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.



большой big, large, important не not
хороший good, nice бы would
новый new; modern вот here, there, this is, that’s
должный due, proper даже even
конечный final, last
нужный necessary


последний last, the latest, new он he
старый old я I
белый white это that, this, it
главный main, chief она she
они they


ты you, thou
так so, thus, then мы we
ещё still, yet вы you
уже already, by now этот this
где where который which, who, that
там there, then такой such, so, some
тут here, now, then какой what, which, how
потом afterwards, then кто who, that, some
очень very мой my, mine
теперь now, nowadays самый most, the very, the same
тоже also, as well, too другой other, another, different
сейчас now, presently, soon наш our, ours
здесь here свой my, our, your
тогда then сам myself, yourself
почему why ничто nothing
потому that’s why что what, which, that
просто simply каждый each, every
вдруг suddenly никто nobody
несколько several, some ваш yours
пока for the present твой your, yours (informal)
хорошо well своё one’s own, my, our
более more
всегда always


куда where, what for, much быть to be
сразу at once, right away, just сказать to say, to speak
совсем quite, entirely, totally мочь be able
почти almost говорить to say, to tell, to speak
много many, much знать to know, be aware
снова again стать to become, begin, come
опять again есть to eat, to be
никогда never хотеть to want, like
видеть to see
идти to go, come


стоять to stand, be, stand up
человек man, person думать to think; believe
время time, season спросить to ask
рука hand, arm жить to live
дело business, affair, matter смотреть to look, watch
глаз eye; sight сидеть to sit
жизнь life понять to understand; realize
день day иметь to have, own
голова head, mind, brains делать to do, make
друг friend взять to take
дом house, home сделать to do, make, finish
слово word понимать to understand
место place; seat казаться to seem, appear
лицо face; person давать to give; let, allow
сторона side, party пойти to go
нога foot, leg увидеть to see
дверь door остаться to remain, stay
работа work, job выйти to go out, come out, appear
земля earth, land, soil дать to give
конец end, distance работать to work
час hour, time любить to love
голос voice оказаться find oneself, turn out
город town, city ответить to answer, reply
вода water подумать to think
стол table, desk; board значить to mean, signify
ребёнок child, kid, infant мотреть to take a look, watch, inspect
сила strength, force ждать to wait
отец father (see #918)
женщина woman
машина car, machine, engine


случай case, occasion, incident на on, it, at, to
ночь night с with, and, from, of
мир world, peace по on, along, by
вид appearance, look, view к to, for, by
ряд row, line у by, with, of
начало beginning, origin, source из from, of, in
вопрос question, matter, problem за behind, over, at, after
война war от from, of, for
деньги money о of, about, against
минута minute, moment для for, to
жена wife до to, up to, about, before
правда truth под under, for, towards, to
страна country со with
свет light;world при attached to, in the presence of, by, about
мать mother без without
товарищ comrade, friend после after, afterwards
дорога road, way, journey через through, across
над above, over


перед before, in front of
ведь you see, you know об about, of (see #34)
и and, though между between, among
а while, and, but про about, for
или or
если if
хотя although
будто as if, as though
но but