20 Russian Greetings and Farewells | Saying "Good morning!", "Hello", "Hi" in Russian

vocabulary Jan 25, 2022

Informal farewells and greetings are used between family members, peer group members, and people of the same age. When you speak with someone older than you or in a higher position than you, social convention dictates that you use formal language.

“Hello!” in Russian

Здравствуйте! = Hello!

Pronunciation: "ZDRAHV-stvooy-tyeh" ; /'zdra:vstvu:ɪtje/

I'm not going to lie - this is difficult word to say. Some words in Russian have crazy consonant cluster and it just so happens that the word for "Hello!" is one of them. Yes, the word starts with three consonants Z, D, and R; and in the middle it has a four-consonant cluster of V, S, T, and V again. If you're having trouble saying S after V, have no fear. V is usually pronounced like F when it comes before another consonant sound, which helps us pronounce them together.

“Good morning!” in Russian

Доброе утро! = Good morning!

Pronunciation: "DOE-bro-yeh OO-truh" ; /'dobroje 'utrə/

If you're walking down the street in Moscow waving to every passerby and exclaiming "Доброе утро!", then you're either a foreigner or you've escaped from an asylum. People don't say greetings to random passersby in Russia. However, you could say this phrase to someone you are living with temporarily. Remember to change the greeting depending on the time of the day.

“Hi!” in Russian

Привет! = Hi!

Pronunciation: "pree-VYEHT" ; /pri:'vjet/

Most people you meet and have contact with will insist on speaking informally. This shows that you're equals and can speak freely. When you greet each other, you'll say "Привет!" But if you need to buy a train ticket and you approach the man or woman selling tickets at the train station, you shouldn't say "Привет!" because you are strangers. In a mixed group of different ages, roles, and people you know or don't know, you can add the word "всем", which means "to all" or "to everyone". The result is: "Всем привет!" or "Hi everybody!"

The Rules of Saying Hello and Goodbye in Russian                                             

How to Say Hello in Russian

When you say hello to someone in Russian you might shake hands, you might wave, or you might just look them in the eyes. It all depends on who you are and who they are. All discussions about gender biases or discrimination aside, if you are a man in Russia, it is typical for your to shake hands when meeting other men, but not when meeting women. Some women will extend their hand for a handshake (especially if they know you are a foreigner), but in most situations women don't shake hands with men and they don't shake hands with other women. Russian women who have had less contact with foreigners might even snicker if you reach out for a handshake upon meeting.

It's also important to note that men tend to shake hands the first time they meet another man and every time they see each other after that. Many men even shake hands each time they leave too. Women, on the other hand, typically just say a greeting the first time they meet someone. If they feel comfortable, they might opt for a quick hug or embrace, in place of a handshake, regardless of that person being a man or woman.

Another thing to remember is that you should never shake hands in a doorway. If the door is open and you are on opposite sides of the doorway, one of you should either come in or come out before the two of you shake hands. This comes from a Russian superstition, but many people will refuse to shake your hand in a doorway and insist that one of you move first.

How to Say Goodbye in Russian

Leaving is another story. There's a Russian idiom "уходить по-английски", literally meaning "to leave in the English way", that can be translated as "to leave without saying goodbye". In Russia it's fairly straight forward for men: if you shook hands or said hello when you met, you should shake hands or say goodbye when you leave.

Another thing that confuses a lot of foreigners is the Russian practice of not saying goodbye until it's your final departure. In English it's typical to say "I'm going to the store, I'll be back in 15 minutes. Bye!" But in Russia that last "Bye!" would be met with a fierce "Мы ещё не прощаемся." or "We aren't saying goodbye yet."

Formal and Informal Farewells and Greetings in Russian

It might seem like overkill, but you really have to use formal language with your elders. Some people believe you should use formal language with anyone who you aren't on informal terms with, even if you are close in age. And there are those in elevated social positions, such as your in-laws, your teachers, your bosses or superiors at work, and others who you are expected to use formal language with.

Formal Greetings

Здравствуйте! = Hello!

Pronunciation: "ZDRAHV-stvooy-tyeh" ; /'zdra:vstvu:ɪtje/

Using this phrase makes it very clear that you are addressing someone with formal language. If you say this to friends, they'll probably laugh. If your friends say it to you, then they might not be your friends - usually friends aren't so formal.

