Shifts of lexical semantics often reflect social history. Different spheres of language functioning and different lexical-semantic groups react to historical events to a different extent. Although names of body parts are considered to be one of the most stable lexical groups, the history of some words in this group presents us with examples of semantic change caused by extralinguistic factors. The article deals with semantic change in Russian words nozdrja ‘nostril’ and ukho ‘ear’ and studies their dialectal derivatives. Nozdrja and ukho are used to refer to insolent, bold and even anti-social individuals, whereas the derivatives ukhorez ‘a reckless man’, ukhorvan ‘a reckless young man’ and nozdrjovyi ‘a convict’ point to historical sources of these semantic developments, namely, corporal punishment of criminals by disfiguring or even cutting off their ears and by tearing their nostrils, practiced in Russia until the late 18th century.