Russian Vocabulary: Amusement Parks

Posted on October 30th, 2012

Roller coasterThis weekend my very good friend and I went to Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm. With 13 mazes and a bunch of roller coasters, I was in for one scary night… Funny, that the mazes were rather more funny and enjoyable than scary. The super fast and bumpy ride on the twisted into knot roller coaster, however, did the trick and gave me a good fright. After the extremely fast and sudden drops, ups and downs, backs-and-forths, I felt the mission was accomplished. I was petrified to the core, no Halloween decorations needed. Needless to say, I swore to myself that this was the last roller coaster I’d ride in my life…

I know, I know, we’ve all said this before, but yet, we keep coming back to the good old amusement parks to enjoy the rides. My trip to Knott’s has inspired me to write a post on the amusement parks vocabulary and share a few interesting facts about roller coasters with you.

“Russian Mountains” vs. “American Mountains”

The “roller coaster” in Russian is «Американские горки» [a-mye-ree-KAN-skee-ye GOR-kee] or if translated literally “American Mountains”. Interestingly:

  • in French “roller coaster” is “les Montagnes Russes”
  • in Italian it is “Montagna Russa”
  • and in Spanish – “Montaña Rusa” which means “Russian Mountains”.

So, the question is why term “roller coaster” in Russian language is not a “Russian Mountain”, but an “American Mountain”?

Russian Mountain ice slide Term “Russian Mountains” appeared back in the 17th century, when Peter I built sled rides in the form of hills constructed from ice, crash-landing in a sand pile. The first slides appeared near Saint Petersburg. They were supported by wooden construction and were 70 to 80 feet tall. The height of these slides could be up to 200 feet. Catherine II (Екатерина II) liked the slides so much that she insisted they were built on the territory of the royal residency. This is how The Russian Mountains became a predecessor to the modern roller coasters.

 Having fun on Russian ice slidesHistorians are still unclear on when the first roller coasters on wheels appeared. Some believe that they were built in Russia, while others think that the first roller coasters on wheels were built by French entrepreneurs who liked the idea of The Russian Mountains. The first amusement park that featured wheeled cars securely locked to the track was Les Montagnes Russes à Belleville (“Russian Mountains of Belleville”). It was built in 1812 in Paris. This is why the term “Russian Mountain” for a “roller coaster” still remains in many other languages.

Since then, roller coasters have evolved and been developed and were modernized in the USA to become the roller coasters we enjoy today. The roller coasters in Russia were built on the basis of the modern American roller coasters, this is why in Russian for “roller coaster” we use the term «aмериканские горки» or “American Mountains”.


Now that you know a little bit of history of the roller coasters, let’s learn the names of some of the most popular rides in Russian:

Парк аттракционов[PARK at-rak-tsee-O-naf] amusement park
Тематический парк [tee-ma-TEE-chyes-keey PARK] theme park
Aттракционы [at-rak-tsee-O-ni] attractions

Катальная гора [ka-TAL’-na-ya ga-RA] roller coaster
«Американские горки» [a-mye-ree-KAN-skee-ye GOR-kee] roller coaster
Башня свободного падения [BASH-nya sva-BOD-na-va pa-DYE-nee-ya]
Башня кругового обзора [BASH-nya kroo-ga-VO-va ab-ZO-ra] observation tower
Гигантские качели [gee-GAN-tskee-ye ka-CHYE-lee] giant swing
Катапульта [ka-ta-POOL’-ta] catapult (attraction)
Колесо обозрения [ka-lee-SO a-ba-ZRYE-nee-ya] observation or Ferris wheel
Автодром [af-ta-DROM] autodrom (bumper cars)
Энтерпрайз [enter-PRAYZ] enterprise
Летающая тарелка [lee-TA-yoo-sha-ya ta-RYEL-ka] UFO

If I’ve missed a ride you like, let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list.

Here is how you can say in Russian that you like riding on a specific ride, for example:
“I like riding on the roller coaster”. Just use this simple formula as a guide:

Я люблю кататься на + the name of your favorite ride in Prepositional case.

Я люблю кататься на aмериканских горках.
Я люблю кататься на колесе обозрения.
Я люблю кататься на гигантских качелях.

Now it’s your turn to tell me what rides you like to ride! You can do so by leaving a comment below.

And now, let’s get to the yummy stuff. These are some of the treats you might enjoy while at an amusement park:
Сахарная вата [SA-har-na-ya VA-ta] cotton candy
Сладкая вата [SLAT-ka-ya VA-ta] cotton candy
Попкорн [pap-KORN] popcorn
Мороженое [ma-RO-zhe-na-ye] ice cream
Лимонад [lee-ma-NAD] lemonade

And lastly, a little Halloween fright…

Watch a video of a scary roller coaster in Russia. I wonder if Catherine II would be interested in building  this ride in her yard?… :)

Happy Halloween to all my wonderful readers! :)


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