Зри в Корень

This is the first in the series Зри в Корень, which literally means “get at the root” and is an idiom meaning “get to the heart of [a matter]”. In each article, we look at one root and common words that share that same root. Identifying roots can help you remember new words more easily.

Word formation in Russian. Why is it important?

Word formation in Russian is important to learn and understand if you want to master the language. Digging for the root of a word will give you insights about its meaning. Being a native speaker, I am still surprised sometimes how unexpected the relation of one word to another one can be! For your whole life, you don’t realize that there is a connection and a shared root! I like that! It helps me understand my mother tongue better. And I like that it helps my students memorize vocabulary faster.


Today I would like to show you how productive the root лич/лиц (face) is and share some frequently used collocations and idioms in which the derivatives of this root are used. Поехали!

выраже́ние лица́facial expressionлиц/лич
юриди́ческое лицо́legal entityлиц/лич
С лица́ во́ду не пить.Beauty is only skin deep.лиц/лич
пряма́я ули́каdirect evidenceлиц/лич
ли́чностьpersonality, characterлиц/лич
выдаю́щаяся ли́чностьwell-known figure, personage, star, person of figure, prominent figureлиц/лич
плати́ть нали́чнымиto pay in cashлиц/лич
ли́чныйprivate, personalлиц/лич
ли́чная жизньprivate lifeлиц/лич
лицево́йface-, front-, facialлиц/лич
лицево́й счетpersonal [bank] accountлиц/лич
неприли́чныйindecent, obscene, improper, unbecomingлиц/лич
неприли́чный анекдо́тindecent storyлиц/лич
отли́чныйgreat, excellent, fantasticлиц/лич
отли́чное настроениеfantastic moodлиц/лич
отлича́тьсяto be different, differлиц/лич
отлича́ться от остальны́хto be different from the restлиц/лич
ниче́м не отлича́ться от (кого́-либо)to be no different from, not to differ from, be undistinguishable fromлиц/лич


  1. wow, I didnt know about this root system before! Thanks a lot for this useful information, it was very helpful for an intermediate learner like me.

    1. Привет, Мэри! 🙂
      Thanks for reading! We are happy that you found the article useful. Yeah, word building and “digging for the root’ helps me a lot in learning languages. What makes it more difficult in Russian is that the roots can be unrecognizable sometimes 🙂

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