Russian Names

Every Russian has three names: a first name, a patronymic, and a surname. Take a look at the name of a famous Russian writer:

Лев Николаевич Толстой (Lev Nikolayevhich Tolstoy)

   Лев - is the first name
   Николаевич - is the patronymic, or middle name (Hint: his father's name was Nikolai)
   Толстой - is the surname, or last name

The First Name

The first name is a given name. Every Russian name has a variety of forms which can express all kinds of emotions. For example, there are more than twenty forms of Maria in Russian!

  • The full form
    Maria (Мария) - is used in official papers, in formal relationships and with unfamiliar people.
  • The shortened form
    Masha (Маша) - is neutral and used in relationships with friends.
  • Form of affection
    Mashenka (Машенька).
  • Intimate, tender forms
    Mashunechka (Машунечка), Mashunya (Машуня), Marusya (Маруся).
  • The unceremonious, sometimes vulgar form
    Mashka (Машка) - is quite impolite when said by a stranger but it's all right inside the family circle or between children or adult friends.

  Russian boys' names

  Russian girls' names

The Partonymic

The second name is a patronymic. Russian patronymic is a name derived from the father's first name by adding -ович/-евич (son of) for male, or -овна/-евна (daughter of) for females. For example, in the name Мария Ивановна Петрова, the middle name, Ивановна, means daughter of Иван; in the name Николай Викторович Козлов, the patronymic, Викторович, means the son of Виктор.

Patronymics are usually stressed according to the position of a stressed syllable in the first name they derived from. For example, Алексей (ah-lehk-SEHY) - Алексеевич (ah-lehk-SEH-yeh-vich); Владимир (vla-DEE-meer) - Владимировна (vla-DEE-mee-rahv-na). But there are some exceptions, e.g. Михаил (mee-ha-EEl) - Михайлович (mee-HAHY-la-vich).

Children and close friends are called by their first names. The personal pronoun and the verb are in the singular.

Антон, иди обедать. Anton, the meal is ready. (Literally: Anton, go eat.)
Маша, где ты была?      Masha, where have you been?
Здравствуй, Николай!        Hello, Nikolai!

The usual official form of address among adults is the first name and patronymic; the person pronoun and the verb are in the plural.

Здравствуйте, Владимир Иванович!      Hello, Vladimir Ivanovich!
Анна Дмитриевна, что вы думаете?      Anna Dmitrievna, what do you think?

The Surname

Russian surnames or family names take on a feminine ending for women. For example:

Male Female
Сидоров      Сидорова
Петров Петрова
Губин Губина

Take a look at the examples below and compare the male and female versions of surnames:

Male names:
Иван Иванович Иванов
Владимир Андреевич Филатов

Female names:
Анастасия Ивановна Иванова
Елена Андреевна Филатова

If you'd like to know how to ask for somebody's name or to introduce yourself in Russian, please visit our lessons on Meeting people and Introducing others.

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