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What is the difference between "девочка", "девушка", "барышня", "подруга", "подружка", "женщина",

девочка, девушка, барышня, подруга, подружка, женщина, девчонка, дама, тётя, тётенька, госпожа, мадам. In what cases should I use each of them? Which words are about young lady, which ones about girlfriends? Is девушка a girlfriend or if I say Я девушка that means I am a girl. Or Я девушка (of somebody?) Totally confused. Thanks

Я тётя - means aunt or woman?

эта тётя - this aunt or this woman

его подружка - his friend or his girlfriend

So many questions...

January 3, 2017



Ok, I'll try to explain, but I can't cover all nuances of the usage.

Девочка - a little girl. A child or a young teenager. Occasionally used as an informal way a group of females of any age call each other. Also can be used in regard to an adult woman if the caller is significantly older than her. In other cases it would sound very dismissive.

Девчонка - a bit crude form of девочка. Mostly used by little boys referring to little girls. Little girls for their part call little boys мальчишки (singular: мальчишка).

Девушка - a young woman. From late teens to late twenties/early thirties or more if she looks young (some people even call clearly middle aged women "девушка" but I personally find it tasteless).

Девушка only means "girlfriend" in sentenсes like "его девушка", "моя девушка", "у тебя есть девушка?", but on it's own it just means "a girl".

Женщина- a woman. Pretty much tha same as in English.

Подруга - a female friend (but not a girlfriend!).

Подружка - diminutive form of подруга. Sounds kind of childish and not serious.

Upd: But that's when used among females. On the other hand "его подружка" is more likely to mean "his girlfriend" and in a kind of dismissive way. Like a "girlfriend of the week" rather than any serious relationship.

Тётя - literally an aunt. Can be used as an informal and/or childish way to refer to any woman.

Тётенька - diminutive form of тётя. But this is more likely to mean a random woman rather than an actual aunt. Diminutive for the aunt would be тётушка.

Госпожа - Ms/Mrs. Госпожа Иванова - Mrs. Ivanova. Overly formal, not for everyday use. Usually we use "name+patronymic" as a formal way to adress somebody. "Госпожа/господин + surname" - is something you only hear in political circles, in press, in multinational companies and such.

Дама - a dame. Can be used as synonym to женщина but in a pretentious way.

Мадам - madame. Same as with дама, some people use it to refer to women but it's flowery and doesn't suit everybody.

Барышня - well, this is young lady, but just as with дама and madam it's not the usual way to adress a young woman. It's one of those words that seem obsolete but never quite fade away.


My late 20s Russian female friends highly objected to my referring to them as «женщины»; they demanded «девушки». Not really sure if this was personal eccentricity + reflection of our friendship, reflective of wider cultural aversion to aging, or just that "woman" universally starts a bit later in Russia than the US since we don't really have any unique word for "early womanhood."


When you refer to strangers in Russian, you call them according to their gender and age range. In English we would say, "Excuse me..." Sir/miss/ma'am

In Russian, you would call a person мужчина/парень/молодой человек/женщина/девушка.

With women it's touchy because calling someone женщина means that you don't consider her young enough to call her девушка.

From my experience, a lot of older women are called девушка in public, who definitely are not девушки


Thanks! Sounds maybe not so different than the touchiness of miss/ma'am.


Late? what happened to them? j/k

Well it is about as strange as men calling each other "boys" (which I oddly enough never seen in russian).

=Try "Дамы". Also it does depend who speaks and in what company - between themselves (if films are to be believed) they may even call themselves "бабы" but I wouldn't recommend using that.


девочка - small girl. If you are below 13 you can say - я девочка. if you are older it would be understood as you are a virgin.

девчонка - hmm, it's like "bad girl"

девушка - from 13 to 40 :-) but if you are older than 30 it's quite weird saying about yourself . Also it can mean a girlfriend - я его девушкa (i'm his girlfriend)

барышня, барыня - older words , not used now. You can meet then in books only, or if someone jokes

подруга, подружка - a girlfriend or a female friend

женщина - woman

дама - usually used for older woman

тётя - aunt or used by kids to refer to a woman

тётенька - childish

госпожа - Mrs

мадам - old style

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