Why Russians Don’t Have What We Call “Fun”

Before you start studying foreign languages, you tend to think that every language has a way of saying the things that you currently say in your language. However, this really isn’t the case. What you will find when you learn another language, like Russian, is that it has ways of saying some things that simply cannot be expressed in English, and also that it lacks ways of saying things that we commonly say in English.

This affects how people behave. If you have a word for something, you can encourage it, promote it, and even write songs about it. You see, words are tools that we use for thinking, just like a hammers are tools that we use for pounding nails. If your language lacks a word for something, it is very difficult to make whatever that is a big part of your life.

So what is the Russian word for fun? Well, there really isn’t one. There is a word for pleasant and a word for interesting, but there really isn’t a Russian word for fun. Now Russians do know how to have fun; for example, Russian parties are generally a lot more fun than the typical American party, but since they don’t have a word for fun, fun isn’t something that their society focuses on, and it isn’t as big a part of their lives.

So when you learn Russian and/or travel to Russia, you will probably have a lot of fun, but there is no Russian word that exactly describes it.

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    how about веселье(noun) – fun and веселиться(to have fun)?
    this is seriously misleading, we have plenty of fun :)

    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Wow, Russians definitely DO have plenty of fun! For example, Russian parties are great. On average they are a LOT more fun than American parties.

      People tell jokes, recite poetry, tell stories. Believe me, there’s lots of fun to be had in Russia … especially when you learn some Russian.

      However my dictionary translates веселье as “the merriment” and веселиться as “to be cheered”. These aren’t direct translations for the word fun!

      Every language has some concepts that you simply can’t express fully in another language. Russian has some some ideas that can’t be expressed in English because English doesn’t have a word for it.

      • Avatar

        I asked a Russian yesterday- does the word fun exist in the Russian language?
        He said no, almost incredulous that I would ask that question. He asked me- have you ever been to Russia ??… twice , to emphasize the question. He continued- If you had traveled to Russia you would understand why that word does not exist in the Russian language!! I was taken aback by his response

        • Brent

          You are right. There’s no word for fun.

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    Thank you for the very good site for learning Russian.
    As for the word “fun” I would translate it in Russian as “забава” and “to have fun” as “забавляться”
    Your site is the best place for learning Russian that one can find in the net I think.
    Good luck.

  • Avatar

    I disagree with the author saying that Russian doesn’t have a word for “fun”. Yes, it doesn’t have one and same word that would be used every time an American says the word “fun”. But it doesn’t mean that Russian doesn’t have the word. In fact, it has several. But depending on what kind of fun you mean, you can use a different word.If you mean “fun” as lots of joy and laughter you would use the word “веселье (noun), весело (adv.), веселиться (verb)”. If “fun” is more what you really enjoy, but not necessarily “having external enthusiasm”, then you could say “интересно (adv.)”. Depending on the phrase it could be also translated as “потеха, развлечение, забава”. It’s a common thing for one language to have several words for something when the other language uses one word and vice versa. It doesn’t mean the language doesn’t have the word. It’s like saying that the English doesn’t have the word for “у меня”, only because it could mean “I have; at my place; or simply my”. English doesn’t have exact one word, but it certainly has lots of words to say the same thing, depending on the meaning.
    The issue of Russians not emphasizing fun is not in their language, but rather in the history. Fun and entertainment are the prerogatives of societies which have their basic needs covered. When you try to survive, you think and live differently.

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      Oksana –

      Thanks for helping to clear that up. One of my favorite aspects in the diversity of languages is the way in which cultures think and express similar thoughts and feelings in different ways. This is a great example of that! Working from a place of survival certainly does change the way a person (and an entire culture) perceives enjoying their lives. This is also exampled when considering which words cultures set aside for taboo subjects. English speaking people only have one word to cover the entire spectrum of affectionate emotions surrounding embracing other people, things and ideas in the world – Love. Hindi has a unique word for each type of love: Lustless love, divine love, agape love, the love between a parent and a child, the love between a man and his animals, etc etc. Of course that is considering a culture where love is esteemed beyond most other ideas in the world.

      It’s great when people like you are able to bring a greater understanding of a cultural differences.


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    I appreciate a language like Russian which makes distinctions about how one enjoys various aspects of life. In English the word fun is so over used and vague. Fun is a noun. You can have fun or say something was a lot of fun. However it is not an adjective. The adjective is funny but it has only two meanings to describe something that makes you laugh or something a bit strange. Some people are beginning to make comparison by using funner and funest! Wrong! Use funfilled. The better choice of adjectives would be very enjoyable or entertaining. I cringe when I hear “It is a fun class or a fun trip etc.

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      It’s certainly over used but there is a reason for it: It’s SHORT. short words that clearly express what one wants to convey, are the go-to for everyone.
      “I’m enjoying myself” “this is entertaining”
      too long and don’t really convey nearly as much as “this is FUN” “I’m having FUN”
      Fun not only expresses how we feel internally but also the fact that we are enjoying the activity ( two different things) AND we seldom are required further to elaborate because everyone gets it.

    • Avatar

      Fun has been used as an adjective since at least the 1800s.

  • Avatar

    “Fun” is also an adjective.
    “it was a fun evening”
    “did you have a fun time?”
    Nice to see healthy discourse out here.

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