Russian Language Blog

Ten Business Words You Shouldn’t Rely on English to Decipher Posted by on May 19, 2014 in language

You have probably run into quite a few loanwords from English in Russian. Some of them are older and almost sound native, e.g. футбол – soccer or лифт – elevator. However, recently a new wave of loanwords related to the economy and technology has entered Russian. These words are still largely perceived as foreign, and they pose a challenge to learners of Russian, too. You see, a lot of them don’t mean what they sound like. I have put together a list of words you are likely to hear in a modern office setting that you shouldn’t rely on your knowledge of English to figure out. All examples come from the Russian National Corpus; all translations are mine.

1. Офис

The trouble starts with the word “офис.” It certainly looks like it should mean office, and it does, but in a very specific context. Офис refers to the office, premises, headquarters, or seat of a modern style, for-profit company, likely in the financial, travel, insurance, banking, or other free-market sector. Unlike in English, you don’t normally refer to the room where someone works as an офис — that is called кабинет.

Региональный офис компании Nestle отвечает за проведение акций российского масштаба, стимулирует продажи внутри региона.

[Nestle’s regional office is in charge of country-wide campaigns in Russia and boosting sales in the region.]

Новый босс вызвал меня на другой день в свой кабинет.

[The following day my new boss called me to his office.]

2. Файл

You guessed it — файл does not match all the meanings of the English word “file.” It can certainly refer to a file on your computer, but, more surprisingly, it refers to plastic sheet protectors, which are very popular in Russia.

Вот, ― склонившись над бюро, он выкатил ящик, достал пластиковый файл, ― тут все протоколы милицейских мудрецов и свидетельства очевидцев.

[– Here, — he bent over the cabinet, pulled out a drawer, and took out a plastic sheet protector, — here are all the police reports and eyewitness testimony.]

Полученный файл вы сможете закачать на iPod с помощью программы iTunes.

[You can send the downloaded the file to your iPod using iTunes.]

3. Бейдж

Бейдж is actually a name tag. It is sometimes affectionately shortened to бейджик. A police badge is called жетон.

Девушка в форменном костюмчике стояла с будто наклеенной улыбкой. На ее груди белел бейджик: «Варвара».

[A woman in a standard-issue suit was sporting a glued-on smile. A bright white nametag on her chest read “Varvara.”]

4. Ноутбук

Ноутбук is a laptop computer, although you can hear some people say лэптоп. A notebook is записная книжка or, if you are talking about a school notebook, тетрадь.

Первым ей бросился в глаза не литровый керамический чайник на столе, а мощный ноутбук с большим экраном.

[The thing that jumped out at her first was not the liter ceramic kettle on the table, but the bulky laptop with a large screen.]

5. Бизнес

Бизнес only normally refers to a modern for-profit enterprise in the finance or sales sector — the kind that works out of an офис. It is not normally used to talk about pre-90s businesses, regardless of their nature. If you want to say that someone started a business and that business was, say, a tailor shop, you would probably say “открыть своё дело.”

Бизнес почтовых денежных переводов, в силу своей прибыльности, может стать основным видом такого сотрудничества почтовых систем разных стран.

[Thanks to its profitability, the postal money transfer business may become the main cooperation venue for various national postal systems.]

Пока они сидят в аудитории и слушают лекции, их сверстники делают карьеру менеджера по продажам или открывают своё дело.

[While they are listening to a lecture in a classroom, their peers are pursuing a career as a sales manager or starting their business.]

6. Дизайн

Дизайн refers to the graphic or interior design, so there needs to be a strong esthetic or usability component to it. If you are talking about the design of a new machine, there are several ways to express that. Depending on the context and the industry, it can be расчёт, проектирование, and so on.

Конечно, дизайнвопрос спорный, и каждый решает сам для себя понятие о красоте, но равнодушных людей почти нет.

[Of course, one may argue about (visual) design, and everyone decides on their own idea of beauty. However, hardly anyone is left indifferent.]

За проектирование московских высоток взялись лучшие архитекторы мира.

[The world’s best architects have embarked on designing Moscow high-rise buildings.]

7. Имидж

Имидж, on the contrary, is usually figurative. Rather than describe a visual image (изображение), it talks about someone’s brand image or public persona. It can describe both people and entities.

Основной вывод этого опроса следующий: имидж финансовой компании полностью зависит от качества работы центра телефонного обслуживания.

[The survey’s main conclusion is that a financial company’s image is fully dependent on its call center performance.]

8. Мерчендайзер

This is many of the newer loanwords many Russians frown upon. It is basically a glorified way to refer to a shelf-stocker in a store.

Поэтому считать, что мерчендайзерчеловек, специализирующийся на том, чтобы замечать «где что плохо лежит», не совсем правильно.

[Therefore, it would not be quite right to think that a merchandiser is a person responsible for seeing when things are out of line.]

9. Провайдер

Провайдер is not any kind of provider but specifically your Internet service provider.

Провайдерэто компания, которая обеспечивает своим клиентам доступ в Интернет.

[An ISP is a company offering Internet access to its clients.]

10. Пиар

By this point, few will be surprised to hear that пиар is not really PR (public relations). Public relations, as in a department that issues statements for the press for an organization, is связи с общественностью. That is a neutral term. Пиар usually implies some sort of manipulation of public opinion, so it is really closer to a “PR campaign.” A funny usage of this term is чёрный пиар — a smear campaign against political or business rivals.

В том, что на каждых выборах нас захлестывает «черный пиар», трудно сомневаться.

[There is no arguing that we are flooded with smear campaigns come election time.]

I hope this will help you beware of English lookalikes in Russian. Many of these words have developed a life of their own since they entered Russian.

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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.


  1. Sarah:

    Спасибо, очень полезно!

    • Maria:

      @Sarah Спасибо, Сара! Рада стараться.

  2. Brandon Price:

    “Пиар” was such a funny realization. My language teacher (who doesn’t speak much English at all) was reading a text with me which said something like, “Он пиарит…” I told her I didn’t know what that was, and she said, “I think it’s the same in English.” After going over several different accentual pronunciations in my head, I told her, “No, I don’t think so.” Then, as we kept reading and I said it out loud a few times, it hit me. “Oh! P.R.! You took our abbreviation and turned it into a verb!”

    I couldn’t stop laughing about how funny it was. Like if we said in English, “My best friend is getting zagsed today.” So funny.

  3. Ken:

    How about митинг (which sounds like a business word and presumably is from the English “meeting”)? I was a little confused when I first started seeing that word and wondered why people were having meetings in the street. It does refer to a gathering of people but as far as I can tell it is used mainly to indicate a protest of some kind.

    • Maria:

      @Ken Ken, right you are; митинг is, indeed, only used for a protest/rally. A simple meeting is встреча, and a business meeting is совещание. I wasn’t able to find how the English “meeting” came to mean that in Russia. Still, this can be misleading.

  4. Ken:

    Just as провайдер refers specifically to an Internet provider, the word сайт (site) refers specifically to a web site (you could specify веб-сайт but there is really no need to).

  5. мила:

    Привет всем! Очень полезно вы написали :)))) спасибо!
    По поводу митинга хочу добавить, что и в сербском языке есть такое слово в одинаковом значении как и в русском. Хочу сказать, что мне показалось, что тут какие-то славянские корни а не заимствованное слово из английского, просто оно очень похоже..

    • Maria:

      @мила Мила, действительно, интересно бы проследить этимологию слова в русском и сербском. Вики-словарь пишет, что слово пришло из английского языка (, но не говорит как. Может, это как-то связано с демонстрациями рабочих?