How to Say “I am Single” in Russian Posted by yelena on Aug 28, 2013 in Culture, language
Superstitious Russian young ladies know that May is the worst month to tie the knot. As the saying goes, в мае выйти замуж – век маяться (to get married in May is to throw life away). Which sounds like a perfect excuse for single men to stay холостой just a bit longer.
And the adjective холостой is today’s word. It means “single, never married”, but usually applies to men. A man who is холостой is known as холостяк. If we’re talking about a single, never married woman, we might say she’s a холостячка. Actually, the Russian-language versions of the popular reality TV shows, Bachelor and Bachelorette are called Холостяк and Холостячка respectively (you can find old seasons on YouTube).
Technically холостяк is someone who is neither contemplating marriage nor actively looking for his вторая половина (the second half). Not to say that холостяк cannot change his mind on the issue. That’s exactly what happened to старый холостяк (a confirmed bachelor) character in the now-classic Ирония судьбы (the Irony of Fate) comedy.
Someone who chooses to stay single for a while is also known as убеждённый холостяк (a committed bachelor) or закоренелый холостяк (an old bachelor, lit: someone rooted in bachelorhood). The two most famous закоренелые холостяки of Russian classical literature are, of course, Евгений Онегин (the hero of A. Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin”) and Григорий Печорин (the hero of M. Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”). I can’t think of a single закоренелая холостячка of the Russian classical literature, can you?
Speaking of marital situations, here are the options we have when disclosing анкетные данные (personal information).
Холост – single, never married
Не женат – unmarried (although might have been in the past)
Женат – married (known informally as женатик as in Я влюбилась в женатика (I fell for a married guy))
Разведён – divorced
Вдовец – widower
Не замужем – unmarried (while a woman can write in холостая, it doesn’t seem common)
Замужем – married
Разведена – divorced
Вдова – widow
Now, you might think that the lifestyle a single person leads, the unmarried life, is called холостая жизнь. Well, turns out there is another, a bit more common, phrase for it and it’s холостяцкая жизнь.
Энрике Иглесиас решил наконец-то расстаться с холостой жизнью – Enrique Iglesias has finally decided to say goodbye to bachelorhood.
Яичница на ужин – это по-холостяцки. – Fried eggs for dinner – that’s bachelor style.
Плюсы и минусы холостяцкой жизни – Pluses and minuses of being single.
But what would you make of this headline:
Путин обвинил правительство в “холостой работе” по поддержке экономики.
Is the Russian President accusing government officials of bachelorhood? Are they failing to support the economy by being single? What exactly is “холостая работа”?
The answer is in another meaning of the word холостой which is idle, not producing any results. For example, blank ammunition is холостые патроны. To idle a car is to run it на холостом ходу.
So it appears the President chastised his government for working without producing any results, for idling.
Finally, if you have a bachelor’s degree in something or other, the correct word to use is бакалавр as in
Я наконец-то получила диплом бакалавра лингвистики – I finally received my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics
And now, you can 1) read Eugene Onegin and/or A Hero of Our Time, either in the original Russian or in English; 2) learn about Russian wedding customs and related words here; 3) watch a comedy Женатый холостяк (A Married Bachelor) here or 4) compile a list of bachelors and bachelorettes of Russian classical literature.
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