Word Origin: English, Russian and Ukrainian Words with Common Roots

Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
R.W. Emerson

This is page 2 about the word origin and history featuring some English, Ukrainian and Russian words that have common roots. Click here to go to word origins page 1.

Below is a table containing Ukrainian and Russian words that have common Greek, Latin and Indo-European roots with relevant English words. See if you can figure out the meanings of these Ukrainian and Russian words. Hints in English will make the task easier. Type your guess in the spaces under "Meaning". Then push the buttons "?”"to see how accurate your guess is.

Word Origins:
Guess English words based on Russian and Ukrainian equivalents that have the same meaning
Russian, Ukrainian words Meaning Check
медаль (Ru, Uk) 1/
медицина (Ru, Uk) 2/
музей (Ru, Uk) 3/
пенсия (Ru), пенсія (Uk) 4/
период (Ru),
період (Uk) 5/
персона (Ru, Uk) 6/
соль (Ru)
сіль (Uk) 7/
семь (Ru),
сім (Uk)8/


1/ Flat piece of metal, usually shaped like a coin, with words and a design stamped on it, given as an award for bravery, to commemorate something, or for distinction in scholarship

2/ The art and science of the prevention and cure of disease

3/ Building in which objects illustrating art, history, science etc. are displayed

4/ Regular payment made by the State to somebody old, disabled or widowed, or by a former employer to an employee after long service

5/ The interval between certain happenings

6/ Man, woman

7/ White substance obtained from mines, present in sea-water and obtained from it by evaporation, used to flavor and preserve food

8/ The number 7

Read more about the word origin and history of these words: medal, medicine, museum, pension, period, person, salt, seven

1. Word origins: medal; медаль (Ru, Uk)

The source of correspondences is the Greek language: 'metallaō' (" to explore, to prospect, to find out about") → 'metallum' ("fossil, ore"). Latin borrowed that word from Greek. Originally, Latin 'metallum' meant "ore, metal", later - "a metal article". With time, that word transformed into 'metallia' and its meaning changed to "a metal coin". From Latin, this word penetrated into many languages. Compare: 'medaglia' (Italian), 'medaille' (French).

English 'medal' was borrowed from French in the 16th century. Originally, it meant a round metal plate with an image drawn on it. In the 17th century, a medal became a decoration, a reward for bravery, merit, etc.

Russian 'медаль' was borrowed from French in the 18th century. Before that borrowing, Russians used 'медалия', a loanword from Italian that came into use in the epoch of Tsar Peter I. With time, that word was replaced by 'медаль'.

Ukrainian 'медаль' came to the language, apparently, from Latin through Polish.

Additional info: At the beginning of the 18th century, Russian soldiers received gold and silver coins ('монета') as awards for feats of arms. A soldier made a hole in such a coin and fastened the coin to his military uniform. At the same time, the mint began to stamp gold and silver medals that were similar to coins in form and weight. Therefore, Russian official documents often used the word 'монета' (coin) instead of 'медаль' (medal).

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2. Word origins: medicine; медицина (Ru, Uk)

Etymological correspondences are of Latin origin: 'medior' ("to treat medically, to salve") → 'medicus' ("a doctor, a healer") → 'medicīna' ("healing; a relief; a place where a doctor sees patients").

English 'medicine' was borrowed from Latin through Old French ('medecine', 'medicine')

Russian 'медицина' was borrowed from Latin - perhaps through Polish ('medycyna') - during the reign of Peter the First.

Ukrainian 'медицина', apparently, was borrowed from Latin through Polish too.

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3. Word origins: museum; музей (Ru, Uk)

Etymological correspondences come from Greek 'mouseion' ("a philosophical school with a library"; literally: "a dwelling-place of Muses, mythological patrons of the arts and sciences; a temple of Muses"). Latin borrowed this word from Greek. Latin 'mūsēum' meant "a library, an academy; a museum". With that new meaning the word penetrated into many other languages.

The English language borrowed the word 'museum' from Latin.

Russian 'музей' was borrowed from Latin through Polish or German in the 16th century: 'muzeum' (Polish), 'Museum'(German).

Ukrainian 'музей' was borrowed though the same channel: from Latin through Polish or German.

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4. Word origins: pension; пенсия (Ru); пенсія (Uk)

Etymological correspondences are of Latin origin. Latin 'pēnsiō' ("weight" that semantically evolved into "payment") is a derivative from 'pendere' ("to weigh", "to pay"). With time, the meaning "payment" narrowed and was used as "a pension" in the modern sense of this word.

English 'pension' was borrowed from French. The word penetrated into French from Latin: 'pēnsiō' (Latin) → 'pension' (French).

Russian 'пенсия' and Ukrainian 'пенсія' were borrowed from Latin through Polish ('pensja').

Additional info: The semantic evolution of Latin 'pendere' from "to weigh" to "to pay" was due to the fact that in antiquity people weighed items used as a monetary unit and paid with them for goods. The custom has survived to this day: some African tribes exchange goods taking into account their weight.

