Historical Terms

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Historical Terms


(Russian, istorizmy), words designating objects, things, or phenomena that do not exist today. The Russian words tiun (tax collector) and bortnichat’ (to gather the honey of wild bees), for example, have now disappeared from the language, although they occur as historical terms in descriptions of ancient Rus’.

Historical terms may be hundreds of years old, for example, smerd (peasant in ancient Russia), boyar, and bratina (a globe-shaped vessel for beverages used at communal feasts), or they may be only a few decades old, for instance, nepman, likbez (campaign against illiteracy), and prodnalog (tax in kind). Unlike archaisms, historical terms do not have semantic equivalents in the modern language. Historical terms are usually employed for stylistic effect in literary works on historical themes, for example, “the princes in shishaki (spiked helmets) rode about, while the kmety (peasant warriors) shod in bast sandals repulsed the foes in fierce fighting” (N. Aseev).


Kalinin, A. V. Leksika russkogo iazyka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971. Pages 102–07.
Mikhailovskaia, N. G. “Ustarevshie slova.” Russkaia rech’, 1972, no. 6.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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