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A place for students, teachers and native Russian speakers to discuss Russian grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and other aspects of the Russian language.

Красная площадь - does it mean "Red square" or "Beautiful square" and why?

+1 vote

What is the etymology of the name "Красная площадь"? Is the word "red" related to the color of Moscow Kremlin and Lenin Mausoleum? How do native Russian speakers understand the meaning of "Красная площадь"?

My dictionary says that "красный" means "red" but I've read that another meaning for "красный" is "beautiful". Phrases like "Красная Армия" (Red Army), "Красное море" (Red Sea) or "Красная Шапочка" (Little Red Riding Hood) are all translated to English using the word for color "red".

Red Square

asked Jan 22, 2013 by Luca Pacioli (390 points)

6 Answers

+1 vote

The meaning of "beautiful" is outdated but can be found in older dictionaries.

As far as the square is concerned I've been told that it meant "beautiful", but the Red Sea, Little Red Riding Hood, and usage of the word in reference to communism, the army, fleet etc. mean the color.

answered Jan 22, 2013 by Bitpicker (1,130 points)
+1 vote
There are some reasons, why it is called Red. All together these reasons formed the name. First of all it was rebuild after the great fire in XVII century and means "beautiful". Also this square was used to execute criminals. So it was named by the color of blood. And it was the main square of the Soviet Union. So I think this fact also formed the name.
answered Jan 22, 2013 by Dmitry Khomitchuk (160 points)
Dmitry, the square was named in the 17th century and the SU formed in 1922, so this could not have formed the name. In my language book, there is a text saying that in old Russian красивая девуска was красное девица.
Sorry for my bad English. I wanted to say that later facts confirmed the name and gave new meanings to the name.
also the red square was named so because it was painted in the red colour during the WWII to hide it from fascist's bombers
Just think of the krasny ugol 'beautiful corner', the place in the house where the icons are situated
+1 vote
Russian Wikipedia says that "Красная площадь" was named "Торг" (bargaining, market) and "Пожар" (fire; conflagration). It has been named as "Красная площадь" since the second half of the XVII century. Because the word "Красная" means "beautiful".

There are a lot of Red Squares in Russia. For example in these towns: Выборг, Елец, Курск, Луганск, Рыбинск, Сумы, Таганрог, Тобольск, Чебоксары, Ярославль...
answered Jan 22, 2013 by Larusja (1,210 points)
+1 vote
От слова "красная" произошло современное слово "красивая". Красная площадь очень впечатляет своей неописуемой красотой, рекомендую всем по возможности там побывать.
answered Jan 22, 2013 by Ирина Журавлева (170 points)
+1 vote
Красная площадь is translated from Old Russian to English as Beautiful Square. Красная площадь is translated from modern Russian to English as Red Square. Красная means Red, not "Beautiful" in modern Russian. "Beautiful" is an obsolete meaning of the word "Красная". The translation "Red Square" is right. If you say "Beautiful Square", nobody understand you.
answered Jan 22, 2013 by grayhare (220 points)
+1 vote
Beautiful Square in modern-day Russian, nominative (subject) case, would be красивая площадь. The word красивая (krah-SEE-va-yah, beautiful) looks a little bit like красная (KRAHSS-na-yah, red)---to Americans, not Russians, that is---so it's easy to get them confused when you're learning. In fact, this is a favorite trick that Russian teachers like to put on beginning Russian exams! Watch for it!
answered Jan 22, 2013 by oomnayadyevochka (160 points)