Russian mat

Mat (Russian: мат, матерщи́на, ма́терный язы́к) is the strongest form of obscene profanity used in Russian and other Slavic languagecommunities. Mat is censored in the media and use of mat in public constitutes a form of disorderly conduct, punishable under article 20.1.1 of the Offences Code of Russia, although it is only enforced episodically, in particular due to vagueness of the legal definition. Despite the public ban, mat is used by Russians of all ages and in all social groups, with particular fervor in male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata.


The origins of mat are lost in the mists of time. Russian anthropologists think that it evolved from ancient myth and magical beliefs. However, they offer divergent interpretations of the basic formula.

It is commonly believed that the name mat derives from "мать" (Romanisation: mat'), the Russian word for "mother". The term might rather come from a word meaning "loud yell", which is now used in only a few expressions such as "благим матом". The use of mat is widespread, especially in the army, the criminal world, and many other all-male milieus.

The basic formula of mat, in its most common variant, is: "Ёб твою мать" (Yob tvoyu mat'), meaning "fuck your mother", with the familiar ты (ty) form implying contempt (as opposed to the more grammatically and socially proper use of вы (vy); this is the T–V distinction, most familiar in English by the French "tu" and "vous"; the Russian usages is due to French and Latin influence, and the Russian/French terms are cognate, deriving from common Proto-Indo-European roots). In this variant the subject of the sentence is omitted, but there is also an expanded variant in which it is made explicit: "Пёс ёб твою мать" (Pyos yob tvoyu mat'), meaning "[A] [male dog] fucked your mother".

Mikhailin points also to the social influence of the criminal milieu through the labor camps, where criminals were favored and allowed to dominate the "political" prisoners. Thus thieves' (блатной, blatnoy) customs, aesthetic standards, and jargon (of which mat is a significant part) penetrated the law-abiding population, especially the male adolescent subcultures of city courtyards.

That mat belongs to the ancient layers of the Russian language (the first written mat words date to Middle Ages). It was first introduced into literature in the 18th century by the poet Ivan Barkov, whose poetry, combining lofty lyrics with brutally obscene words, may be regarded as a forerunner of Russian literary parody. The stems can be combined in many ways to generate a very large range of new words based on them through the use of prefixes and suffixes and these can be further used to create many phrases. The first volume of the Great Dictionary of Matby the Russian linguist and folklorist Alexei Plutser-Sarno (Большой словарь мата) treats only expressions with the stem khuy, numbering over 500 entries; 12 volumes are planned.

A detailed article by Victor Erofeyev (translated by Andrew Bromfeld) analyzing the history, overtones, and sociology of mat appeared in the 15 September 2003 issue of The New Yorker.

Key words

The key elements of mat are:

  • khuy (Russian About this sound хуй ) — penis, or for equivalent colloquial effect, cock
    • from PIE *ks-u-, related to khvoya (Russian "хвоя", meaning pine needles), attributed to Pederson, 1908.[1] [2]
    • from PIE *hau-, related to khvost (Russian "хвост", meaning tail), attributed to Merlingen, 1955 [3]
    • other controversial etymologic hypotheses appear every now and again: [4]
      • from Mongolian hui, meaning sheath, scabbard. This was the etymology endorsed by the Soviet government and attributed toMaxim Gorky, who claimed it was a loan word, imposed during Mongol yoke.
      • from Latin huic (lit. "for that", used on prescriptions for genital diseases) via rederivation, similar to Russian zont from Dutchzondeck. Old Russian "ud/uda" (from PIE root *ud- meaning "up, out") became taboo in mid-18th century, requiring the euphemisms khui and kher. [5] [6] [7]
      • from the second-person singular imperative form of the Ukrainian khovati "ховати", meaning hide, stash. Commonly regarded as ajoke etymology.
  • pizda (Russian About this sound пизда́ ) — (Romanian pizda) cunt
    • from PIE *pizda ("vulva"), cf Lithuanian "pizda" and Albanian "pidh"; from Latin pesd, perd to let air through, to crepitate.
  • yebat′ (Russian About this sound еба́ть ) — to fuck
    • from PIE *eibati ("to fuck"), cf Old High German "eiba" and Sanskrit "yabhati"; From ancient Russian, "poYat'" means just to touch someone.
  • blyad′ (Russian About this sound [[:Media:|блядь]] ) блядь) — whore
    • from PIE root cognate with English "blind"; the word was not banned from literary use at the time of Avvakum, who used it to describe various heresies and various expressions based on these terms. Also, the 15th century merchant-traveler Afanasii Nikitin used it simply as "concubine," without any obscene connotations.