Здравствуй! = Hello!

Pronunciation: "ZDRAHV-stvooy" ; /'zdra:vstvu:ɪ/

Similar to Здравствуйте, this phrase is more formal than many other greetings. However, it is notably less formal than the full Здравствуйте because it drops the formal ending "те". This ending implies the вы / Вы verb conjugation that is used when speaking to either more than one person, вы, or addressing your elder or a person of high social stature, Вы. Without this ending, the word здравствуй becomes less formal.

Доброе утро! = Good morning!

Pronunciation: "DOE-bro-yeh OO-truh" ; /'dobroje 'utrə/

This greeting is reserved for the morning. I'm not going to debate you on when the morning begins and ends, but it would be good practice for you to debate it with a Russian speaker. Like in English, you can also say this phrase to a person when they've just woken up. If your friend falls asleep at a party at 10PM, you can say Доброе утро! when he wakes up at 11PM.

Добрый день! = Good day!

Pronunciation: "DOE-bree dyehn" ; /'dobri: djen/

Like Доброе утро!, this phrase is reserved for a specific part of the day. However, Добрый день! is slightly more universal in its usage, similar to Здравствуйте. My rule is this: if it's dark outside, I say Добрый вечер!, but if it's light outside, I say Добрый день!

Добрый вечер! = Good evening!

Pronunciation: "DOE-bree VEY-chair" ; /'dobri: 'veɪtʃer/

Saying this phrase is only appropriate in the evening. All three phrases: Доброе утро!, Добрый день!, and Добрый вечер! are considered formal greetings. However, you'll often hear friends say them too.

Formal Farewells

До свидания! = Goodbye!

Pronunciation: "dah svee-DAH-nyuh" ; /da: svi:'da:njə/

This is the most common formal farewell in Russian. It literally means "until the date" and I don't mean a date on the calendar. The word "свидание" is typically used about a romantic date. For example, the phrase "У неё есть свидание." means "She has a date."

But До свидания! is not confined to this meaning. Instead, it's used with anyone and everyone, but especially in formal situations. Similar to Здравствуйте, it can be used by friends sometimes, but in situations where we address our elders or a socially esteemed individual, we don't have many choices and this is the one we should most often use.

Всего хорошего! = All the best!

Pronunciation: "vseh-VO hah-RO-sheh-vo" ; /vse'vo ha:'roʃevo/

You are likely to hear this farewell from people who you transact with: taxi drivers, restaurant hostesses, even the flight attendants you see when you leave the plane. As a customer you can also say this phase when you're headed out the door. Just remember the rules of saying goodbye in Russian, so you don't find yourself in an awkward situation.

Хорошего Вам дня! = Have a great day!

Pronunciation: "hah-RO-sheh-vo vahm dnyah" ; /ha:'roʃevo va:m dnja:/

This is another farewell that's common when interacting with someone you don't know. If you speak Russian to your clients, then this is an important phrase to remember. The expressions "Всего хорошего!" and "Хорошего Вам дня!" are actually short versions. The long versions include "Желаю", which means "I wish". The full phrase would be "Я желаю Вам всего хорошего!" (I wish you all the best!) or "Я желаю Вам хорошего дня!" (I wish you a good day!)

Informal Greetings

Привет! = Hi!

Pronunciation: "pree-VYEHT" ; /pri:'vjet/

Привет is the "Hi!" that is most commonly used with informal speech, whereas Здравствуйте is the "Hello!" more frequently used with formal speech. In English "Hello" and "Hi" are so similar that the difference between formal and informal tone isn't immediately clear sometimes, instead they are rather interchangeable in everyday use. This is probably due to the fact that less situations are deemed formal by English speakers than Russian speakers, which leads to less strictly formal interactions where "Hello" is required without alternatives.

You can also say "Приветик!" and "Приветики!", similar to the English "Hiya!".

Здорово! = Hey!

Pronunciation: "zdah-RO-vah" ; /zda:'rova:/

This is the favorite informal greeting of many young people in Russia. You might translate it as "Hey!" or even "Yo!" Although it's spelled with three О's, it's important to remember that the first and last О are pronounced "ah" ; /a:/. Some native speakers of Russian will even write it "Здарова!", instead of "Здорово!"

