Russian Language Blog

A Sign of the Times: Words with ‑знак‑ in Russian Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in language

We are continuing our popular series on Russian word “families” with this post about words with the -знак- root.

exclamation point

Image from Pixabay

Знак means “a sign,” and you may know it from the following expressions:

  • мя́гкий знак (soft sign, ь) or твёрдый знак (hard sign, ъ)
  • вопроси́тельный знак (?)
  • восклица́тельный знак (!)
  • знак ра́венства (=)
  • знак зодиа́ка (star sign)

Other than that, знак may refer to both a physical sign (like a hand signal or an emblem) and a metaphorical symbol, a token (like a sign of trust — знак доверия). Note that a posted sign (like a store sign) is usually called вывеска or указатель in case of a sign pointing you somewhere.

Доро́жные зна́ки в Финля́ндии про́сты, поня́тны и соотве́тствуют европе́йским станда́ртам.
Road signs in Finland are simple, clear, and meet European standards.
[Федор Беркутов. Куда хочу, туда качу (2000) // «Туризм и образование», 2000.06.15]


Признак is close to знак in the metaphorical sense; it is the attribute or evidence of something. In the medical sense, признак is a synonym of симптом (symptom). По + adjective in the dative case + признаку means “based on…” (e.g. по национальному признаку, “based on ethnicity”).

Зна́ние англи́йского языка́ ― при́знак культу́рного челове́ка.
Knowing English is the hallmark of a well-rounded person.
[И. Грекова. В вагоне (1983)]


As an adjective, знаковый can refer to literal signs or symbols, e.g. знаковая система, sign system. More often, it refers to an important, “flagship” person or thing or a turning point.

Тре́тий-четвёртый века́ до на́шей э́ры для мно́гих цивилиза́ций ста́ли зна́ковыми.
The 3rd and 4th centuries BC were seminal for many civilizations.
[Юлия Першина. Эвмен и Чжао Гао // «Знание – сила», 2010]


Значение refers to meaning. Some related words are означать or обозначать (to mean), значимый and значительный (significant). Значение can also refer to a mathematical or computing value. “Иметь значение” is “to matter.”

Начи́нка в э́том пироге́ име́ет важне́йшее значе́ние.
The filling of this pie is of paramount importance.
[Роща из… теста // «Народное творчество», 2003]


Image from Pixabay


Назначать means to appoint (or to schedule), and the related noun is назначение. This verb can also mean to prescribe, as in a drug or a treatment. Назначение can also mean “purpose,” e.g. “использовать по назначению,” “to use as intended.”

Сва́дьбу назна́чили на коне́ц ию́ня.
The wedding was scheduled for the end of June.
[Ирина Муравьева. Мещанин во дворянстве (1994)]


Однозначный means clear, unambiguous, and the related adverb is однозначно. Interestingly enough, similar compound words with other numbers (двузначный, трёхзначный…) refer to the number of digits in a number (two-digit, three-digit, etc.).

Ситуа́ция доста́точно сложна́ и запу́тана для того́, что́бы дать однозна́чный прогно́з.
The situation is rather too complex and complicated to be able to give an unequivocal forecast.
[Алексей Полухин. Терминатор на фондовом рынке (2003) // «Время МН», 2003.08.02]

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

About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. awni:

    i wish to help me to learn russain language. thank you