwhat, which, how
потомafterwards, thenктоwho, that, some
оченьveryмойmy, mine
теперьnow, nowadaysсамыйmost, the very, the same
тожеalso, as well, tooдругойother, another, different
сейчасnow, presently, soonнашour, ours
здесьhereсвойmy, our, your
тогдаthenсамmyself, yourself
потомуthat’s whyчтоwhat, which, that
простоsimplyкаждыйeach, every
несколькоseveral, someвашyours
покаfor the presentтвойyour, yours (informal)
хорошоwellсвоёone’s own, my, our


кудаwhere, what for, muchбытьto be
сразуat once, right away, justсказатьto say, to speak
совсемquite, entirely, totallyмочьbe able
почтиalmostговоритьto say, to tell, to speak
многоmany, muchзнатьto know, be aware
сноваagainстатьto become, begin, come
опятьagainестьto eat, to be
никогдаneverхотетьto want, like
видетьto see
идтиto go, come


стоятьto stand, be, stand up
человекman, personдуматьto think; believe
времяtime, seasonспроситьto ask
рукаhand, armжитьto live
делоbusiness, affair, matterсмотретьto look, watch
глазeye; sightсидетьto sit
жизньlifeпонятьto understand; realize
деньdayиметьto have, own
головаhead, mind, brainsделатьto do, make
другfriendвзятьto take
домhouse, homeсделатьto do, make, finish
словоwordпониматьto understand
местоplace; seatказатьсяto seem, appear
лицоface; personдаватьto give; let, allow
сторонаside, partyпойтиto go
ногаfoot, legувидетьto see
дверьdoorостатьсяto remain, stay
работаwork, jobвыйтиto go out, come out, appear
земляearth, land, soilдатьto give
конецend, distanceработатьto work
часhour, timeлюбитьto love
голосvoiceоказатьсяfind oneself, turn out
городtown, cityответитьto answer, reply
водаwaterподуматьto think
столtable, desk; boardзначитьto mean, signify
ребёнокchild, kid, infantмотретьto take a look, watch, inspect
силаstrength, forceждатьto wait
отецfather (see #918)
машинаcar, machine, engine


случайcase, occasion, incidentнаon, it, at, to
ночьnightсwith, and, from, of
мирworld, peaceпоon, along, by
видappearance, look, viewкto, for, by
рядrow, lineуby, with, of
началоbeginning, origin, sourceизfrom, of, in
вопросquestion, matter, problemзаbehind, over, at, after
войнаwarотfrom, of, for
деньгиmoneyоof, about, against
минутаminute, momentдляfor, to
женаwifeдоto, up to, about, before
правдаtruthподunder, for, towards, to
светlight;worldприattached to, in the presence of, by, about
товарищcomrade, friendпослеafter, afterwards
дорогаroad, way, journeyчерезthrough, across
надabove, over


передbefore, in front of
ведьyou see, you knowобabout, of (see #34)
иand, thoughмеждуbetween, among
аwhile, and, butпроabout, for
будтоas if, as though

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