The Russian girl band Blestyashchie.

Russian MiniLessons: Girl Talk

Published: October 1, 2008

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

Russian has several words related to “девушка” which can all mean “girl” with varying connotations. For example, “девочка”, a diminutive form, would indicate a very young girl. “Девкa” is another derivative of the word, but a not wholly pleasant one, implying “wench” or even “harlot.” In modern slang, the plural forms “девчата” and “девчонки” are used in familiar cases between friends, but we don’t recommend trying to use them as they can also be quite offensive.

The word “девушка” also carries the extra meaning of “ma’am” in restaurant and other service settings; it is customary to call официантки by this title. A male server is commonly called “молодой человек”. These titles can be applied no matter the true age of the server and with no negative connotation.

About the author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life,, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an PhD from West Virginia University in Political Science. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource.

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Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad Programs

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