девушка и девочка

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by trevorw, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. trevorw Member

    BC, Canada
    English - Canada
    Hi everyone,

    I've been having a hard time differentiating between the meanings of the words "девушка" and "девочка". Is "девочка" the diminutive form of "девушка"? (I've noticed that "-очка" is a common ending for diminutives.) In which situations would I use each of the two respective words?

  2. gvozd

    gvozd Senior Member

    Девочка is a little girl, a child. Девушка is a teenager, a young lady. But a raw youth can also be called девочка. It depends on what you want to emphasize - whether she is childish or serious and clever.:)
  3. Sobakus Senior Member

    Young (and even not especially young, i.e. 30-40 year old) girls usually refer to each other as девочки, while young men rather call them девушки. Девушка is also a girlfriend, therefore to many it may have a sexual connotation. Personally I cringe a little each time I hear that word from a male teenager or a 20-something man.
  4. gvozd

    gvozd Senior Member

    Why is that?:confused:
  5. Sobakus Senior Member

    First, because the general term for women in that age group is the disparaging баба, therefore saying девушка usually is a horribly obvious attempt at flatter; second, the flattering looks even more silly considering that even the girls themselves don't call each other девушка, except for formal situations; third, because of the sexual connotation (have you seen those annoying kissing couples in the metro? Ugh...)
  6. trevorw Member

    BC, Canada
    English - Canada
    So I should use
    девочка - for a female child, or a woman I am describing as childish, immature, or acting like a little girl
    девушка - It's still unclear to me where I would be able to use this word appropriately (I'm male, in my 20s and I don't want to be expressing these unwanted sexual connotations)
    женщина - for women in general?
  7. Sobakus Senior Member

    You got it right, and in formal situations (and as a foreigner you will always find yourself in one) you shouldn't worry about the unwanted connotations. Just keep in mind it can also mean girlfriend. To avoid it in informal situations there's девчонка, a playful/tender/condescending term for any girl up to 30.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2013
  8. trevorw Member

    BC, Canada
    English - Canada
    Thank you both for your help, it's clearer to me now. :)
  9. zambala Senior Member

    In russian there can always be some sexual connotations like:
    Is she a girl or a women? / Она девушка или женщина?
    девушка,... / Я вам не девушка! = Girl, ... / I'm not your girl
    etc :)
  10. igusarov

    igusarov Senior Member

    Moscow, Russia
    I'm afraid trevorw could get a very wrong idea and get scared of the word "девушка"...

    There's nothing wrong with addressing a visually young woman as "девушка". This word is quite neutral. It is used to address any young stranger girl in the street, for example, if you need to ask directions. This word can also be used to refer to any visually young woman, whether she's a colleague, a classmate, a waitress, a shop assistant, etc.

    The only exception where the word "девушка" is inapropriate is addressing an official and respectable female person. For example, it's probably not a good idea to say "девушка" to a female police officer, a judge, a notary, a doctor. They'd better be addressed by their position.

    As for the sexual connotation, "девушка" unambiguously means "girlfriend" mostly (only?) if used in expressions like "моя девушка", "прошлая девушка", "девушка друга" and similar phrases that imply one-to-one relations. There are border cases like "я пригласил девушку в кино" that could be interpreted both ways: either you're taking your girlfriend to the cinema, or you're asking a stranger girl to go to the cinema with you. But again, such cases should be really obvious to you because the whole sentence implies some special relations.

    There's an option to address a stranger female as "сударыня". This word is free from any sexual connotation, but... It is uncommonly polite, correct and respectful. People in the books talk like this, people in the streets don't.

    As the bottom line I'd say that a man in his 20s should not worry about calling any woman in her 20s "девушка".
  11. marco_2 Senior Member

    That's interesting. Do you still use the word сударыня? - according to Ozhegov's dictionary it is устаревшее слово, которое иногда употребляется как очень вежливое, учтивое, иногда ироническое обращение. And how about барышня then- is it used at times?
  12. Sobakus Senior Member

    I've only heard барышня used ironically, and I don't think I've ever heard сударыня at all.
  13. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    #10 - thank you igusarov, excellent level-headed post! Some of the others were beginning to sound a bit scary for foreigners learning Russian, as if they should avoid the word девушка altogether.

    Trevorw's problem was that he wasn't able to differentiate between девушка and девочкa, and he wanted to know in which situations he would use the two words. At its most basic level, девочка is a little girl below the age of puberty, and девушка is a girl or young woman above the age of puberty.

    The other connotations, some more subtle than others, are interesting to read about (and are evidently a subject for discussion among the natives), but they are unlikely to be an important factor in comprehension when a foreigner uses the word девушка. In most situations, Russians probably won't expect a foreigner to be aware of, or alert to, these different connotations.

    Trevorw's other question, which hasn't been answered yet, is Is "девочка" the diminutive form of "девушка"? The answer is no. They are both diminutives of дева, which in modern Russian is the poetic word for maiden, or, with a capital "Д", the star sign Virgo.
  14. igusarov

    igusarov Senior Member

    Moscow, Russia
    No, we don't :)
    But if trevorw is desperate for a word with no side effects whatsoever, then it's a good option. People will understand.

    "Барышня" is not used either. And I would not recommend using this word because it has the air of... don't know how to put it... impractical person. A sissy woman who does not know real life, who cannot put on her clothes with no help from her maids, who had never seen any hard work and thinks that sandwiches grow on trees...
  15. marco_2 Senior Member

    Ah, you mean кисейная барышня... :)

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