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A Sight to Behold: “Vision” Words with -з(о)р- in Russian Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in language

Many readers have commented they enjoy learning related words in “families.” Today, we will look at a group of words with the root -зр-/-зор-, all having to do with seeing.

cat looking up

Image from Pexels

Зрение — Vision

The most basic word in this family is зрение (vision, eyesight). This refers to the physiological ability to perceive things with your eyes and cannot be used metaphorically. For example, your vision of a situation is видение, not зрение. Точка зрения means “point of view.”

У первых многоклеточных животных органы зрения были крайне примитивны.
First multicellular organisms had extremely primitive organs of vision.
[Александр Зайцев. Загадки эволюции: Краткая история глаза // «Знание — сила», 2003]

Зрачок is a related concept and refers to the pupil of the eye.

Finally, зоркий means “observant” or “sharp-sighted.”

Зритель — Spectator

The audience of a performance may collectively be referred to as зрители (“spectators”). Note that this can only be said about a play, a film, or a concert; an audience of a radio show would be called слушатели (“listeners”). Зрелище is the word for a spectacle.

Зрители могут принести на концерт подарки и сувениры.
The audience can bring gifts and souvenirs to the concert.
[Юбилейный концерт будет благотворительным (2004) // «Московский комсомолец» в Саранске, 2004.12.23]

Позор — Shame

This word is a “false friend” with other Slavic languages, where it means “attention.” In Russian, позор refers to a shameful situation or spectacle, a disgrace. Note that the sense of shame is called стыд.

58 лет жизни среднего российского мужчины ― разве это не позор?
The 58-year life expectancy for an average Russian male, is it not a disgrace?
[Виктор Лихачев. У природы нет плохой погоды (2003) // «Встреча» (Дубна), 2003.05.07]

Подозрение — Suspicion

Подозрение is actually a calque of the Latin “suspicio,” with под- and sub- meaning “under” and “зр-” and “spec-” meaning “to look.” A suspect in judicial proceedings is called подозреваемый.

Если у подозреваемого будут обнаружены помеченные купюры, он может сказать, что взял их в долг или ему вернули долг.
If the suspect if discovered to be in possession of marked bills, he can say he borrowed them or received them as loan repayment.
[Сергей Николаев. Эволюция взятки (2003) // «Богатей» (Саратов), 2003.09.25]

Воззрение — Outlook

glasses on top of an open page

Image from Pixabay

Воззрения (usually plural) is the word for someone’s opinions. A popular derivative is мировоззрение (world view; literally “Weltanschauung” for the German lovers out there).

Предубеждённые люди видят только то, что совпадает с их мировоззрением.
Biased people only see what confirms their world view.
[Филипп Гузенюк. «Дао HR-директора» // Coach, 2008]

Обзор — Overview

Обзор is the word for an overview. The adjective form обзорный may be used with several nouns, e.g. “обзорная экскурсия” (sightseeing tour).

Бору предоставлялась возможность выступить с обзором новейшего развития квантовой теории.
Bohr was given the opportunity to present an overview of the latest developments in quantum theory.
[Д. С. Данин. Нильс Бор (1969-1975)]

Презрение — Contempt

Презрение is the word for contempt. The adjective is презрительный. This should not be confused with призрение, the somewhat dated word for charity or care.

Презрение к рекламе ― это неотъемлемое качество американского интеллигента.
Contempt for advertising is an indespensable quality of the American intellectual.
[Василий Аксенов. Круглые сутки нон-стоп // «Новый Мир», 1976]

Прозрачный — Transparent

fish bowl

Image from Unsplash

Finally, прозрачный quite literally means “see-through.” Прозрачность (transparency) can also be used metaphorically referring to government or business accountability.

Количество созданных рабочих мест ― один из самых простых и прозрачных критериев оценки компаний.
The numebr of jobs created is one of the most simple and transparent criteria for evaluating companies.
[Дмитрий Карцев. Самый нужный бизнес // «Русский репортер», 2013]

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a trained Russian translator. Originally hailing from Russia, she now lives in Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. When she's not at her computer, she is dancing, out taking photographs or practicing German or Spanish at local language meetups. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


  1. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    Thank you for another interesting and helpful blog. I especially like this format of discussing families of words since I have a pretty good knowledge of the basics but can always use more information regarding vocabulary etc. The one thing I missed this time is that no accents were indicated. I became aware of this when I said some of the words in the blog out loud. I know enough Russian to know where most of the accents are but Russian can always surprise one with accent placement. This often happens with Russian names when the Russian pronunciation is different from the American. I sometimes “Google” a Russian name in cyrillic because some sites will indicate the accented syllables.

    • Maria:

      @Moonyeen Albrecht Thank you, Moonyeen! I used purple highlights to indicate word stress this time. Do they appear on your end? I agree that stress is very important and unpredictable, even for native speakers.

  2. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    Maria, no they don’t show up on my computer. Sorry.

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