We also need to be careful not to confuse this word with another expression that sounds very similar. The intonation and stress are what set them apart. If you stress the first syllable, "Здорово!" sounds like "ZDO-rah-vuh" ; /'zdora:və/ and means "wonderful". For example:

A: Вот Ваша пицца. (Here's your pizza.) 

B: Здорово! (Wonderful.)

But if you stress the second syllable, "Здорово!" sounds like "zdah-RO-vuh" ; /zda:'ro'və/

A: Привет, Крис! (Hi, Kris!)

B: Здорово! (Hey!)

Салют! - Salut!

Pronunciation: "sah-LYOOT" ; /sa:'lju:t/

From French, this greeting is mostly used by young people being creative. It's definitely not used in formal situations.

Салам! = Salam!

Pronunciation: "sah-LAHM" ; /sa:'la:m/

Yet another example of foreign words that young Russians might use in speech is the Arabic word "Салам!" The use of this greeting does not necessarily imply the speaker's religion.

Informal Farewells

Пока! = Bye!

Pronunciation: "pah-KAH" ; /pa:'ka:/

This is the easiest way to say "Bye!" No matter how easy it is, don't forget that it's informal and you're likely to come across as rude if you use it in situations where formal language is required.

Пока-пока! = Bye bye!

Pronunciation: "pah-KAH pah-KAH" ; /pa:'ka: pa:'ka:/

Just like in English "Bye bye!" or "Пока-пока!" is a light, friendly farewell. You're just saying bye two times in a row. It doesn't get any more obvious.

Счастливо! = Take it easy!

Pronunciation: "shahst-LEE-vuh" ; /ʃa:st'li:və/

Literally this phrase means "Good luck!" or "Have a good day!", but its use is probably closer to "Take it easy!" You can say this in almost any informal situation.

This is another easily confused word due to its pronunciation. The intonation and stress completely change the meaning. If you stress the first syllable, "Счастливо!" sounds like "SHAHST-lee-vuh" ; /'ʃa:stli:və/ and means "happy" or "lucky". For example:

  • Они жили долго и счастливо. (They lived long and happy.)

But if you stress the second syllable, "Счастливо!" sounds like "shahst-LEE-vuh" ; /ʃa:st'li:və/

  • Мы пошли. Счастливо! (We're leaving. Take it easy!)

Не прощаемся = We won't say bye                                                                  

Pronunciation: "nyeh pro-SHAH-yehm-syuh" ; /nje pro'ʃaɪemsjə/

It's important to understand the context around some phrases before using them. "Не прощаемся" is definitely one of those phrases. The rules of saying goodbye in Russian dictate that we only say goodbye when it's the last time we will see each other. Typically that means at the end of an evening together or when leaving to go to another city or country. While different Russian people have different opinions on how long the trip has to be in order to warrant a goodbye, most would agree that leaving for several minutes or hours isn't worthy of a farewell.

Мне пора! = It's about that time

Pronunciation: "mnyeh pah-RAH:" ; /mnje pa:'ra:/

The word "пора" describes some period of time. When we combine it with a verb it usually means something like "I have to" or "It's time to", for example: "Пора уходить." (Time to head out.) The phrase "Мне пора" could also be translated as "It's my time". Or we could say "Мне пора идти" (It's time for me to go.)

Чао! = Ciao!

Pronunciation: "chow" ; /tʃa:o/

Yes, Russians use the Italian word "ciao" (pronounced "chow" in English) to say "bye". Interestingly, in Italian "ciao" can mean both "hi' and "bye", but in both English and Russian it is used almost exclusively to mean "bye".

Гудбай! = Bye!

Pronunciation: "gooed-BIE" ; /gu:d'baɪ/

If you say "Goodbye" in English with a Russian accent, then you'll say it right in Russian. Remember that the sound of "oo" in the word "good", which is a short U sound, doesn't exist in Russian. That's why we should say the long U sound "oo" like in "food". So, instead of "good", it sounds like "gooed".

Бай-бай! = Bye bye!

Pronunciation: "bie bie" ; /baɪ baɪ/

This one is fun to say. To make it sound really authentically Russian, instead of boring old English, make sure you pronounce the final "й" sound when saying it in Russian. English speakers tend to drop the end of the first "bye" in the phrase "bye bye" so that it sounds like "buh-bye". But Russian speakers won't do that.


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