For beginning language learners, it may be tempting to use translation engines to figure out how to say “hello” in Russian. However, when you use tools like Google translate, you may quickly find the Russian word for “hello,” but the real meaning of the language and the cultural nuances of Russian greetings often get lost in translation.
That’s why Rosetta Stone takes a two-pronged approach to the problem. Features embedded in our lessons allow you to easily translate a word using the long press gesture. At the same time, greetings, vocabulary, and other helpful phrases are presented in the context of the situations in which they occur, so learners feel confident they’ll always know what to say.
This immersive strategy is essential when learning a language like Russian because the devil is definitely in the details. For instance, no translation engine will tell you that Russians generally frown upon touching when greeting a stranger or acquaintance, including avoiding the very European practice of air kisses. These cultural cues are things you can only pick up by getting beyond translations and studying the Russian language and people.
Here are ten of the most common ways to extend a hello in Russian, ranging from formal to informal and everything in between.
Zdravstvujtye (Здравствуйте) is your go-to Russian greeting
It’s always nice to have a universal greeting tucked into your pocket, one you can take out in any situation. Zdravstvujtye, which translates to “be healthy, be well” is up to the task. Because the Russian language also uses the rolling of Rs, English speakers may find the pronunciation (zdrah-stvooy-tee) a bit tricky at first. You can also use a shortened version of this greeting, zdravstvuj, in less formal settings.
Greet friends and family with privyet (Привет)
In Russia, authority figures and elders are carefully extended courtesy in public life, including formality of address. As such, you should never use privyet (pree-vyet), the Russian version of “hi” or ”hey, there” with anyone but intimate friends or family members.
Алло (allo) is a Russian hello for the telephone
Similar to other languages, Russians do have a particular word they use exclusively for answering the phone, and it does sound remarkably like the versions of aлло (allo) you’ll find in France or Germany as well as its English equivalent.
Be prepared for an earful with kak dyela (Как дела)
One of the particulars of Russian culture is that the phrase kak dyela (kahk-dee-lah), which means “how are you,” isn’t used in passing as a greeting. When you employ this Russian phrase, expect to be regaled with a thorough response and a recounting of recent events.
Observe the time of day with dobriy utro (Доброе утро)
Dobroye utro (dohb-rah-ee oo-truh) translates to “good morning” in Russian, and as you might expect, there are variations on this greeting depending on the time of day. Dobroye dyen (Добрый день) is “good afternoon” and after darkness falls, you can start saying dobriy vyecher (Добрый вечер) or “good evening.”
Don’t get confused with the casual greeting privetik (приветик)
This greeting sounds an awful like privyet, and it would be easy to confuse the two Russian words. Privetik, however, is a cute, extremely casual greeting used by young women in Russia that probably shouldn’t be tossed around by the average traveler.
Use s priezdom (С приездом!) with caution
The Russian version of welcome, s priezdom, is used sparingly by locals and doesn’t have the same applications as its English counterpart. You may, however, hear it extended by shopkeepers or as a formal greeting used in an official capacity to extend welcome.
Khellou (xэллоу) is for Russian/English speakers who are showing off
If this Russian slang greeting sounds a little too close to English, that’s intentional. You might end up conversing with a Russian who knows how to speak English, and they might use khellou as a shorthand for trying to impress others with their language skills.
Take your leave with dobroy noci (доброй ночи)
A strict translation of dobroy noci is “good night,” but it isn’t intended to be used interchangeably with “good evening.” In Russian, you’d use this phrase or spokojnoj nochi to take your leave or to signal it’s bedtime, not as a greeting.
Dratuti (Дратути) is for the Russian internet generation
You’ll find dratuti in memes or chat rooms online to express “hello,” but it’s usually reserved for online venues and as a way to signal to other Russians that you’re internet savvy. You’ll find several of these kinds of expressions in Russian,where the usage of the word implies a more subtle syntax you won’t get from the literal meaning.