Are You Using The Right Russian Adjective To Talk About Nature? Posted by on Jun 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

As you may know, nouns and adjectives have different forms in Russian. For example, a strong wind (сильный ветер) is different from a windmill (ветряная мельница). But how do you make a noun into an adjective and how do you make sure the chosen adjective is appropriate for the situation?

Let us look at some nature-related nouns and some adjectives derived from them. Sometimes, there will be an overlap between the meanings of the different adjectives and they can be used interchangeably. I will also be listing some set expressions with the adjectives below.

Wind — Ветер

wind farm

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Ветряной — this means “powered by wind”

  • ветряная мельница — windmill

Ветреный  — “windy, characterized by high winds,” of a person: “careless, fickle”

  • ветреная погода — windy weather
  • ветреный человек — careless person

Ветровой — “pertaining to the wind”

  • ветровое стекло — windshield
  • ветровая электростанция — wind farm

Sun — Солнце

Солнечный — anything pertaining to the sun, “sunny, solar”

  • солнечные часы — sundial
  • солнечные батареи — solar panels

Water — Вода

Водный — “referring to water”

  • водные процедуры — water treatments/activities (e.g. swimming or bathing)
  • водный транспорт — water transport

Водяной — “powered by water, containing water”

  • водяной знак — watermark
  • водяная баня — bain-marie/water bath/double boiler

Fire — Огонь


Image from Pexels

Огненный — “fiery, hot, bright”

  • Огненная Земля — Tierra del Fuego

Огневой — can mean the same as above but also “pertaining to fire and its effects” or “referring to military fire”

  • огневая поддержка — fire support

Sand — Песок

Песочный — “made of sand, sand-colored,” also “shortcrust pastry

  • песочные часы — hourglass
  • песочное тесто — shortcrust pastry

Песчаный — “made of sand or covered with sand”

  • песчаные дюны — sand dunes

Earth — Земля

tractor in a field

Image from Pexels

Земляной — “pertaining to soil or consisting of it, living in the ground”

  • земляные работы — earthworks, excavation
  • земляной червь — earthworm

Земельный — “pertaining to land”

  • земельный участок — plot of land
  • земельная реформа — land reform

Земной — “pertaining to planet Earth; earthly” (as opposed to heavenly in the spiritual sense)

  • земная ось — Earth axis
  • земной шар — the globe
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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. samonen:

    Well, what can one say. Very helpful and extremely useful, so thank you very much, Maria.

    A phenomenon in Russian that I find particularly hard to grasp (including these various adjectives in this post) are (the colloquial, I guess) adjectivals (or whatever, I don’t know how to call them) derived from nouns or proper nous like “мамина комната” (mom’s room), “Танина комната” (Tanya’s room) or “Иваново детство” (Ivan’s Childhood, a movie by Tarkovsky). So: Why “Иваново” instead of “Иванино” – or something else? (I’m pretty sure there are other forms in this category as well that I can’t think of right now but have a hunch about. This reminds me of some adjectives of animals in Russian such as волчий, медвежий.)

    • Maria:

      @samonen Hm, a cursory search did not really yield any explanations as to why we use ов vs ин. Just anecdotally, and based on a hunch, it looks like nouns ending in a vowel (-a) are more likely to have -ин and nouns ending in a consonant -ов. E.g. Ваня > Ванин, Андрей > Андреев, дед > дедов. I would love to see a more official confirmation of this.

      • Mike:

        @Maria from Charles E. Townsend’s Russian Word-Formation, Slavic Publishers, 1968 and 1975:

        p. 225:

        Possessive adjectives in -ин and -ов. Adjectives in -ин are built from nouns in -а denoting persons (usually words indicating kinship) and from the diminutives (nicknames) of Christian names in -а. […] Possessive adjectives in -ов are from masculine sounds or full (non diminutive) masculine Christian names.

        p. 226:

        The type in -ин is still in some use; the type in -ов is definitely archaic. Both would be normally avoided by Russia speakers in favor of the genitive…

        • Mike:

          @Mike corrections to my post:

          1. Slavica Publishers not Slavic

          2. masculine nouns not masculine sounds

          darn autocorrect!

        • Mike:

          @Mike I’d like to add an historical note. Modern surnames such as Ivanov and Gubin were actually the original patronyms. So, Boris Ivanov was “Boris belonging to Ivan.” Hence the possessive adjective. Until 1610 only members of the Rurik royal family could use patronyms formed with -ovich. In 1610 the Tsar gave the Stroganov family permission to use -ovich.

          For a full account, Google Paul Goldschmidt’s Dictionary of Russian Names – Grammar.

        • Maria:

          @Mike Thank you, Mike, for this useful addition!