Foot vs leg

djwebb1969

Banned
English - England
If you are seeing the doctor and using the word нога, which means "leg/foot", how would you be clear the pain was in the your foot and not your leg? Would you say something like "the lower part of нога"?
 
  • No, I never remember when to use foot/leg or hand/arm: this exists in my brain passively as something learnt but not at the moment I am writing or speaking. There are specialized names for parts of these organs, like стопа, голень, колено etc., but they are not as generalized as foot/leg. The word for the entire appendage is нога. Actually, English preserves here the Indo-European distinction, but Balto-Slavic lost it early in its history.

    Update. So, if I have to explain where I feel pain, I will either use the lower part of нога or the precise word for this part. Actually, I am even not sure where the foot ends and the leg begins in English.
     
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    Evgeniy

    Senior Member
    Russian
    If you are seeing the doctor and using the word нога, which means "leg/foot", how would you be clear the pain was in the your foot and not your leg? Would you say something like "the lower part of нога"?
    We can: ступня. But we don't have to. Ступня is a part of нога.
     
    Some more linguistic information. Slavic possesses a word etymologically related to the English arm but it is used for the shoulder: e. g. Polish ramię and Slovenian ramo. The word related to foot is lost in Slavic, but in Baltic it means "the lower part of the foot" (or "the trace"): Lithuanian pėda, Latvian pēda. Leg and hand are Germanic words of disputable etymology.

    Update. I was actually wrong about the relatives of foot in Slavic: of course, it survives in the words пехота and пеший.
     
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    See here. Then, change the query to get the definition of 'ankle'. If you don't know this latter word as of yet, of course; I did not.
    To my surprise, the foot is actually smaller than I expected ,-) It more or less corresponds then to the abovementioned Baltic pėda/pēda, but in Baltic, like in Slavic, this part is not used in a general sense: for example on one's legs will be на своих ногах in Russian and ant savo kojų in Lithuanian, but to stand on feet also corresponds to стоять на ногах in Russian and stovėti ant kojų in Lithuanian.
     
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    Evgeniy

    Senior Member
    Russian
    ahvalj said:
    To my surprise, the foot is actually smaller than I expected ,-)
    Well, it has a different function than all the rest of noga. So, it earned a special word. ;-)
     

    igusarov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    If you are seeing the doctor and using the word нога, which means "leg/foot", how would you be clear the pain was in the your foot and not your leg? Would you say something like "the lower part of нога"?
    If there is a common well-known name for that part of leg - we would use it. Otherwise - yes, we would have to describe it somehow...

    I think you can look up these common names in any dictionary:
    Подошва, ступня (стопа), пятка, щиколотка (лодыжка), голень, икра, колено, бедро (ляжка).
     

    Evgeniy

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Otherwise - yes, we would have to describe it somehow...
    That's not a problem, I believe. "Доктор, у меня ступня болит", or, if you want to specify it's not "подошва", "у меня верхняя часть ступни болит". The word ступня, unlike стопа, is a conversational word, not a special designation for a well-defined part of the foot, and as such it is a very close equivalent for the word 'foot'. […]
     
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    Evgeniy

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The difference is in the status: in Germanic, the foot is a separate part of the body, whereas in Balto-Slavic it is an optional part of the leg.
    Well, in English the foot is not only a separate part of the body, but also a part of the leg, as the Wikipedia article for the human leg I was pointed to by a PM explicitly writes. Somehow, the two conceptions do not contradict each other and coexist.
     

    Linguoman

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    As it was stated, the Russian word for "foot" is "ступня" or "стопа". They both mean the same, but "ступня" is more colloquial.

    BTW, can anyone confirm if "стопа" is of the same Indo-European root as the English "step"? I guess it is.

    However, I have to admit we only use "ступня" or "стопа" when we want to emphasize that this specific part of the leg is meant. Generally, when it is clear from the context which part of leg is meant, we just use "нога" without specifying this part.

    E.g., we say "размер ноги" (and almost never "размер ступни") when speaking of one's size of foot (to buy shoes etc.).
    Then, we say "стоять на ногах" (and never "стоять на ступнях") meaning "to stand on one's feet".
    Similarly, "ударить по мячу ногой" (to kick a ball with one's foot); "смотреть под ноги" (to watch one's step, lit. "to look under one's feet") etc.

    As to using "ступня", the most common case which comes to my mind is visiting a doctor, when you need to specify exactly which part of the leg hurts. But we can still use "нога" even in this case. I can well imagine a dialogue:
    - Доктор, у меня нога болит.
    - Где?
    - (And then you show a point on your foot).

    Another example is "массаж ступней" (foot massage), which is a specific kind of massage for this specific part of body only.

    Sometimes, you can also hear the expression "ступни ног". Although it is logically redundant, it is quite acceptable. But in English you would never say "feet of one's legs", would you?
     
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    Evgeniy

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Sometimes, you can also hear the expression "ступни ног". Although it is logically redundant, it is quite acceptable.
    I think it is neither illogical nor redundant, though it makes no difference for all external logic. It helps locate ступни as we're talking of them; that's probably an illustration of ahvalj's point in #14.
     
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