Nadsat is a constructed set of Russian-based slang invented by the linguist, novelist, and composer Anthony Burgess.



Nadsat is a teen language spoken by Alex and his 'droogs' in the futuristic world of A Clockwork Orange. It is not a written language: the sense that we have of the novel is of a transcription of speech, rather than writing. Nadsat is basically English, with some transliterated words from Russian. It also contains some Cockney influences, some words of unclear origin, and some words that Burgess invented. The word 'nadsat' itself is the tail of Russian numerals from 11 to 19, a close parallel to the English 'teen'.

Nadsat is in fact not so much a language as a register. Alex is capable of speaking 'properly' when he wants to, and besides, what he says is intelligible to an English speaker. Nadsat is really a lexicon of 'extra' words which Alex uses to describe the world as he sees it:

friend (Russian друг)
razor (Russian бритва)
money (most likely from Gypsy slang)
good, well (Russian хорошо, khorosho, "good")
knife/dagger (Russian нож)
starry ptitsa 
old woman (Russian старый птица, "old bird"; gender-mismatched Russian phrase)
sex, rape (invented)
young woman (Russian девочка, "little girl")

Nadsat words are all concrete or semi-abstract: to discuss philosophy Alex would have to shift into normal English. The fact that a teen language has no abstract words is perhaps Burgess' reflection on the shallowness of the juvenile delinquent's thought process.

At least one translation of Burgess' book into Russian ingeniously had the protagonist talk in a slang heavy with transliterated English words, in places where Burgess put Russian ones.

A comprehensive Nadsat lexicon lists the terms used in the book with their origins.

Function of Nadsat

Alex's use of Nadsat mirrors what happens in real life - children and teenagers creating slang and registers for talking amongst themselves (e.g. mobile phones) or in specific sub-cultural groups. That Alex uses a different, unfamiliar language to talk to others of his age reinforces the social apartheid between the young and the old. It reflects a completely different attitude to life.

Nadsat has the additional function of 'censoring' the graphic descriptions of Alex's crimes. Words that we have strong emotional reactions to in English - 'rape', 'murder' - are neutralised by being replaced with words that are unfamiliar: unfamiliar words obviously have no connotational baggage, so we simply take them at face value. This diverts us from the depravity of Alex's behaviour, and directs us into seeing Alex in a more sympathetic light.

From a publisher's point-of-view, Nadsat also has the added effect of desensitizing concepts that would otherwise have been considered unprintable.

See also

External Links

es:Nadsat ru:nadsat sv:Nadsat


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools