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Of Russian origin: Besperspektivnyak

Vladimir Kremlev for RTVladimir Kremlev for RT

What a total besperspektivnyak!

“Besperspektivnyak” is a Russian slang word that is used to describe a hopeless situation or fruitless exercise.  It is a noun, generally used in a negative sense, almost akin to calling a situation a ‘dead-end’ or a waste of an individual’s time.

 Origin and Construction

The word “besperspektivnyak” can be divided into three different parts.  The main root of the word is “perspektiv” or “prospective” in English, which on its own is a positive word in the Russian language.  Calling someone or something “perspektivniy” means that this person or thing is worth pursuing, being full of potential positive rewards in the future.  However, the prefix “bes” at the beginning of the word immediately makes the term negative.  A person or situation that is “besperspektivniy” is exactly the opposite; without potential, or pointless.  Finally, the addition of the ending “nyak” turns the word from an adjective to a noun, giving us “besperspektivnyak”: A pointless or futile situation. 

The exact origin of the word is unclear, but it appears to have naturally occurred in the national jargon in the 60’s and 70’s, when several new slang words that used the suffix “nyak” also appeared.  Some theories even suggest that the term was originally coined in prison by inmates!  Now if anyone was facing a “hopeless”, “no-exit situation”, it would have been them!


As with many slang words in the Russian language, “besperspektivnyak” can be applied to just about anything the user wants; a person, place, even a thing.  The most common use is when applied to a situation that seems to be a “logical paradox” or a “catch-22” in English.  For example, “You can’t get into the nightclub if you don’t know the owner, but you can only meet the owner inside the nightclub” is a classic example of a “besperspektivnyak”. 

However, the usage of the word is wider simply a paradoxical situation.  It can also be used to apply to people as well.  A person who is generally an idiot or who doesn’t show much promise might be called a “besperspektivnyak”.

The word, due to its tricky pronunciation has found its way into many a Russian tongue-twister.  Some of these include “visokokvalivitsirovanniy besperspektivnyak” (or in English, “A highly-qualified besperpektivnyak”), and “besperspektivniy besperspektivnyak iz-pod Sankt-Peterburga” (or in English, “A hopeless besperspektivnyak from the suburbs of Saint Petersburg”).

The ability to say either of these two tongue-twisters cleanly will certainly impress your Russian friends, and make sure they don’t think of you as a besperpektivnyak!

Written by Adam Muskin, RT