Words that sound alike in Russian

with 10 Comments

No matter how many times my husband rolls his eyes at me, I still mix up образование, education and обрезание, circumcision. Embarrassing! (And now we can toss the обозрения from колесо обозрения, Ferris wheel into the fray.)

Is necklace ожерелье? Or is it оружие? No, wait- оружие is guns, right?

When I ask native speakers about the similarities between these words, they’re shocked. “What are you talking about?!  Пятница, Friday and пьяница, drunkard don’t sound anything alike!!” It’s the same way I feel when my Ukrainian students confuse recipe and receipt. “I found a delicious receipt on Pinterest yesterday, yum.” 😉

Anyway, here are the words that I’ve struggled with- the master list of Russian words that sound alike to my ears. Some of them I’ve conquered, like the Friday/drunkard pair, but others I still hesitate over. Let’s just say I’ve found many creative ways to avoid using the word education.


1. Женя

2. жена


5. пламя

6. племя


9. пятница

10. пьяница


13. ожерелье

14. оружие

1. nickname (Евгения/ий)

2. wife


5. flame

6. tribe


9. Friday

10. drunkard


13. necklace

14. guns


3. бремя

4. время


7. деревья

8. деревня


11. образование

12. обрезание


15. эффектный

16. эффективный

3. burden

4. time


7. trees

8. village


11. education

12. circumcision


15. showy, spectacular

16. effective


April 2016 update from a student:

Well, when you put Женя/жена into dative (кому? чему?) they are the same)
Сказать Жене / сказать жене
That what confuses even us, native Russian speakers)


And I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW that there’s a нечего and a ничего!!! Mind blown! Did you know this?

нечиго or ничего


What’s the difference?

Here’s the simple explanation.

Here’s the complex explanation.

And here’s the explanation that opens a whole other can of worms


There’s a whole world of paronyms out there, I’m telling you. If you’re ready for more, check out:



Which Russian words confuse you?

10 Responses

  1. J.T.
    | Reply

    Very helpful. I admit to confusing деревья with деревня, and образование with обрезание as well.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Привет Джей-Т!

      Glad this post was useful to you! It’s funny- when I’m reading what you’ve typed, it’s totally clear… but when saying them out loud, ugh 😉 Anyway, hope your Russian studies and reading plans are going well this week.


  2. kto-to
    | Reply

    количество and качество always, thought I guess “quantity” and “quality” isn’t much better. смысл and мысль for some reason.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      You just blew my mind with смысл and мысль. That’s a really good one!! I love your name too 😉 You must be one of those who has mastered the -то / -нибудь conundrum.

  3. kto-to
    | Reply


  4. kto-to
    | Reply

    Oops I know -to and -libo but I forgot about -nibud’. Guess I’ve got something to learn today! Do you understand the difference?

    I just remembered лошадь and площадь gets me too. Even now I have no idea which is which :S

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      I don’t totally understand the difference, and I’d forgotten about -libo, oops! But I’ll note the -to / -libo / -nibud for a future post of confusing words, thanks.

      Лошадь and площадь is clever too. You’ve got an eye for these 😉

  5. Werminister
    | Reply

    Here is smthg funny for you.. try to translate. 😉

    Косил косой косой косой. )))

  6. […] year I shared a list of words that sound alike in Russian, like образование = education and обрезание = circumcision. (Yes, that […]

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