Beginner’s Guide To Russian Interjections

Into every conversation, a little nonsense must fall. And it should come as no surprise that a rich language like Russian is rich with nonsense!

Sometimes there's just not a word to express what you want to say. Other times words are too long. And besides, when one little grunt can get your message across, why use anything more?

And so it is that one often finds himself (or herself) in a conversation consisting more of little nonsense words than actual vocabulary!

ой

We'll start with my favorite Russian word: ой. It's absolutely the same as it's phonetic match "oy", or the Hispanic equivalent "ay". You can use the word to express pain, frustration, or dissatisfaction, or in a different context to express awe, shock, or disbelief.

-Я опять потерял свои ключи! Ой!
"Ay, ay ay! I've lost my keys again!"

эй

Similary, the word эй is also a match for its sound-alike, "hey", and can be used in all the same situations. The two most common uses for эй are getting someone's attention, or expressing playful (fake) anger.

Эй! Ты куда пропал?
Hey! Where did you disappear off to?

ого

Another of my favorites is ого, which sounds like "oh-hoh!" This word expresses surprise, shock, or disbelief. It is best used like the American phrase "no way!"

-Я заплатил тысячу евро за новый айфон.
-Ого!
"I paid a thousand euros for my new iPhone."
"Whoa!"

ага

Don't be fooled by the spelling, it may look like "aha", but this one works more like "uh-huh", and is used as a form of affirmation.

-Ты смотрел кино вчера вечером?
-Ага.
-"Did you watch the movie last night?"
-"Uh-huh."

уф

This exclamation sounds like "oof", and seems to imply some discomfort. It reminds me of the sound an old man makes as he sits down.

-уф. жарко на улице.
-"Oof. It's really hot outside."

тьфу

In my opinion, this is one of the wonders of Russian. Pronounced "t-foo", this is the alliteration of a spitting noise. Used where you might have made a gagging noise in English, it implies something disgusting or worthless.

-Кофе? Тьфу! Ненавижу пить кофе.
-"Coffee? Yuck. I hate coffee."

тсс

This is the Russian "shooshing" noise. Where we would say "sshhhhh...", they say "тссссс..."

-тссссссс не говори так!
-"sshhhh don't talk like that!"

ух ты!

This is a great expression of surprise or amazement, akin to "holy cow!", or "awesome!"

-Ух ты! Какоe это красивое здание!
-"Wow! What a beautiful building!"


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  • Nice...

  • ahahhaa! Russian's sounds! They are really very useful!https://ru.wikipedia.org/wik...

  • Reminds me of "vale" in Spanish, it's almost like their version of "ok" or "uh huh, right, right...sure, sure...", that kind of thing.We have tons of these in English, "filler words" I think they're sometimes called, the most prominent ones being "like", "you know", and "ok". Then there are non-sense words like "yuck", "ick", "whew!!", "uggh", etc.Good post.Cheers,
    Andrew

  • Спасибо!

  • I think these words would be classified as interjections... but basically, I call them nonsense. "Vale" is more like slang, since it is in fact a real word, just one with an adapted usage.

  • Thanks!

  • since you've been learning some lithuanian, i'd like to make a note that you could use most of these words in lithuanian with pretty much the same meaning and pronunciation :) in the same order as in your post:oi, uoi (oo-o-ay/woy), ai
    ei
    oho
    aha (both as yes and aha!)
    uch, ach (ch pronounced as russian х)
    tfu, pfu
    eik tu! (lit. go you!)

  • Very nice compilation! Two of my favorites are "ух ты!" and ""ого" although I've heard the latter pronounced "oh-go." Does that make a difference or does it depend on the person? I've also heard something similar to "тьфу" but with only "фу" when something smells bad or is disgusting. Again, is there a difference? I've never come across such a list of words and have no formal training in slang, just what I've heard along the way!

  • I've heard ого both ways. I have a preference to the silent G, but there are definitely those who also say гарлем "garlem" instead of "harlem", and голивуд "gollyvood" instead of "hollywood". There is probably a geographical component to such things, though I won't claim to know where that falls.
    I find that тьфу almost always sounds like "foo" to native English-speakers, because our ears don't really hear palatalized sounds the way that native Russian-speakers do. But if I say "foo" it doesn't really sound the same as what I'm hearing from a Russian, whereas if I allow my mouth to make the palatalized "T" shape — even if I don't actually annunciate it — the word sounds more like what I'm hearing from others. I think it's a detail we don't noticed, but which really is there... kind of like the "d" sound at the beginning of джинсы or джордж.

  • There are both тьфу and фу. The words have a little bit different meanings. Тьфу is really a spitting noise and фу is used to express that something is for example untasty, boring, disguisting, bad.Снова манная каша! Фуууу! Не хочу!
    Кажется, кот накакал под диваном! Фу! Точно накакал!
    Такая хорошая погода, а мне все выходные надо готовиться к экзамену и читать этот нудный учебник! Фу!The word тьфу is used to emphasize that something is bad and doesn't worth it. Or something is of bad quality or if somebody failed to do something or did something wrong. It can also sound as Тьфу ты!Тьфу! Полчаса назад поставила кастрюлю с водой на плиту и забыла ее включить!
    Тьфу ты! Опоздали на поезд!P.S. Sorry for my English :)

  • Thank you very much for that explanation!

  • Very true, however "oi" can also mean "oops" or "whoops"...

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