Mat (Russian profanity)

Mat (Russian: мат; матерщи́на / ма́терный язы́к) is the term for strong obscene profanity in Russian and some other Slavic language communities. Use of mat is censored in the media and use of mat in public constitutes a form of disorderly conduct, punishable under article 20.1.1 of the Offences Code of Russia,[1] although it is only enforced episodically,[2] in particular due to vagueness of the legal definition.[3] Despite the public ban, mat is used by Russians of all ages and in all social groups, with particular fervor in male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata.[4]



It is commonly believed that the name мат mat derives from мать mat' , the Russian word for "mother". The term might also come from a word meaning "loud yell", which is now used in only a few expressions such as "благим матом".

History and use

Obscenities are among the earliest recorded attestations of the Russian language (the first written mat words date to Middle Ages[5]). It was first introduced into literature in the 18th century by the poet Ivan Barkov, whose poetry, combining lofty lyrics with brutally obscene words, may be regarded as a forerunner of Russian literary parody.

The use of mat is widespread, especially in the army, the criminal world,[6] and many other all-male milieus.

A detailed 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.

Mikhailin points also to the social influence of the criminal milieu through the labor camps, where criminals were favored and allowed to dominate the "political" prisoners. Thus thieves' (блатной, blatnoy) customs, aesthetic standards, and jargon (of which mat is a significant part) penetrated the law-abiding population, especially the male adolescent subcultures of city courtyards.

Key words and expressions

The first volume of the Great Dictionary of Mat by the Russian linguist and folklorist Alexei Plutser-Sarno (Большой словарь мата) treats only expressions with the stem khuy (huy), numbering over 500 entries; 12 volumes are planned.

The key elements of mat are:

  • khuy (huy) (Russian About this sound хуй ) — penis, or for equivalent colloquial effect, dick. The etymology of the term is unclear. Mainstream theories include: from Proto-Indo European (PIE) *ks-u-, related to khvoya (Russian "хвоя", meaning pine needles), attributed to Pederson, 1908.[2] [3]; from PIE *hau-, related to khvost (Russian "хвост", meaning tail), attributed to Merlingen, 1955 [4]; from Mongolian hui, meaning sheath, scabbard. This was the etymology endorsed by the Soviet government and attributed to Maxim Gorky, who claimed it was a loan word, imposed during Mongol yoke; from Latin huic (lit. "for that", used on prescriptions for genital diseases) via rederivation, similar to Russian zont from Dutch zondeck. Old Russian "ud/uda" (from PIE root *ud- meaning "up, out") became taboo in mid-18th century, requiring the euphemisms khui and kher. [5] [6] [7]; from the second-person singular imperative form of the Ukrainian khovaty "ховати", meaning hide, stash. Commonly regarded as a joke etymology.
    • An example of an expression, constructed entirely of different derivatives from the root khuy: Хуяк! Хуя нахуевертили! Хули нахуй, хуилы, нахуярили дохуя хуецкой хуевины? Охуели нахуй, хуеплеты хуевы? Нехуй хуевничать, расхуяривайте нахуй хуетень! Translation: "Wow! You did much too much! For what purpose, why did you, idiots, loaded such a huge amount of this crappy stuff? Are you totally crazy, stupid morons? Enough being lazy, unload this crap faster!"[citation needed]
  • pizda (Russian About this sound пизда́ ) — cunt
  • yebat′ (Russian About this sound еба́ть ) — to fuck. from PIE *eibati , cf Old High German "eiba" and Sanskrit "yabhati".
    • "Ёб твою мать" (Yob tvoyu mat'), meaning "fucked your mother", with the familiar ты form implying contempt
    • Пёс ёб твою мать (Pyos yob tvoyu mat'), meaning "A male dog fucked your mother".[7]
  • blyad′ (Russian About this sound блядь

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