Diabetichka vs. Idiotka. Feminitives Formed from the Names of Illnesses: Features of Semantics and Pragmatics

2021. № 3, 31-46

Anna V. Zanadvorova

Vinogradov Russian Language Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences)
(Russia, Moscow)



The article discusses the words denoting a person by diseases (alergik — allergy sufferer, yazvennik — ulcer suferer), as well as feminitives formed from them (astmatik — asthmatichka, epileptik — epileptichka). Similar names can be formed based on the diseased organ: serdtse (heart) — serdechnik, and from the name of the disease: gypertonia — gypertonik (gypertonichka). In some cases, such designations are formed from the corresponding adjective, compare: gripp — gripposniy — gripposnik; koma — komatosniy — komatosnik. Unlike the designations of professions, not all such masculine nominations belong to the literary language. Many of them are absent from the dictiona ries, others are labeled as colloquial or substandard in dictionaries. If the dictionaries fi x both male and female versions, their stylistic statuses, as a rule, coincide, but often there is a masculine form in the dictionary, whereas a feminitive is abscent from the dictionary. However, such feminitives are actively used in casual written and oral speech, as well as in fi ction.
Nevertheless, the speaker / writer often uses the male nomination speaking about a woman, usually in cases where they consider a feminitive unusual (this is signaled by contexts when in one expression the speaker uses both male and female nominations for the same person: Ya serdechnitsa (fem.) i allergic (masc.) — I am a heart disease sufferer and an allergy sufferer.
Another reason to choose a masculine form may be the speaker’s wish to use the word in an offi cial or scientifi c contest. A series of words denoting a person with an intellectual disability (idiot, kretin — cretin, marasmatik — a senile person), as well as a person with some kind of addiction (alkogolik — alcoholic, narkoman — drug addict) have a transferable pejorative meaning. In such cases, the corresponding feminitives (idiotka, kretinka, marasmatichka) are widely used and are not replaced with male nominations. There is only one example where a feminitive is used to characterise a male person, which is the word isterichka — a hysterical person.

For citation:

Zanadvorova A. V. Diabetichka vs. Idiotka. Feminitives Formed from the Names of Illnesses: Features of Semantics and Pragmatics. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2021. No. 3. Pp. 31–46. DOI: 10.31857/ S013161170015451-5