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5. Word origins: period; период (Ru); період (Uk)

The source of correspondences is of Greek origin: 'periodos' ("circulation; a circle", where 'peri-' means "round" and '-odos' means "a way, a journey"). From Greek the word was borrowed by Latin ('periodus'). Later, other languages borrowed this word from Latin.

English 'period' was borrowed from Latin through French ('periode').

In the Russian language, the word 'период' appeared in the 18th century. This word was borrowed from French.

Ukrainian 'період' was borrowed from Russian.

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6. Word origins: person; персона (Ru, Uk)

-- Stylistically neutral words are words equally suitable for any communicative situation. The basic word-stock of any language is stylistically neutral.
-- Stylistically colored words are words possessing a stylistic meaning. They are suitable only for certain communicative situations. They can be used only on certain definite occasion. Dictionaries categorize them as archaic, bookish, colloquial, vulgar, poetical and so on.
A common notion expressed by this word is "a human being, an individual". However, in the Russian and Ukrainian languages this notion is somewhat narrowed: "a human being as a personality". Furthermore, Russian and Ukrainian equivalents are stylistically colored and are used in the language much less frequently as compared with English 'person'.

The word 'person' is of Latin origin: 'personāre' meant "to sound loudly", where 'per-' was an intensifying prefix and 'sonāre' meant "to sound". That word transformed into 'persōna' which originally meant "a theatrical mask".

English 'person' was borrowed from Latin through Old French: persōna (Latin) → persone, persoune (Old French) → person (English).

Russian and Ukrainian words 'персона' were borrowed from Latin through Polish ('persona'). In the Russian language, the word 'персона' has existed since the first half of the 17th century.

Additional info: The meaning of 'persōna' as "a theatrical mask" is related to the history of ancient Roman theatre. In Ancient Rome, performances were held in the open air on large stages (arenas) surrounded by rows of spectator seats. Spectators sat far from actors. To be more distinguishable, actors played in colorful masks that corresponded to the nature of personages they played. The masks were equipped with megaphones and had special coating that amplified the actors' voice. Hence arose the original meaning of 'persōna' as "a mask, a personage".

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7. Word origins: salt; соль (Ru); сіль (Uk)

This word has Indo-European roots. Compare: Greek '(h)als' ("salt"; "a sea"), Latin 'sāl' ("salt"), Latvian 'sāls' ("salt").

English 'salt' has evolved as follows: Old English 'sealt' → Middle English 'salt' → Modern English 'salt'. Cognates in other languages: Gothic 'salt', Old High German and Middle High German 'salz', German 'Salz', Dutch 'zout', Danish and Norwegian 'salt', Swedish 'sol', Icelandic 'sölt'.

Russian 'соль' and Ukrainian 'сіль' are of Common Slavic origin (solь').

Additional info: People have consumed salt from time immemorial. Plato, a Classical Greek philosopher, referred to it as "a favorite substance of Gods". Salt was a measure of a household’s welfare. Salt has been and is a sign of hospitality (there is a tradition to present guests with an offering of bread and salt as a token of a hearty welcome). The value of salt was often compared to that of gold. As long ago as 1930s, pressed salt bars, which traditionally served as a currency, were kept in bank safes along with bars of gold in Ethiopia. It is known that Roman legionaries were paid in salt. In the 19th century, salt was luxury in a Russian peasant house. Only wealthy families could "солоно хлебать" (i.e. eat salted food).

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8. Word origins: seven; семь (Ru); сім (Uk)

This word has Indo-European roots. Compare cognates: Old Indian 'sapta', Greek 'hepta', Latin 'septem', Lithuanian 'septyni', Latvian 'septiņi'.

English 'seven' has evolved as follows: Old English 'seofon', 'syofon' → Middle English 'seoven', 'seven' → Modern English 'seven'.

Russian 'семь' and Ukrainian 'сім' are of Common Slavic origin. Old Russian 'седмъ' ("seventh") evolved into 'седмь' ("seven"), while 'дм' simplified to 'м'. In that way, the ordinal number 'седмъ' ("seventh") evolved into the cardinal number 'седмь' ("seven"). In the Ukrainian language, the sound [м] became hard, while the letter 'е' changed to 'і' in a closed syllable.

Additional info: The word 'seven’ is part of many proverbs and sayings:

  • Ru: Семь раз отмерь – один раз отрежь.
    Uk: Сім раз відміряй, а раз відріж.
    En: Measure twice and cut once.
  • Ru: Семь бед – один ответ.
    Uk: Сім бід – один одвіт.
    En: As well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.
  • Ru: Семь пятниц на неделе.
    Uk: Сім п’ятниць на тиждень.
    En: Changeable as a weather cock.
  • Ru: У семи нянек дитя без глаза.
    Uk: Сім баб – сім рад, а дитя безпупе.
    En: Everybody’s business is nobody’s business.

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Sources used in this compilation:

Л.Ю. Куштенко. Этимологический справочник учителя английского языка – Киев, «Радянська школа», 1987
A.S. Hornby. Oxford Student's Dictionary of Current English – Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1984

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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