A greeting is our very first point of contact when we approach someone — it’s a social cue, a sort of password, to opening up a conversation. The way we greet someone can reveal our mood, reflect our personality, and even give clues to our social or regional background. All these factors demonstrate the importance of mastering the appropriate salutations when learning a new language! So are you wondering how to say hello in Russian?
In Russian, there are three things to pay attention to when deciding on a greeting: the time of day, whether the person should be addressed formally or informally and, for certain greetings, the individual’s gender.
Informal Greetings In Russian
The most common greeting used amongst friends and family, or amongst colleagues of similar age and status (A.K.A. people you can address informally) is Привет (Privet) — meaning “Hello” or “Hi.” Among Russian men, you often hear the slightly more rough-sounding Здорово (Zdorovo), generally followed by a firm handshake. You could translate this greeting as “Howdy” in English, but without any regional connotations.
As for Russian women, they tend to use diminutive forms of greetings with each other. We don’t have diminutive greetings in English, but using Приветик (Privetik) sounds like a cute way to say “hello,” and Приветики (Privetiki) sounds even cuter.
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Formal Greetings In Russian
That said, the greetings detailed above are absolutely prohibited if you are addressing someone you don’t know, especially if they are noticeably older than you. This is something you should take special care to avoid in Russia because using an informal greeting at the wrong time is often viewed as very insulting.
Still, there are many options to choose from when formally greeting people. One is Здравствуйте (Zdravstvuite), which translates roughly to “How do you do?” If you’re worried about the pronunciation, don’t stress too much. Even native speakers seem to have trouble articulating the word, so the first в is simply skipped over in speech: Zdrastvuite!
For daily usage, even this is too complicated — Здрасти (Zdrasti) is the colloquial shortened form. There is also an informal version, mostly used in writing: Здравствуй (Zdravstvui). This word has a further connotation, however: It conveys aloofness and detachment, so it’s best suited for a “Dear John” letter.
What About The Time Of Day?
As in most European languages, Russian also has a system of time-based greetings. Доброе утро (Dobroye utro) means “Good morning” and can often be heard before noon. Добрый день (Dobry den’), or “Good day,” is a stylistically neutral, polite greeting that can be used until the end of the working day. Добрый вечер (Dobry vecher), meaning “Good evening,” is how TV hosts greet their viewers on night-time shows, how waitstaff in a restaurant greet you at dinner time and what you say when showing your ticket for an evening performance at the theater.
One Greeting For Many Time Zones
Did you know that Russia has 11 time zones? (Yes, you read that correctly — eleven.) When it’s 10 in the morning in Kaliningrad, the people in Kamchatka are already eating their evening meal at 8 o’clock! Now imagine that you’re in a Russian chatroom and have no idea what time of day it is for the person you’re chatting with. How do you greet them then? Worry not: an extra greeting has been invented for exactly this kind of situation! The Russian word сутки (sutki) denotes one 24-hour period, and from this we get Доброго времени суток (Dobrogo vremeni sutok) — literally “Good around-the-clock!”
That’s a lot of Russian greetings to take in for now, so we’ll say our goodbyes: Пока (Poka)! And more on farewells next time!