Russian Language Blog

On Time and Space: Key Physics Concepts in Russian Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


Last time, we looked at some top chemistry concepts in Russian. We are continuing our science streak — this time, with physics. Just like in the case of chemistry, physics vocabulary is vast and could not possibly fit into one blog post. Feel free to add other important concepts in the comments!

To start, it’s worth mentioning that physics is фи́зика, and a physicist is фи́зик.

те́ло – object

You may know the word тело to mean “body” as in “лосьо́н для те́ла” (body lotion). However, this word also refers to any physical object, for example, “небе́сное те́ло” (celestial/astronomical body/object).

Твёрдое те́ло нагрева́ется в ва́нне до тако́го состоя́ния, при кото́ром отде́льные его ча́сти случа́йным о́бразом перехо́дят из твёрдого состоя́ния в жи́дкое. (A solid object is heated in this bath to a state where its parts randomly transition from a solid to a liquid.) [Комплекс алгоритмов и программ расчета гильотинного раскроя // «Информационные технологии», 2004]

си́ла – force

Си́ла is, of course, the general vocabulary word for “strength,” as in the saying “Си́ла есть — ума́ не на́до” (said about a person who uses force imprudently). In physics, it refers to force, e.g. “си́ла тяготе́ния” (gravity force).

И́менно “стру́ны”, по предположе́нию Сти́вена Хо́укинга, определя́ют де́йствие гравитацио́нных сил. (Stephen Hawking suggests that “strings” are what determines the effect of gravitational forces.) [Александр Волков. Миры Стивена Хоукинга // «Знание — сила», 2003] 

ма́сса – mass

The number you see on the scale is technically ма́сса (mass), as вес (weight) is really a force. Colloquially, people say вес to talk about how heavy people are.

Обнару́жен бозо́н Хи́ггса ― части́ца, отвеча́ющая в на́шей Вселе́нной за ма́ссу. (The Higgs boson, the particle responsible for mass in our universe, has been discovered.) [коллективный. Неделя. Эпицентр // «Огонек», 2014] 

эне́ргия – energy

Эне́ргия may refer to energy in the sense of having the motivation to do something: “Но́вый руководи́тель по́лон эне́ргии” (The new manager is full of energy). It can also mean electric power, normally called электроэне́ргия.

Те́мная эне́ргия ― пожа́луй, гла́вная зага́дка совреме́нного естествозна́ния. (Dark energy is probably the main mystery of contemporary natural science.) [Валерий Рубаков. Темная энергия во Вселенной // «Знание – сила», 2010] 

расстоя́ние – distance

This word is used both colloquially and in its scientific sense.

Нетру́дно оцени́ть, на каки́х расстоя́ниях должно́ происходи́ть слия́ние гравита́ции с остальны́ми си́лами. (It is easy to determine at what distance gravity must merge with the other forces.) [Владилен Барашенков. Верен ли закон Ньютона? // «Знание — сила», 2003]

простра́нство – space

Mind this does not mean “outer space” (ко́смос). In everyday usage it can refer to a territory, a wide-open space, or a 3D space inside a building.

Этот о́рган зре́ния позволя́л им ориенти́роваться в простра́нстве, и меду́зы заселя́ют откры́тое мо́ре. (This organ of vision let them orient in space, and jellyfish colonize the open sea.) [Александр Зайцев. Загадки эволюции: Краткая история глаза // «Знание — сила», 2003]

вре́мя – time

Время is used both in physics and in colloquial speech. Phrases like “У меня́ нет вре́мени” (I’ve got no time) are common. I will let you figure out what time is on your own — it’s a fascinating subject.

It’s worth mentioning that время has a somewhat unusual declension.

Путь от полице́йского уча́стка до Па́рка за́нял о́чень мно́го вре́мени. (The trip from the precinct to the Park took a long time.) [В. Э. Карпов, Т. В. Мещерякова. Об автоматизации нетворческих литературных процессов // «Информационные технологии», 2004]

So, hopefully you got a taste of some key concepts in physics! Which one is your favorite? Which one would you add?

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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.