Together instead

Recently I learnt the Russian word вместо [ˈvmʲestə], which means instead of or in place of. It is very similar to вместе [ˈvmʲesʲtʲe], which means together or along with. This got me wondering whether these words come from the same root.

вместо comes from в (in) место (place) [source].

вместе comes from въ мѣстѣ, from въ мѣстѣхъ, from мѣсто (place; field; square; settlement) [source].

So it seems that they are related, if I’ve understood the etymologies correctly.

Here are some examples and related words include:

– Ну… вы собрали вместе интересных подчиненных. = Well, it’s an interesting group of employees you’ve put together here.
– пошли в театр вместо концерта = let’s go to the theatre instead of the concert
– вместо того чтобы критиковать, постарайтесь понять. = try and understand instead of just criticizing.
– Тогда, по крайней мере, мы могли бы быть вместе вместо того, что имеем. = Then at least we could be together instead of whatever this is.
– вместе с тем = at the same time
– вместить = to hold, to accommodate, to fit sth/sb in
– вместиться = to fit in
– вместительный = spacious

3 thoughts on “Together instead

  1. I suspect this usage might be more widespread than just Russian. We can see some of the same thing in English.

    “Instead” means in place of, as in, “instead of them” means “in their stead”, “in their place” or “standing for them”. That implies a substitution. “Together” means “in the same place”, and if it refers to people, we could say “together” means “standing in the same place”.

    So, it appears that either by word order or by context, one or more people (or things) are in the same place at the same time, but one implies a substitution has occurred, and one does not.

    It would interesting to see if these semantics hold for other languages. Can you find any other examples, Simon?

  2. Danish and Norwegian bokmål have “i stedet (for)”*
    Nynorsk has “i staden (for)”
    Swedish has “istället (för)”
    Faroese has “í staðin (fyri)”
    Icelandic has “í stað(inn) (fyrir)”
    All of these literally mean “in the place for” i.e. instead of

    Together is
    Danish/Norwegian bokmål: sammen
    Swedish: tillsamman(s) and in some contexts samman
    Icelandic/Faroese/Nynorsk: saman
    This is related to the English word “same” and probably means “to/in the same place”

    * The form “i steden for” also exists in both languages because the word sted (place) used to be common gender but later changed to neuter gender.

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