How similar is Ukrainian to Russian vocabulary-wise?



I wonder how many words in Ukrainian are considered similar (having the same roots and/or understandable) to Russian?

For example here is a lexical similarity index for English. How is Ukrainian similar in lexicon to Russian?

Is there any research regarding this?


Posted 2017-08-02T13:18:48.347

Reputation: 208

1I can only say from experience that they're similar. I can understand most of Ukrainian TV shows like Ukraine's Got Talent just from knowing Russian. Part of this is that when the words differ, they tend to differ consistently. Of course, I can't speak Ukrainian, just understand it. (only one person's experience, so I'd say not worth an answer) – Jeutnarg – 2017-08-02T16:45:00.957

2lol, @Jeutnarg, Ukraine's Got Talent is bilingual TV show... you can go to any rural area (especially on Ukraine's west) to know that your Russian knowledge is useless – Roman Ananyev – 2017-08-04T16:33:52.407

2@RomanAnanyev I can tell the difference between Ukrainian and Russian, and I was referring to the parts of that show which are in Ukrainian. And yes, it would be harder to understand Ukrainian in a village, but also in any situation where I didn't know the topic of conversation. – Jeutnarg – 2017-08-04T16:56:17.067

@Jeutnarg Vocabulary of Ukraine's Got Talent is quite limited. – Yola – 2017-08-05T08:18:06.797

1@Yola, sure. Still, Jeutnarg's impression is quite interesting (for me). I got different responses from native Russian speakers about whether they could understand Ukrainian ("mostly yes", "it depends" and "mostly no") — probably it depends on person's background and speech context. If Jeutnarg is not a native Russian speaker, but learned Russian (and can understand specific Russian-Ukrainian bilingual TV-show just from knowing Russian) — it's quite intriguing. – Sasha – 2017-08-05T11:55:53.593

1A Ukrainian told me, you could start at the eastern border with Russia, and head west in Ukraine towards Poland. Residents from each village could speak to residents from the next village without issue, but the first village couldn't talk to the last, without a translator... – user1089 – 2017-08-02T20:21:43.617



enter image description here

The Lexical Distance Map of European languages based on Tyščenko’s work.

And a difference in vocabulary between Ukrainian and Russian languages is 38 lexical edits here.

For comparison: a difference between English and Dutch languages is approximately the same—37 lexical edits.

Related links—blog Alternative Transport by Stephan F. Steinbach who updated the diagram

Similar questions


Posted 2017-08-02T13:18:48.347

Reputation: 5 414

Very interesting map! +1. – mathreadler – 2017-08-02T17:10:10.697

1So, if we drew 100 random words, 38 wiould have different roots? Are сберегательньій and ощадний considered different? What about words like комп'ютер, топологія, did they participate in the reseach? – Yola – 2017-08-02T18:09:42.933

Exactly the kind of maps I’m looking for! Thanks – Blaszard – 2017-08-03T00:12:42.463

We actually don't use diacritics in transliteration :) So the surname would be written Tyshchenko instead – Scadge – 2017-08-03T08:36:06.637

This talk section on Wikipedia might also be of some help: Talk:Mutual intelligibility#Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian.

– ata_zh – 2017-08-03T13:13:37.257


@Follower Very interesting! Just to make it complete, I'd also add the link to the site where this diagram was initially presented: . One may also found interesting the post where diagram author rebut criticism over Tyscchenko's methodology:

– Idolon – 2017-08-09T20:24:39.977

@Yola As pointed by the author of the diagram presented by Follower: It compares written language … It has nothing to do with grammar, syntax, rhythm or other important features that are important for intelligibility. Thus I would assume that сберегательньій and ощадний would be considered quite different.

– Idolon – 2017-08-09T20:28:58.787

3Hello @AlternativeTransport and welcome to Ukrainian Language.SE! Glad to see you here. – bytebuster – 2017-08-18T14:01:59.670

@Scadge there're different ways to transliterate words. I suppose that Follower just uses the most convenient one. Regardless the official rules. – P. Vovk – 2017-08-19T08:55:16.970


Follower has a great answer. I am no linguist, but I'd like to contribute two points based on my observations.

  1. Any two languages that have an alphabet will have huge similarities as many new words and technical terms, like 'computer', are introduced just by spelling the same pronunciation with a different alphabet. If both languages are not tonal, it also makes them very similar. So if you compare Ukrainian to Russian on a scale with other European languages, 62% similarity might be about correct. If you factor in Asian languages, similarity between Ukrainian, Russian and other European languages would be much higher. If you can read an unknown word and don't have to sign it with tones for it to be understood by others, it is already a huge similarity.

  2. Ukrainian and Russian languages utilize different mimic muscles when spoken. So the same word spoken by a native Ukrainian speaker and a native Russian speaker will sound very different. Russian requires very rigid and tense mimic, while Ukrainian is more relaxes, similar to English in a way. When I lived in the US, it was remarkable to see how native Ukrainian speakers would easily switch between Ukrainian and English and lose their accent in several years, while for native Russian speakers pronouncing English words without sharp consonants and deep vowels was a huge slog. Most have strong accents after decades of living in the US.

I don't know of any research to back up these two observations so feel free to criticize them in comments or edit my answer. I find the topic of language similarities fascinating!

