Mat (profanity)

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The mat-word "хуй" ("khuy") in Max Vasmer's Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [ru] (Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language). Heidelberg, 1950–1958

Mat (Russian: мат; матерщи́на / ма́терный язы́к, matershchina / materny yazyk) is the term for vulgar, obscene, or profane language in Russian and some other Slavic language communities.

Four pillars of mat[edit]

In 2014, Roskomnadzor compiled a list of four lexical roots, with any words derived from these roots - nouns, adjectives, verbs, participles etc - of the Russian language which it deemed "absolutely unacceptable in the mass media": khuy ("cock"); pizda ("cunt"); yebat ("to fuck"); and blyad ("whore"). Since Roskomnadzor is the governmental agency legally entitled to make such decisions, this is exactly the currently active Russian legal definition of "mat".[1]

David Remnick believes that mat has thousands of variations but ultimately centers on those four words.[2]

All mat-words were included by Polish publisher Jan Baudouin de Courtenay in the 3rd and 4th editions of the Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language, which was printed four times in 1903–1909 (twice) and in 1911–1912, 1912–1914.[3][4][5][6][7] The inclusion of rude and abusive words became an obstacle to the reprinting of this version of the dictionary in the Soviet Union for censorship reasons.[8]

Slavic languages, including Russian, are very rich in terms of word formation by adding prefixes and suffixes. For instance, in Russian, usually, the perfect form of a verb is created from its imperfect form by adding a prefix like "na-", "ot-", "s-" etc (i.e. "delat'" - "to do", "sdelat'" - "to have done"). This richness also occurs with "mat" too, thus some Russians claim that Russian language is extremely rich in its "mat", and perhaps the world's richest language in terms of obscene/profane lexicon.


Khuy (хуй; хуй), often also written in Latin as "hui" or even "hooy" by Russian schoolchildren/beginners in their English studies, means "cock", "penis", or for an equivalent colloquial register: "dick". The etymology of the term is unclear. Mainstream theories include from Proto-Indo European (PIE) *ks-u-, related to хвоя (khvoya, "pine needles"), attributed to Pederson, 1908.[9][10]

From PIE *hau-, related to хвост (khvost, "tail"), attributed to Merlingen, 1955; from Mongolian хуй (khui, meaning "sheath" or "scabbard"). This was the etymology endorsed by the Soviet government and attributed to Maxim Gorky, who claimed it was a loan word, imposed during the Mongol yoke. Alexander Gorokhovski suggests the derivation from the Latin huic (lit. "for that", used on prescriptions for genital diseases) as a euphemism, because the old Russian "ud/uda" (from PIE root *ud- meaning "up, out") became taboo in the mid-18th century.[11]

The first volume of the Great Dictionary of Mat by the Russian linguist and folklorist Aleksey Plutser-Sarno [ru] treats only expressions with the stem хуй (khuy), numbering over 500 entries; 12 volumes are planned.[citation needed] The word khuy also appears in various other Slavic languages with the same meaning and pronunciation but not always the same spelling, such as the Polish chuj.


Pizdá (пизда́ пизда) means "cunt". A derivative of this word is the interjection pizdets. This word, depending on the situation, can express a vivid form of almost any emotion, ranging from sadness and annoyance ("Pizdets, my girlfriend cheated on me", or "Pizdets, I missed my flight"), to an expression of joy ("Pizdets, my son has just been born!") [2]


Yebát' (еба́ть ебать) means "to fuck (somebody)". This verb expresses a unilateral action and always requires (or implies) a direct object. The mutual action expressed in English with verbs "to copulate", "to have intercourse" is rendered in mat by the reciprocal form of the verb, yebát'sya (еба́ться): "to fuck each other". Historically, women have been perceived as sexually submissive, so the verb mostly refers to an action of a man. In modern times it may refer to a woman's action, in contexts when she initiates (or plans to initiate) the intercourse or plays an active role. See the wiktionary entry for some figurative uses of the word.


Blyád' (блядь; блядь) means "whore".[2] In the Old East Slavic the word блѧдь (блядь in modern orthography) – blyad, meaning: "deception, nonsense, insane, adulteress",[12] is preserved in the Church Slavonic in three meanings: "deception, delusion", "idle talk, trivia" and "debauchery, adultery".[13]

To enhance the expressivity, the word may be combined with the non-mat insult "suka" (сука, bitch) to form "suka, blyád" (сука, блядь) especially among Internet users and memes, an approximate analogue for the expression "fucking shit". The term is popular in the Counter-Strike video game community in the stylized form of "rush B, cyka blyat".[14]

History and use[edit]

Some claim that the term mat derives from the Russian word for mother, a component of the key phrase "Ёб твою мать", "yob tvoyu mat'" (fuck your mother).[15][better source needed] However there is a Russian expression "благим матом" (blagim matom) which has no relation to obscenities, and whose etymology is unsure as well.[16]

Obscenities are among the earliest recorded attestations of the Russian language (the first written mat words date to the early Middle Ages[17]).

Mikhail Lermontov's 1834 "A Holiday in Peterhof" ("Петергофский праздник") is one example of the usage of mat.

And so I will not pay you:
However, if you are a simple whore
You should consider it an honor
To be acquainted with the cadet's dick![2]

И так, тебе не заплачу я:
Но если ты простая блядь,
То знай: за честь должна считать
Знакомство юнкерского хуя!

Iták, tebé ne zaplachú ya:
No yésli ty prostáya blyad',
To znay: za chest' dolzhná schitát'
Znakómstvo yúnkerskogo khúya!

