Russian Language Blog

Деньги, деньги, деньги! [Money, money, money!] Posted by on Jun 3, 2009 in Culture, History, language

There are many words in Russian which are easy to learn and remember because they are very close in both orthography and pronunciation to many words in other Indo-European languages. For example, the word «кризис» means ‘crisis’, and is spelled – even pronounced! – almost the same as the English word: just remember it begins with a «к», has a «з» in the middle, that the stress falls on the first «и» and then you’re ready to go. In this time of «кризис» let’s talk «о деньгах» [about money]. The Russian word for money – «деньги» – is in fact not a Russian word at all. Our close friend «Этимологический словарь русского языка М. Фасмера» [M. Vasmer’s Etymologic Dictionary of Russian Language] tells us the following about this word: «заимствованное из татарского и чагатайского (староузбекского) языков: täŋkä – деньги, серебряная монета. Источник этого слова искали в среднеперсидском и новоперсидском словах: dāng, dānag – монета» [borrowed from Tatar and Chagatai (old Uzbek language): täŋkä – money, silver coin. The source for this word has been sought in the Middle Persian and New Persian words: dāng, dānag – coin]. Fasmer points out in his dictionary that the Russian word is not from the Turkish words tamga, damga. Good someone finally cleared that one up!

The Russian word «деньги» is plural, and even though it has the singular form «деньга», this form is never used in speech in Russia. So then why do we need to know that this word is a feminine noun to begin with? I’ll tell you and you’ll thank me for it afterwards – when we put this word through Russian language’s tricky labyrinth of six cases we are very much in need of knowledge of the word’s initial form. Genitive plural of this word is «денег» – but wait, where did this new «е» come from? Actually, there is a hint at it in the nominative plural form «деньги», yes, you guessed it: the «ь» [soft sign] tells us that if an extra vowel should enter this word (which happens not always, but often enough for one to be aware of this when learning new Russian words – one can never be too prepared!) then it must be a soft one, which, of course, «е» is. And why do we need to know this word’s plural genitive form? Because it is the form always used when something is lacking or not existing at all, which we know often happens especially to money. Good expressions to use are, for example: «Нет денег!» [‘There is no money!’] and «Денег не хватает» [‘There’s not enough money’].

The money used in Russian is known as «рубль» [ruble]. A «ь» [soft sign] at the end of words in Russian marks not only that a soft vowel should be added to it when changing according to different cases, but that is word is EITHER feminine or masculine. This you can never ‘guess’ just by looking at a Russian word – even if you were to look really, really close at a word for a really, really long time – this you must try to remember with every new word ending on a soft sign that you learn. I’ll help you out with «рубль», though, and tell you that it’s masculine. «Рубль» is a ‘true’ Russian word since it comes from the Old Russian word «рубль» meaning «обрубок, затычка» [stump, stopper (plug)]. Think of the verb «рубить» [impf.: to chop; to chop down; cut down; fell; to slash]! Since this word ends on a soft sign it should change form in the following way by help of the soft vowels «я» and «е»: «два рубля» [two rubles], «десять рублей» [ten rubles], «в рублях» [in rubles] and so on.

In Russia the money – I mean, of course, the rubles – have different cities on them. I think this is pretty interesting, but that might just be me. Be sure to take a closer look at your rubles when in Russia, because not only are there different historical Russian cities on them, but also monuments connected with these cities. Can you guess which ones? And who the people on the Russian money are? Anyway, here’s a list of cities found on Russian rubles:

«10 (десять) рублей – Красноярск» [Krasnoyarsk]

«50 (пятьдесять) рублей – Санкт-Петербург» [Saint Petersburg]

«100 (сто) рублей – Москва» [Moscow]

«500 (пятьсот) рублей – Архангельск» [Archangelsk]

«1000 (тысяча) рублей – Ярославль» [Yaroslavl]

«5000 (пять тысяч) рублей – Хабаровск» [Khabarovsk]

I’ve only owned «Хабаровск» twice in my Russian life – the first time I ever received that large an amount of money was in December 2008, which means that I lived here for four and a half year without ever seeing 5000 rubles up close. This bill is the prettiest bill of them all – not solely because it is a lot of money – but because it’s brick red!

Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Jeff Huestis:

    I really enjoyed this. I’d never even considered the possibility of borrowings from Tatar or Chagatai (wasn’t that Babur’s mother tongue?). But of course it makes sense.