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 of these factors show the importance of mastering 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: whether the person should be addressed formally or informally, the time of day, and, for certain greetings, the individual’s gender. Let’s get started!
Informal Ways To Say Hello In Russian
The most common way to informally say hello in Russian amongst friends and family or colleagues of similar age and status 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 might translate this greeting as “howdy” in English, if you were to take out any regional connotations.
Russian women tend to use diminutive greetings with each other. We don’t really have diminutive greetings in English (“hiya” or “hi hi” come close), but Приветик (Privetik) is a cute way to say hello in Russian, and Приветики (Privetiki) sounds even cuter.
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Formal Ways To Say Hello 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.
Don’t worry — there are many options to choose from when you need to formally say hello in Russian! One is Здравствуйте (Zdravstvuite), which roughly translates 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, though, even this word gets too complicated. Здрасти (Zdrasti) is the more colloquial, shortened form. There’s also an informal version, mostly used in writing: Здравствуй (Zdravstvui), though this has another connotation. It conveys aloofness and detachment, so it’s best suited for “Dear John” letters.
What About The Time Of Day?
As with most European languages, there’s also a system of time-based ways to say hello in Russian. Доброе утро (Dobroye utro) means “good morning” and is often 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 work day. Добрый вечер (Dobry vecher), meaning “good evening,” is how TV hosts greet their nighttime viewers and how restaurant waitstaff welcome their dinnertime customers. This is also what you’d say when showing an usher 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 am in Kaliningrad, people over in Kamchatka are already eating their evening meals at 8 o’clock! Now imagine 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!”
There are a lot of ways to say hello in Russian, so we’ll say our goodbyes for now: Пока (Poka), and more on farewells next time!