The prologue to Luka Mudishchev, probably written at some time in the mid 19th century, was often ascribed to Ivan Barkov, an obscene poet who lived in the 18th century:[18]

Hear ye, matrons and widows fair,
Young girls with pussy still untouched!
Let me tell you up front
A few words about fucking

О вы, замужние, о вдовы,
О девки с целкой наотлёт!
Позвольте мне вам наперёд
Сказать о ебле два-три слова.

 O vy, zamuzhnie, o vdovy,
O devki s tselkoy naotlyot!
Pozvol'te mne vam naperyod
Skazat' o yeble dva-tri slova.

Mat is also used in humor or puns by juxtaposing innocent words so that the result will sound as if an obscene word was used. An example is a Donn Cossack song cited in And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov:[19]

Щуку я, щуку я, щуку я поймала.
Девица красная, уху я варила.
Уху я, уху я, уху я варила.

Here "Уху я варила" ("I cooked the fish stew") may be reinterpreted as "У хуя варила" ("Cooked near the dick") or even "Ух, хуй я варила" ("Ooh, I cooked a dick").

The contemporaneous use of mat is widespread, especially in the army, police, blue-collar workers, the criminal world, and many other all-male milieus, with particular fervor in the male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata.[20] An article by Victor Erofeyev (translated by Andrew Bromfeld) analyzing the history, overtones, and sociology of mat appeared in the 15 September 2003 issue of The New Yorker.[21]

In the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War, two mat phrases were popularized internationally: "Putin khuylo!" and "Русский военный корабль, иди нахуй" ("Russian warship, go fuck yourself"), as expressions of the Ukrainian defiance.

Legal issues[edit]

As of 1 July 2014, mat has been banned in Russia from all movies, theatrical productions, and concerts.[2] In modern Russia, the use of mat in public aggravates a disorderly conduct and may lead to its qualification as petty hooliganism, punishable under article 20.1.1 of the Offences Code of Russia,[22] although there is no clear legal definition what exactly constitutes "mat".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Роскомнадзор запретил четыре русских слова — Викиновости".
  2. ^ a b c d e Remnick, David (5 May 2014). "Putin's Four Dirty Words". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  3. ^ Courtenay, Владимир Иванович Даль, Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de (31 May 1909). "English: Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language" – via Wikimedia Commons.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Courtenay, Владимир Иванович Даль, Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de (31 May 1907). "English: Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language" – via Wikimedia Commons.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Courtenay, Владимир Иванович Даль, Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de (31 May 1863). "English: Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language" – via Wikimedia Commons.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Courtenay, Владимир Иванович Даль, Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de (31 May 1863). "English: Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language" – via Wikimedia Commons.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "В. И. Даль. Биобиблиографический указатель / Рос. гос. б-ка, НИО библиографии; Сост. О.Г. Горбачева. Ред. Т.Я. Брискман. Библиогр. ред. Е.А. Акимова. — М.: Пашков Дом, 2004. — С. 9—11. — 134 с." (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 January 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  8. ^ Предисловие от редакции // Толковый словарь живого великорусского языка. В 4 т. Том 1 / В.И. Даль. — 6-е изд. стер. — М.: Дрофа, Русский язык-Медиа, 2011. — С. III—XII.
  9. ^ "Comments".
  10. ^ Voronezh (2005). РУССКИЙ МАТ – СЛЕДСТВИЕ УНИЧТОЖЕНИЯ ТАБУ (Культурные табу и их влияние на результат коммуникации.) [Russian Mat – Consequences of Destruction of the Taboo; Cultural taboos and their influence on the result of communication]. (in Russian). pp. 184–197. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  11. ^ Gorokhovsky, A. Матерщина: седая древность и цветущая юность [Foul language: gray antiquity and blooming youth]. (in Russian). Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  12. ^ Срезневский, Измаил Иванович. "Материалы для словаря древнерусского языка по письменным памятникам" ("Materialy dlya slovarya drevnerusskogo yazyka po pis'mennym pamyatnikam") – The Materials for a Dictionary of the Old Russian Language on manuscripts. Том 1 А–К (1893)/ С. 123
  13. ^ Дьяченко, Григорий Михайлович. «Полный церковнославянский словарь» («Polniy cerkovno-slavyanskiy slovar»)«Complete Church Slavonic Dictionary» / С. 47
  14. ^ Villanueva, Jamie; Heath, Jerome (3 March 2021). "CS:GO Dictionary: A Complete Guide to Counter-Strike Slang". Dot Esports.
  15. ^ Yerofeyev, Victor (12 October 2003). "The Unique Power of Russia's Underground Language".
  16. ^ Благим матом
  17. ^ Obscene lexics in birch bark documents
  18. ^ "«Лука Мудищев» — история и мифология расхожие заблуждения («Luka Mudishchev» – istoriya i mifologiya raskhozhiye zabluzhdeniya)" [Luka Mudischev – The History and Mythology: Widespread Misconceptions)]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  19. ^ "А. Чернов. Запрещенный классик".
  20. ^ Mikhailin, Vadim (29 September 2004). "Russian Army Mat as a Code System Controlling Behaviour in the Russian Army". The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies. 1. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  21. ^ Erofeyev, Victor (15 September 2003). "Dirty Words". The New Yorker. p. 42. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Article 20.1". Offences Code of Russia. Government of Russia. 8 December 2003 – via нарушение общественного порядка, выражающее явное неуважение к обществу, сопровождающееся нецензурной бранью в общественных местах ... влечет наложение административного штрафа в размере от пятисот до одной тысячи рублей или административный арест на срок до пятнадцати суток" ('disorderly conduct displaying explicit disrespect to society, accompanied by obscene language in public ... is punishable by a fine from 500 to 1000 rubles or arrest up to 15 days')
  23. ^ Министерство связи определит понятие нецензурной речи [Department of communications will define 'obscene language']. Lenta.Ru (in Russian). 24 July 2009.

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