On the designation of truth in the Russian language: подлинный and вся подноготная

2013. № 1 (25), 183-193

Tatyana V. Shalaeva, Vinogradov Institute of Russian Language, Russian Academy of Sciences


The paper discusses the etymology of the Russian words подлинный ‘true; original’ and вся подноготная ‘hidden sense, reasons’ whose origin is traditionally viewed as torture terms. Подлинный seems to be related to the verb линять ‘to shed hair’, specifically to its presumable derivativeпóдлина *‘skin under the fur’, ‘lining’ and ‘truth’. The semantics may be reconstructed as ‘skin under the fur’ → ‘lining’ → ‘hidden sense, hidden truth’ → ‘truth’. Подноготная is, possibly, the transformation of the adverb поднагóтную ‘everything, totally, completely’ (from наготный,нагота), which is used in dialects. The probable semantic change is ‘(to learn, to tell) everything’ → ‘(to tell, to learn) everything, including hidden details’