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Etymology edit

Borrowed from Russian ба́бушка (bábuška, grandmother, granny), diminutive of ба́ба (bába, old woman).

Pronunciation edit

  • (UK) IPA(key): /bəˈbuːʃ.kə/
  • (file)

Noun edit

babushka (plural babushkas or babushki)

  1. An old woman, especially one of Eastern European descent.
    • 1984, Eugenie Fraser, “Before the Storm”, in The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood, Mainstream Publishing, →ISBN, pages 126–127:
      Yet, much as I loved to listen to it, standing there in the heat of all the lighted candles and dressed in my heavy shuba and felt boots, I invariably, halfway through the service, would begin to feel an intolerable pain across my shoulders which would spread across my back, gradually getting worse, until in the end I was forced to go to the back of the church and find a corner on a bench especially placed there for all the old babushkas and dedushkas who were also unable to bear the strain of standing throughout the whole service.
    1. (by association) A stereotypical, Eastern European peasant grandmother-type figure.
  2. A Russian grandmother.
    • 1899, Lyof N. Tolstoï, “The Dekabrists: A Romance”, in [unknown], transl., Master and Man; The Kreutzer Sonata; Dramas (The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï), New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, page 231:
      [] the old woman wore the same kind of attire as his babushka and the mother of his house did []
    • 1980, Mike Davidow, Moscow Diary, Moscow: Progress Publishers, page 147:
      There they were, the devoted babushkas and dedushkas, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of Bobby’s companions, lugging their bags, their bulging packages and bundles.
    • 2020, Nalini Singh, Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity), Berkley, →ISBN, page 205:
      “He and my babushka took an angry and confused teenager and taught her how to build herself up into a strong woman.”
  3. (Eastern Europe, derogatory, slang) An old woman of Russian or Belarusian descent with unwelcome conservative and/or Orthodox Christian views.
  4. A traditional floral headscarf worn by an Eastern European woman, tied under the chin.
    • 1966, Thomas Pynchon, chapter 5, in The Crying of Lot 49, New York: Bantam Books, published 1976, →ISBN, page 79:
      “Say hello to old Stanley,” he called as she pattered down the steps into the street, flung a babushka over her license plate and screeched away down Telegraph.
    • 1982, TC Boyle, Water Music, Penguin, published 2006, page 78:
      The crowd falls silent, momentarily stunned, while a heavyset woman in a babushka pushes her way through, broadcasting the news […].
  5. A Russian doll, a matryoshka.

Usage notes edit

  • Note that the Russian term ба́бушка (bábuška, grandmother, granny; old woman) doesn't have the sense "Russian doll, matryoshka" or "woman’s headscarf".

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