Further vocabulary

Additionally, the following words are considered almost as offensive, and can also be regarded as mat:

  • yelda (елда́) — "big penis";
  • gondon (гондо́н), derived from "condom", but it is a tabooed word and may be used figuratively with the meaning "unpleasant male";
  • kher (хер) "penis"; somewhat less offensive than "khuy"; the actual meanings of kher is the old Russian name of the letter "X" Kha, which became strongly associated with the actual "khuy" (cf. the term "F-word" in English). Interestingly enough, the old word "pokherit'" which used to mean "to cross out," "to delete", now tends to be contaminated with the relatively new meaning of "kher" (i.e., obscene "penis"), thus achieving an obscene meaning, also.
  • manda (манда́) — "vagina";
  • mudak (муда́к) — "smart ass", "git". Another often-used derivative is mudilo (муди́ло) which only bears an abstract offensive meaning and is somewhat equal to "motherfucker." Sometimes, mudak and mudilo are used as equivalents of "moron," e.g. Вася - полный мудило, ему жена изменяет, а он радуется. - Vasya is a complete moron: his wife cheats on him, but he's still glad.
  • mudi (mudya) (му́ди, мудя) — "testicles". Rarely used and considered old-fashioned.
  • pidoras (пидора́с), a bastardization of pederast, meaning a male homosexual in Russian. The condensed forms pidor (пи́дор), "pedrila" (педри́ла) are also used. More often than not (though not necessarily), refers to a passive pederast. Often used as a general term like "asshole" or "motherfucker";
  • zalupa (залу́па) means "penis head" (from old Russian "lupit'" - here, "to peel off" (like "lupit' jajtso" - "to peel off egg shell"); therefore, this is "what you can see when the foreskin is pulled back or removed").
  • drochit' (дрочи́ть) — "to masturbate" (oneself or someone). drochit'sya' (дрочиться) - "to masturbate" (oneself). From Old Russian дрочити (to pet, to pamper)

The following words are considered vulgar and often used in mat expressions, but are not regarded as mat on its own:

  • zhopa (жо́па), zadnica (за́дница) - ass, arse, butt
  • govno (говно́) — shit. Cognate to Sanskrit guváti ("(he) defecates") and Avestan gūʮa- ("shit"), from PIE. Note: this and its synonymder'mo (дерьмо́) are used as exclamations the way that "Shit!" is used in English.
  • khren (хрен) - literally "horse-radish", but some may think that it is the mildest euphemism for "khuy"; khren, also means an unpleasant man, and khren' (хрень) is a milder term similar to bullshit, somewhat like crap, used in very similar fashion, both in exclamations and to indicate disbelief or disrespect
  • srat' (срать) — "to shit"
  • sraka (сра́ка) — "anus," "butt," "asshole", from the verb srat' (срать) - to defecate.
  • ssat' (ссать) — "to piss"
  • perd'et' (перде́ть) — "to fart"
  • trakhat' (тра́хать) — a euphemism for "yebat′"; literally "to hit"
  • suka (су́ка) — "traitor", "rascal", "scumbag"; despite original meaning bitch (female dog), the term is unisex and is often used to refermen and has a dangerously pejorative connotation in criminal world (see Suka Wars). English "bitch" about an unpleasant girl is maybe more equivalent to Russian "sterva", which is a rude word but not a major profanity (accepted in written texts).

Historical poetry with mat

Mikhail Lermontov, "A Holiday in Peterhof" - "Петергофский праздник", 1834)

And so, I will not pay you
However, if you are a simple blyad' (slut)
You should consider it an honour
To be acquainted with the cadet's khuy (dick)!

Итак, тебе не заплачу я:
Но если ты простая блядь,
То знай: за честь должна считать
Знакомство юнкерского хуя!

"Luka Mudischev", prologue; this work was probably written at some time in the mid 19th century, but often it was ascribed to Ivan Barkov, an equally obscene poet who lived in the 18th century)

Oh you, men' wives, or widows fair,
Or maids with 'cherry' there intact!
Let me tell you some humble fact
About fucking out there.

О вы, замужние, о вдовы,
О девки с целкой наотлёт!
Позвольте мне вам наперёд
Сказать о ебле два-три слова.

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