Beyond «рука» and «нога»: Words for (outside) body parts Posted by Rob on Aug 15, 2012 in language, Russian for beginners
When you first begin studying Russian, one of the things they tell you is that рука can be translated as either “hand” or “arm” — and similarly, нога can mean either “foot” or “leg.” Well, that’s pretty darn convenient for the beginning student, with fewer new words to memorize!
But wait — what if you really NEED to say, precisely, “the part of my нога between the toes and the ankle”? And how do you say “ankle,” for that matter? In this post, we’ll take a look at some of those more specific terms for your external body parts — thereby completing our look at human anatomy that began with a journey through the digestive tract.
After you’ve read this post, you’ll know the Russian names for most of the parts depicted!
Let’s first take a minute to review the declension for a noun you may already know: голова (“head”).
Notice that in the acc. sg. and nom./acc. pl., the stress shifts from the ending to the first syllable го-, while in the gen. pl., the stress is on the second syllable -лов-. But in all the other forms, the word is “ending stressed.” Theoretically, the gen. pl. is ending-stressed, too, but since the genitive plural of feminine nouns typically has a “null ending” (aka “Ø-ending”), the stress is forced back onto the stem, as it has nowhere else to go! And the nouns рука and нога follow essentially the same stress-shifting pattern: all forms are ending-stressed except acc. sg., nom./acc. pl., and gen. pl., which are stem-stressed.
With that grammar lesson out of the way, let’s check out some vocabulary, beginning with…
Parts of/on the голова (“head”)
The human face as a whole is лицо, but we can divide it into smaller parts. The forehead is лоб (gen. sg. лба), and right below that we find the брови (“eyebrows”; gen. pl. бровей). You may already know глаза (“eyes”), but around each глаз you’ll find веки (“eyelids”; nom. sg. веко) as well as ресницы (“eyelashes”).
On either side of the head are the уши (“ears”; gen. pl. ушей; nom. sing. ухо). But if you decide to get your ears pierced for a серьга (“earring”), you may want to specify whether you want the hole in the мочка (“earlobe”) or in the раковина (the cartilaginous upper part of the ear — lit., “seashell”).
Two other words you might already know are нос (“nose”) and рот (“mouth”; gen. sg. рта). But to either side of these you’ll find a щека (“cheek”; nom. pl. щёки). And the holes in your нос that you breathe through are the ноздри (“nostrils”, nom. sg. ноздря). Towards the bottom of the face, we have the челюсть (“jawbone; [lower] jaw”) and the подбородок (“chin”) — note that this word derives from под бородой, “under the beard.” Finally, the шея (“neck”) connects the head with the туловище (“torso”). Before we move down from the head, however, let’s check out the declension of челюсть — simply because it’s a good model for feminine nouns ending in ь, and we’ll be seeing a number of those as we continue:
|челюсть (“lower jaw, jawbone”)|
(Unfortunately, not ALL feminine nouns in ь have predictable stress-shift to the ending in the gen. pl., dat. pl., inst. pl., and prep. pl., as челюсть does — but it’s a relatively common pattern. For instance, бровь, “eyebrow,” is бровям in the dat. pl..)
Parts of the туловище (“torso”)
As you may already know, спина refers to the entire back, and not just the “spine”. E.g., говорить о ком-нибудь за спиной is “to talk about someone behind their back.” But other parts of the torso include the грудь (fem.), which means “chest” in the singular but is generally understood as “(female) breasts” in the plural form груди. Whether female or male, all mammals have соски (“nipples”); however, don’t confuse the singular сосок (“a mammalian nipple”) with соска (“a rubber nipple on a baby’s bottle”). Finally, towards the bottom of the туловище, we have — in front — a живот (“belly, abdomen, stomach”) and — in back — the ягодица (“the buttocks”, politely).
Parts of the рука (“arm”)
The joint between the arm and the torso is the плечо (“shoulder”; nom. pl. плечи), which can also refer to the “upper arm” all the way down to the локоть (“elbow”, masc., gen. sg. локтя). Between the локоть and the запястье (“wrist”) is the предплечье (“forearm”). And everything below the wrist, which is to say the “hand” in the English sense, can be referred to as the кисть (fem.). But the soft, fleshy, front part of the кисть — i.e., the “palm” that a Gypsy fortuneteller reads — is the ладонь (fem.). Sticking out from the hand are the пальцы (“fingers”, nom. sg. палец). And, finally, the convenient word горсточка literally means “the palm and fingers formed into a cupped position,” but more often refers to the approximate quantity that will fit inside a cupped hand. So, if a Russian recipe calls for горсточка изюма, it means you need to add “about a handful of raisins.”
Parts of the нога (“leg”)
Again, let’s start at the туловище (“torso”). The legs connect to the torso at the таз (“pelvis, hipbone”). Moving downward, we first come to the бедро (“thigh”; nom. pl. бёдра). Continuing down the leg: колено is “knee,” and the noun is also used when translating the verb “to kneel”. Thus, “to kneel” — i.e., “to get into a kneeling position” — can be rendered with вставать/встать на колени (lit., “to stand onto the knees,” with “knees” in the accusative), while “to be kneeling” can be стоять на коленах (lit., “to be standing on the knees,” with “knees” in the prepositional).
Below the knee, we’ve got the boney “shin”, which in Russian is голень (fem.). But “calf” as in the fleshy back part of the lower leg is икра (nom. pl. икры) — which, for some baffling reason, is the same as the word for “caviar”!
And, at last, we come to the foot. The “footbone’s connected to the shinbone” via the “ankle,” which has two Russian translations: either лодыжка or щиколотка, take your pick. And the “foot” itself — the part that goes into a shoe — is the стопа.
P.S. That mostly covers it for the human body, but there are a few other terms that are different for non-human creatures. For example, the long-nosed face of a horse or a cat or a hamster is properly called a морда (“muzzle”). Using this word for people (instead of лицо) creates a humorous or slangy effect: Я его ударил по морде, “I punched him in the kisser.”
Similarly, брюхо is the normal, polite word for the “abdomen” of an animal. But when you use this word for humans (instead of the usual живот), the meaning is more like “potbelly” or “big beer-gut”!
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