Rai (paradise)

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The term rai in Slavic languages is a term for a heavenly or earthly paradise. In some of these languages the term is a synonym with the Greco-Persian term paradise.


The etymology of Common Slavic rai is disputed. It is now generally regarded as a direct borrowing from Iranian ray, "heavenly radiance, beatitude".[1] If so then two Persian words ray ("radiance") and pardeis ("park") both separately passed into some Slavic languages; for example Russian where "paradise" is generally rai (Рай) but paradiz (Парадиз) from English is also encountered. Alternative derivations have included:

  • "glad" [2]
  • Proto-Slavic yrii, "land of warmth."[3]

The term passed from Slavic usage into Romanian.[4]



Usage of rai in Slavic languages differs from that of "paradise" in Western languages due in part to the influence of Old Church Slavonic versions of the Bible, which were translated from the Greek Septuagint. This influence is felt even in Protestant Slavic traditions such as Czech:

  • Genesis 2:8 Štípil pak byl Hospodin Bůh ráj v Eden na východ, "God planted a paradise in Eden in the East" (where Czech follows Slavonic, which follows Greek).

In Old Slavonic texts rai and peklo were associated with parts of the underworld, but in modern Russian rai popularly stands for Heaven and peklo for Hell.[5]


The term rai is generally applied to the Garden of Eden,[6] though uncapitalized eden also exists in Pushkin's poems as a generic paradise.[7] and also used in relation to "paradise".[8] The diminutive rayok is an entertainment stall at a fair,[9] and the title of lampoon songs by Musorgsky and Shostakovich.[10]


In several Slavic languages, including Russian, the nearness of rai to raj meaning "region", "district," creates opportunities for word-play.[11] The opportunity also exists for confusion, as in the rai to reka, "river".[12]

Place names[edit]

  • Český ráj, "Bohemian Paradise" is a tourist area in the North of the Czech Republic.[13]


  1. ^ Roman Jakobson Selected writings: 1985 7 p5 "The Common Slavic rai "paradise" has been acknowledged as a direct borrowing from Iranian ray- "heavenly radiance, beatitude". Like the religious terminology, the pantheon of the Slavs offers more Common Slavic than tribal features and "
  2. ^ Jacob Grimm, James Steven Stallybrass Teutonic Mythology 2: 1888 p461 "The Slav, rai, paradise, Miklosich 73 would derive fr. rod", glad, as nai fr. nad". Boh. raghrad or rai-grad, paradise- garden," p821 "All the Slavs call paradise rai, Serv. raj, Pol. ray, Boh. rag, to which add Lith. rojus, sometimes called rojaus sodas (garden of par.), or simply darzas (garden). Rai as a contraction of paradise (Span. parayso) is almost too violent; ." -- Jacob Grimm reprint 2003 p620 Boh. raghrad or rai-grad, paradise- garden, later hradiste (castle), a plot encircled by a round wall, in which the Slavs held feasts and games, and sang songs ; so the gral-hqfe, grale. Herod. 3, 26 calls vOa<riq a fiarcdpwv v^cro?,
  3. ^ History of Ukraine-Rus': From prehistory to the eleventh century ed. Mykhaĭlo Hrushevsʹkyĭ, Andrzej Poppe, Marta Skorupsky - 1997 "The term rai 'paradise' is of Proto-Slavic origin (the terms yrii, vyrii, denoting a land of warmth and sunshine to which birds migrate in winter, are regarded as related words), and it means a wonderful, happy place with beautiful ..."
  4. ^ Victor Spinei The Romanians and the Turkic nomads north of the Danube Delta 2009 p269 "the Slavs nor other migratory tribes were converted to Christianity, it is natural to acknowledge that all those objects ... funeral feast), popă (= pope, parson), post (= fasting), praznic (= funeral repast, wake), rai (= paradise), "
  5. ^ William Shedden Ralston Songs of the Russian People p79 "They originally, it is supposed, had the same meaning, but in the course of time the first and the last became associated with two different sets of ideas, and in modern Russian Rai stands for Heaven and Peklo for Hell."
  6. ^ Engendering Slavic literatures 124 Pamela Chester, Sibelan Elizabeth S. Forrester - 1996 "In another late poem, Parnok takes on the role if not the name of Adam by calling Vedeneeva her "gray Eve" and inviting her v nash greshnyi rai (into our sinful paradise)."
  7. ^ Joseph Thomas Shaw Pushkin poems and other studies 1996 "Something should be said about the use, in Pushkin's poem, of uncapitalized edem. In Russian, capitalized Eden usually denotes the biblical Garden of Eden, but uncapitalized Eden can mean rai (paradise)
  8. ^ Robert P. Hughes, Irina Paperno Christianity and the Eastern Slavs: Russian culture in modern times 2 p97 1994 "Supporters of Patriarch Nikon, for example, in 1659 published a book entitled Rai myslennyi ("The Spiritual Paradise") claiming the ultimate power in the church for the patriarch, "
  9. ^ Malcolm Hamrick Brown A Shostakovich casebook 2004 p188 The root word rai literally means “paradise”; hence the basic meaning of rayok in English is something like “little paradise” (English, not rich in diminutives, offers limited possibilities). "
  10. ^ Rosamund Bartlett Shostakovich in context 2000 "In contrast to Musorgsky's polemical lampoon, then, Shostakovich's Anti-Formalist Rayok is a work with more universal artistic meaning. Musorgsky's Rayok is the provocative and insouciant prank of a young genius flexing his muscles."
  11. ^ Canadian-American Slavic studies: Revue canadienne-américaine University of Pittsburgh. University Center for International Studies - 1967 "... raionny gorod — (the district town), which it actually is in the book, but at the same time the etymological connection with the word rai — (paradise) is quite obvious. This delightful play on words expresses the mood of the "Diary. "
  12. ^ Anatoly T Fomenko History: Fiction or Science?, 2 p386
  13. ^ Marc Di Duca Czech Republic: The Bradt Travel Guide 2006 p207 CESKY RAJ The increasingly popular Cesky raj (wuw.ceskyraj.cz), which translates as 'Czech Paradise', is a small area of exceptional natural beauty with densely forested undulating hills, incredible sandstone 'rock towns'

See also[edit]

Wiktionary entries for: