Ushi (‘Ears’) in Russian Phraseology

2022. № 5, 7-25

Maria M. Voznesenskaya, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Moscow),


The article provides the description of the somatism ushi (‘ears’) in Russian phraseology. The paper analyses more than 100 phraseological  units with the component ukho/ushi (‘ear/ears’). The article examines the characteristics of this somatic object that were “selected” by Russian phraseology, and how these characteristics are reinterpreted in the actual meaning of idioms. The work reveals structural, physical and functional features of the somatic object ‘ears’. Among the structural characteristics, the most important are binarity of ears and their location — the head, which has various implications. Ears serve as limiters of the human body vertically and parts of the head (face, mouth) horizontally, mark the normal position of the human body in space, are a metrological unit. In addition, the ears as a protruding part of the head become the object of various physical manipulations — they are pulled, they are torn off, various objects can be hung on them. Physical features are quite few and are actualized in a small number of idioms. The most obvious are the temperature characteristics of the ears. The main functional feature of the ears, refl ected in Russian phraseology, is the ability to perceive sounds. Various ear dysfunctions are also revealed — physiological (complete or partial) inability to hear, accidental, involuntary, non-perception of sounds and information, or intentional unwillingness to hear. It is shown that in most idioms ushi (‘ears’) denote a somatic object of a human, but the inner form of some Russian phraseological units refers to the world of animals, and then the word ushi (‘ears’) is zoosomatism. It is noted that the ears are a polyreferent name of a somatic object that combines features of different classes of somatic objects. The ears are both a part of the body, or rather a part of a part of the body (part of the head), an organ (the organ of hearing), and an opening. Some of the analyzed features are actually inherent in the ears as a biological somatic object, some features are imaginary or have national and cultural specifics.

For citation:

Voznesenskaya M. Ushi (‘Ears’) in Russian Phraseology. Russian
Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2022. No. 5. Pp. 7–25.