Russian Language Blog

Into The Woods: Tree Names in Russian — Part I Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in language

In my own language-learning endeavo(u)rs, I often find that I have the vocabulary to talk about more abstract subject like governance or culture but don’t know the words for objects in the physical world. If you have that problem, too, you may want to look at our posts about fruit and vegetables, planets, and birds. To help you grow your vocabulary, here are some trees you may see around Russia or read about in Russian.

birch trees

Image from Pixabay

Берёза — Birch

Easily recognized by its white trunk (ствол), берёза (birch) is considered a symbol of Russia. Common phrases with берёза include

  • берёзовый сок (birch sap)
  • берёзовая роща (birch grove)

В ру́сском языке́ сло́во берёза ― э́то не то́лько определённый тип де́рева, но и ассоциа́ция с не́жной красото́й родно́й земли́.
In Russian, the word “birch” is not only a specific kind of tree but also associated with the tender beauty of the native land.
[И. Г. Милославский. Говорим правильно по смыслу или по форме? (2013)]

One of the best-known folk songs is “Во поле берёза стояла” (“A Birch Stood in The Field”).

Дуб — Oak

Дуб is the Russian for an oak. Дуб is also said colloquially to refer to a stupid person. A related word is дубина (a wooden club).

На ка́менных пли́тах двора́ лежа́ли жёлтые и ора́нжевые листья ду́ба.
Yellow and orange oak leaves were lying on the stone tiles of the yard.
[Александр Солженицын. В круге первом, т.1, гл. 1-25 (1968) // «Новый Мир», 1990]

Клён — Maple

maple leaves

Image from Pixabay

Клён (maple) is known for the pretty shape of its leaves and its bright colo(u)r in the fall. There are several expressions related to клён:

  • кленовый лист (maple leaf)
  • кленовый сироп (maple syrup)

О́сенью заме́тил на у́лице на́шего го́рода клён, два ствола́ кото́рого сросли́сь с по́мощью ве́тки.
In the autumn, I noticed a maple growing on a street in our town whose two trunks were fused together with the help of a branch.
[Н. Замятина. Самопроизвольная прививка // «Наука и жизнь», 2007]

Тополь — Poplar

You may know тополь (plural тополя) from the “fluff” (тополиный пух) that blows around from the female trees in the summer.

Я поверну́лся и стал разгля́дывать расту́щий ря́дом с до́мом то́поль.
I turned around and started studying the poplar growing by the house.
[Валерий Медведев. Баранкин, будь человеком! (1957)]

Ива — Willow


Image from Pixabay

Ива is a tree that often grows by the water and stoops down to touch it. This may be the origin of its nickname, плакучая ива (weeping willow).

Плаку́чая и́ва склони́лась над водо́й.
A weeping willow was leaning over the water.
[Алексей Слаповский. Гибель гитариста (1994-1995)]

We will continue this list next time.

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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.