Where does the word “Sputnik” come from and What does Sputnik mean in Russian?

The word sputnik which leaped into the headlines of just about every newspaper in the world is not, as may have been felt, a pet name coined by the Russians to describe their man-made moon, but is actually the Russian word for “satellite.”

In the nonastronomical sense, it means “a companion or associate.”

Sputnik is derived from the root sput-, implying entanglement or admixture, plus the suffix -nik, which is closely equivalent to the English suffix -er, that is, one who or that which is involved in the action of the verb root.

Sput- is probably a compound of the preposition s, “with,” plus put, “road.”

Thus a literal translation of sputnik would be “a traveling companion.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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