Bosyakiʼ, ̔Bosotaʼand ̔Nishchebrodyʼ: the New Life of Old Word

2024. № 2, 37-51

Nina N. Rozanova, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Moscow),


The article examines semantic properties and usage peculiarities of words that denote individuals with low material wealth in contemporary colloquial speech. Words reflecting the division of people into the poor and the wealthy form rich synonymic sets. To denote the poor (as well as the wealthy) words with a long history, described in detail in explanatory dictionaries, are used. However, in new contexts these words lose some semantic features and acquire new ones. The article addresses such lexemes as  ̔golodranecʼ,  ̔oborvanecʼ, ̔bosyakʼ,  ̔bosotaʼ,  ̔nishchebrodʼ. Some of them (e.g., ̔bosyakʼ,  ̔bosotaʼ, ̔nishchebrodʼ) are labeled as archaic in explanatory dictionaries. However, as contemporary contexts show, the stylistic status of such words has significantly changed: they develop new meanings, and then their “re-actualization” occurs. So,  ̔bosyakʼ as a designation for a poor person belonging to the social lower classes of society, in modern speech, is increasingly being replaced by the noun  ̔bomzh̕, which is more relevant for today, while the word  ̔bosyakʼ itself is often used to designate any negative characteristics of a person. The word  ̔bosota̕ also has undergone semantic changes. It is used not only to denote extreme poverty, but also to express the speaker’s negative attitude towards someone. As observations show, this word is quite familiar to modern speakers of colloquial Russian and is found in two accented versions: bosotá and bosóta. The use of the previously low frequency word  ̔nishchebrodʼ in the meaning of “a person with low material wealth” has also being updated.

For citation:

Rozanova N. N. ‘Bosyakiʼ, ‘Bosotaʼ and ‘Nishchebrodyʼ: the New Life of Old Words. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2024. No. 2. Pp. 37–51. DOI: 10.31857/S0131611724020032.