Arthur Tarasov

Posted 2017-08-02T13:18:48.347

Reputation: 295

-1, sorry. #1 is a pure theoretical thought, and StackExchange sites do not encourage ideas based on "the common sense". #2 (muscles) has no proofs. The phonetics does not study "muscles", however it studies organs of speech and articulation. Yet again, an anecdotal evidence could be fine if it were backed with some credible references, researches, etc. — but it is not. – bytebuster – 2017-08-09T22:46:44.113

1@bytebuster Thanks for your feedback. You are right that my answer is probably out of scope. It was mostly for me to challenge my thoughts and see what other people think about it. – Arthur Tarasov – 2017-08-10T00:45:27.770

2Your post would become quite on-topic if it answered the question (vocabulary and lexicon comparison between the two languages), providing with numbers and other evidence, likewise the adjacent answer does. In this case, your thoughts and logical explanation would support the answer, and the entire post would benefit from this. This Q has high ratio of views, so your answer would quickly gain upvotes then. But first you need improving your answer! :) – bytebuster – 2017-08-10T01:19:12.790


I don't know of anyone who has compared a large set of Russian words with Ukrainian words but theoretically one could compare two dictionaries with tens of thousands of words. Most of the comparisons are between a set of 10 to 200 words. The answer above by @Follower compares such a set of words. Another comparison is by Vincent Beaufils which compares 18 words and comes up with 4.8 genetic distance:

English    | Ukrainian                 | Russian                    | Points
Death      | -S-M-R-T- Smert' (смерть) | -S-M-R-T- Smjert' (Смерть) | 100,00
Ear        | -V-KH- Vukho (вухо)       | -KH- Ukho (Ухо)            |  50,00
Eye        | -K- Oko (око)             | -K- Oko (Око)              | 100,00
Four       | -CH-T-R- Chotiri (чотири) | -CH-T-R- Chetiri (Четыре)  | 100,00
Hand       | -R-K- Ruka (рука)         | -R-K- Ruka (Рука)          | 100,00
I          | -J- Ya (Я)                | -J- Ja (Я)                 | 100,00
Name       | -M- Imya (ім'я)           | -M- Imja (Имя)             | 100,00
Night      | -N-CH- Nich (ніч)         | -N-CH- Noch (Ночь)         | 100,00
Nose       | -N-S- Nis (ніс)           | -N-S- Nos (нос)            | 100,00
Sun        | -S-N-C- Sontse (Сонце)    | -S-L-N-C- Solnce (Солнце)  |  75,00
Three      | -T-R- Tri (три)           | -T-R- Tri (Три)            | 100,00
Tongue     | -J-Z-K- Yazik (язик)      | -J-Z-K- Jazyk (Язык)       | 100,00
Tooth      | -Z-B- Zub (зуб)           | -Z-B- Zub (зуб)            | 100,00
Two        | -D-V- Dva (два)           | -D-V- Dva (Два)            | 100,00
Water      | -V-D- Voda (вода)         | -V-D- Voda (Вода)          | 100,00
Who        | -KH-T- Khto (хто)         | -K-T- Kto (Кто)            |  88,64
Wind       | -V-T-R- Viter (вітер)     | -V-T-R- Veter (ветер)      | 100,00
You (thou) | -T- Ti (ти)               | -T- Ty (Ты)                | 100,00

Total Points/#words: 1713,64/18 (=95,202/100). This value has to be reverted (100-Result) to get the Genetic distance:

Genetic distance: 4,80
These langages are very closely related!

Period Ukrainian: Year 2000, Period Russian: Year 2000.

Alternative Transport

Posted 2017-08-02T13:18:48.347

Reputation: 21

Very interesting! – Sasha – 2017-08-22T09:29:18.013

3Through their analysis rises some questions. (1) Russian "eye" is displayed as "oko". Although Russian does have the word "oko", it's a bit dated/poetic now, modern is "glaz". (At first I thought it knows both words and always takes the closer one, but ru-ab shows "oko-abla".) (2) The /ʲ/ and /j/ after consonants are interpreted the same (though /j/ is a separate consonant in Uk and Ru). But /wu/ and /u/ are interpreted differently. And it follows writing, not pronunciation (солнце SL̸̸NC). (3) It shows Polish as closer to Russian than to Ukrainian, which looks really weird. – Sasha – 2017-08-22T09:43:52.530

But it is always good to see a new trу for analysis. – Sasha – 2017-08-22T12:08:35.853


BTW, according to this forum post, the same site also tries to provide comparison using Swadesh-Yakhontov list and comparison using complete Swadesh list — but these pages just crash.

– Sasha – 2017-08-22T12:46:37.910

@Sasha to eye / oko / glaz. Ideally for every word on the comparison list the closest synonym would be taken or the most common. But sometimes for Swadesh list words, this gets ridiculous e.g. In English No 97 Vomit / Belch / Puke / Barf / Throw Up / Chunder / Spew / Hurl / Upchuck / ect... – Alternative Transport – 2017-08-25T08:40:23.983

Alternative Transport, I talked with the site author via e-mail. If I understand him correctly... Their system is a bit "cheating" to find as much common roots as possible even with small sets of words: they intentionally use dated Russian "око" for "eye" (no synonyms, just "око"), they intentionally use archaic English "thou" instead of "you", they intentionally treat French "nez" (pronounced as /ne/) as -N-Z- (not -N-). In that way their system is strong at finding relations between distant languages, but isn't ideal at determining precise/stable distance between close languages. – Sasha – 2017-08-25T12:19:55.167

So, approximate answers on my 1-2-3 above that I've got in private mailing: (1) they intentionally use dated "око" (no, they don't use synonyms); (2) they intentionally treat /ʲ/ and /j/ after consonant the same; they intentionally treat /wu/ and /u/ in the beginning of the word differently; but they confirm that their treating of солнце as -S-L-N-C- (not -S-N-C-) is a mistake; (3) their system is currently not so good for determining exact distance between close languages, but is better for longer range comparisons. – Sasha – 2017-08-25T12:23:33.870

You can select similar words from both languages, and their lexicon will be 100% equal. Or you can find different words (by using synonimity, or selecting differently-named things), and they will be different. Generally, by manipulating word lists, you can prove any opinion :) – PY PY – 2017-10-02T18:05:10.570