On the Origin of the Term Krilatye Slova (Winged Words) in Russian

2021. № 4, 85-96





This article studies the idiom krilatye slova (pithy sayings, literally: winged words), which is to considered to be created by Homer. Homer used the phrase ἔπεα πτερόεντα in “Iliad” and "Odyssey" 104 times. The study made it clear that in the Russian literature the phrase appeared in 1760 thanks to Vasily Trediakovsky's translation of “The Life of Francis Bacon”. However, in the 18th century, the phrase didn’t become a part of the vocabulary of the Russian language. The phrase krilatye slova started being used actively only 100 years later thanks to the German scientist G. Büchmann, the author of the dictionary “Geflügelte Wrote”. The German dictionary became a precedent for Russian idiom collectors. In 1896 they published a dictionary “Winged words”  by S. Maximov and in 1896 a dictionary “Winged and apt words” by M. Mikhelson. However, among Russian scientists, there is no common understanding what specific features winged words should have and what elements of language they are. In Homer's times, a phrase could only be considered a ‘winged word’ if it belonged to a person who was directly or indirectly related to the royal family. The words were equated to the deed and had the physical force of impact. The goddess Ossa, or Fama, was the embodiment of the winged word among the Greeks. According to Ovid, unfaithful talk, and chatter fill human ears, produce only untruth, delusion, futility, fear, discord, and grumbling. The Russian writer Trediakovsky called Aristotle's philosophical reasoning winged words, he considered them abstract and dead. Thus, the phrase winged words turned out to be in demand by Russian culture and science only in the second half of the 19th century because there came an era of conscious aesthetic play with preceding text.

For citation:

Rastyagaev A. V., Slozhenikina Ju. V. On the Origin of the Term Krilatye Slova (Winged Words) in Russian. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2021. No. 4. Pp. 85–96. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170016216-6.