Russian Language Blog

Penny For Your Thoughts: Words With ‑мысл‑ In Russian Posted by on May 18, 2017 in language

Have you read our previous articles about word families yet? Learners may find it useful to see how words with the same root express different meanings depending on prefixes and suffixes. This time, we will look at words with the мысл/мышл root, all having to do with thinking and intention.


thinking man

Image from Pixabay

Мысль is the word for a thought. “To think” is думать, but its high-register synonym is мыслить.

Another related word is размышлять + о + prepositional case (to contemplate, to ponder, to reflect).

Finally, мышление is the word for thinking. Mikhail Gorbachev’s pronunciation of this word with the stress on the wrong syllable (мышление) contributed to the public’s perception of him as hick and provincial.

Мы ча́сто говори́м и пи́шем о еди́нстве содержа́ния и фо́рмы, о еди́нстве языка́ и мышле́ния, но нере́дко э́ти поня́тия остаю́тся то́лько ритори́ческими украше́ниями.

We often talk about the unity of content and form; of language and though, but these ideas often remain mere rhetorical decorations.

[Аркадий Мильчин. В лаборатории редактора Лидии Чуковской // «Октябрь», 2001]


Another important word is смысл, sense. Бессмысленный is meaningless or pointless. Двусмысленный means ambiguous.

Э́то бы́ло соверше́нно бессмы́сленное и глу́пое оскорбле́ние.

This was a completely meaningless and silly insult.

[Фазиль Искандер. Время счастливых находок (1973)]


two turbines

Image from Pixabay

Промысел is a trade or industry, usually having to do with hunting or fishing. An important derived word is промышленность, industry (always singular). If you want to talk about a specific branch of industry, say отрасль промышленности.

В Росси́и состоя́ние атмосфе́ры не́сколько улу́чшилось с отмира́нием промы́шленности, но всё равно́ остаётся малоутеши́тельным.

The state of the atmosphere in Russia has improved somewhat as industry has shrunk, but it is still worrisome.

[Виталий Сараев. Дышите реже // «Эксперт», 2014]


Finally, замысел means someone’s idea or intention for something. Замышлять, surprisingly, means to plot. Умысел refers to intent (usually malicious), hence words like злоумышленники (perpetrators) or предумышленный (premeditated).

А относи́тельно Эми́ля у отца́ был соверше́нно друго́й за́мысел.

Father had completely different plans for Emil.

[И. Э. Кио. Иллюзии без иллюзий (1995-1999)]

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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.