In Russian we have a verb "Намыль", which means take soap (assuming either wet soap or dry soap depending on context) and rub it to have it cover something. What is the equivalent in English?

I thought the word "soap" as a verb would help me out but unfortunately it means "wash with soap" while I needn't include washing.

I can't find the right word or phrase to use in English.

Edit: We mostly use it when we distinguish two actions. When, for example, a person is in a bath tub and asks somebody to cover his body (back or head for instance) in soap he would say this verb.

  • Does the Russian verb assume that the soap is wet, and that you're covering something in soap suds? Or does it also include the case where the soap is dry, and you're just leaving a thin layer of residue on the object that you're rubbing it against? Aug 10, 2017 at 12:44
  • It can either be wet or dry depending on context. Aug 10, 2017 at 12:47
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    Do you mean to create a lather (with water)? What kind of soap are we talking about? Clothing detergent? Hand soap? Dishwashing liquid? Saddle soap? And what is the "something" that a "child" should cover? Why child?
    – TimR
    Aug 10, 2017 at 12:59
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    It's a cop-out, but I would say "Could you do my back". I'd allow the context to carry the meaning.
    – James K
    Aug 10, 2017 at 20:26
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    Interestingly, Google Translate perfectly translates Намыль to Lather, the answer you accepted. I'm not suggesting you resort to GT for these cases, I just find it interesting.
    – That1Guy
    Aug 11, 2017 at 18:48

4 Answers 4


You are looking for the word "Lather", used as a verb. Often in spoken AmE "up" is included after.

Lather up my back.

If you are talking specifically about soaping someone's hair you would use, "Shampoo".

Would you shampoo my hair, please.

  • 3
    The "up" is common in British English, too :)
    – psmears
    Aug 10, 2017 at 15:20
  • Unfortunately, I couldn't find reference to the verb "to shampoo" being used in the context of applying soap onto somebody's head. ))) Jul 7, 2023 at 11:49

The way I see it, the verb to soap does cover your requirements. Namely, it doesn't require washing. From http://www.dictionary.com/browse/soap?s=t: "to rub, cover, lather, or treat with soap."

If you want to specify that it wasn't washed with soap but just covered, you can first say soap and afterwards rinse, indicating that water was applied at a later time.

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    +1. And if we're trying to convey the idea that the soap should be thoroughly applied, we'd say soap up.
    – TimR
    Aug 10, 2017 at 13:06
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    soap up means to cover in soap thoroughly? Aug 10, 2017 at 13:07
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    @SovereignSun: up conveys the idea that the action is performed to a degree not less than what is called for and possibly then some. To soap up means to apply the soap with the requisite coverage and vigor, using a goodly amount of soap. When the doctor scrubs up before performing surgery, he or she is giving the hands more than a quick perfunctory scrub.. When someone beats you up, they don't land only a punch or two, they give you a drubbing.
    – TimR
    Aug 10, 2017 at 13:41

In russian we have a verb "Намыль", which means take soap (assuming either wet soap or dry soap depending on context) and rub it to have it cover something. What is the equivalent in English?

There isn't a neat single word that communicates this succinctly in English.

Lather X/lather up X means to create, spread, or cover something with foam. It works with the context of soap, but sounds a little "instructive" in a bathing context. A parent wouldn't really tell their child "Lather your face with soap" but it might be something you read on the back of a bottle of soap or similar.

Soap and soap up do basically mean lather (up) X with soap but as soap is not too commonly used of a verb it can catch a listener off guard unless they are expecting you to talk about soaping things up. It can also mean to just apply soap to an object versus putting soap on something and then scrubbing it.

Phrases like scrub X with soap or wash down X with soap will work.

  • Correct. A parent would say, "Wash your face." If they wanted to tell the child to wash their face. However, if they wanted the child's face "soaped up" they might add, "Be sure to lather it up." Lather is the word that best answers OP. Doubtful that they would add, "Be sure to wash down your face." That, unfortunately, means nothing.
    – EllieK
    Aug 10, 2017 at 14:39
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    The whole child can be washed down. You've been playing out in the mud. We need to wash you down.
    – TimR
    Aug 10, 2017 at 14:46
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    "Washing down" is something done in bulk to an object, like a dirty car or a cement floor. Using it to describe a muddy child sounds to me like spraying them down with a water hose, rather than normal washing. Aug 11, 2017 at 12:13
  • @JeremyNottingham Are prisoners also washed down? Aug 12, 2017 at 2:57

A parent would say to their child "make sure to wash behind your ears" clean or scrub are interchangable with the word wash.

  • That doesn't help, too basic. Aug 11, 2017 at 15:23

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