In Russian there is word тормоз (tormoz) which originally meant "brake" (as in a car), but now is often used to denote a very slowly working software.

The nearest word in English I know is "lag". But I am unsure that these are the same.

How to translate "тормоз" (in this second sense) to English?

Examples of usage: 1. Windows is тормоз compared to Linux. 2. Microsoft Word is a тормоз.

There is also a Russian verb "тормозить" derived from this noun. I want its English equivalent, too.

  • 2
    Perhaps, the adjective "tardy" would suit (= slow to act, move or happen). Low-tech?
    – Yulia
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:12
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    @Yulia: no. "tardy" means "arriving late". You can be tardy but speeding to get there.
    – TimR
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:41
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    @ Tᴚoɯɐuo: I won't argue with you, but "tardy" is a synonym of "sluggish": en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/tardy "There's nothing more frustrating than a sluggish computer, especially when you know it still has legs in it."(telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/…)
    – Yulia
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:49
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    @Yulia - Interesting dictionary meaning. However, I don't believe that usage is very common (at least not in the US), and you'd get some peculiar looks if you told a co-worker, "Is your computer acting tardy today?" The word sluggish would work just fine, though.
    – J.R.
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:57
  • 2
    You should mention that тормоз considered rude word in this context.
    – talex
    Sep 20, 2017 at 3:50

9 Answers 9


If software is тормоз because too many poorly implemented features have been added, then it is "bloated." This bloating might be the result of feature creep, as many 'small' features get added on one after another. Software that has suffered from this problem ends up being called bloatware.

If it is тормоз because it is poorly written, and needs to be re-coded, then it is probably "slow," "laggy," "inefficient," or (maybe) "buggy."

  • 1
    It seems that the Russian word in question is equally applied to bloated or just slow by being poorly written software
    – porton
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:04
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    I have just discovered that there is an entire wikipedia article dedicated to software bloat en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_bloat
    – Adam
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:05
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    No, that's not the case (I myself am Russian). The required sense is a combination of slow=sluggish and slow=retarded, slow-witted. And it should be slangy. Sep 19, 2017 at 21:05
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    I suppose that if one coined the term lagware for this, it would be readily understood Sep 20, 2017 at 11:14
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    Also, software may work slowly simply because it is doing a lot, even though it is doing it very efficiently. I used to work with various simulation programs, with the goal of getting run times down to days or even hours, because the originals could take weeks to finish.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 20, 2017 at 16:53

A software application that is relatively small in size, works quickly, and probably has a somewhat limited feature set could be referred to as lightweight. So more full-featured software that moves slower is, by contrast, heavy. But usually you don't hear that usage; "lightweight" is the more common term.

I think the best term is for you situation is simply laggy, which is the adjectival form of lag.

Windows is laggy compared to Linux.

Microsoft Word is a laggy program.

In English, rather than a verb derived from the noun, we just have "lag" as both a noun and a verb. In the software context, "to lag" simply means "to experience lag."

The lag in Call of Duty was so bad last night that I couldn't even walk in a straight line.

Call of Duty was lagging so hard last night that I couldn't even walk in a straight line.

Whether "laggy" really has the same specificity as тормоз in Russian is up for debate. Software can feel laggy because the code is poorly written or just because the machine's hardware isn't up to the task.

For example, Adobe Suite products on my five-year-old work computer take forever to start up, and opening new screens can cause a mini-freeze while they load. But on my home computer, the exact same programs open up right away and run very quickly. Is my home computer overcoming laggy software with superior specs, or is my work computer causing perfectly good software to lag because of bad specs? Perhaps a bit of both, but whatever the case, "laggy" doesn't really suggest a root cause one way or the other.

Also, note that lag may not have anything to do with the software at all.

For example, a clever user experience designer may trick users into thinking his software is faster by modifying a loading screen, when ultimately the software takes just as long to load.

Or, in the Call of Duty example above, if I'm playing online multiplayer, the lag I experience is really just ping that happens because one or more players has slow internet and/or is located geographically far away from other players or the game server. It has nothing to do with the game itself (other than the software used to match people up into a game initially).

Ultimately, laggy doesn't describe the software per se, but rather how the software feels to use.

  • 4
    Lagging/laggy would be more commonly used for network performance than application performance. It may be appropriate, depending on the context.
    – Simba
    Sep 20, 2017 at 9:59
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    I think this answer is spot on. "Laggy software" is exactly as described in the OP. If the slowness is due to inadequate hardware, it would be "a laggy computer" - saying "this program is laggy" would sound like misattribution to me if the hardware were at fault. "lag" without a specified context would probably be interpreted to be network-specific but it is by no means limited to that context. Sep 20, 2017 at 13:41
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    Lagging specifically means the time delay from a network request being sent to it being received. A network may have high bandwidth (many requests per second) but laggy (requests each take a long time to arrive) or low bandwidth but not laggy. Outside of computer games, lagginess is normally not as important as bandwidth in a network. Using "laggy" for slow software is totally wrong. Sep 21, 2017 at 11:08
  • @ArthurTacca that is 'network lag'. The term 'lag' itself is not specific to networks, and is commonly used to describe UI which takes time to respond, irrespective of cause, as well as in other engineering disciplines. Sep 21, 2017 at 12:43

Sluggish, as in "Microsoft Word is very sluggish", or "Compared to Linux, Windows runs sluggishly".



averse to activity or exertion :indolent; also :torpid


slow to respond (as to stimulation or treatment)


a :markedly slow in movement, flow, or growth

b :economically inactive or slow — sluggishly adverb — sluggishness noun


We could say "it runs like a dog".

On phrases.org.uk:

Re the phrase - "my computer is 'running like a dog'". I understand this to mean that my computer is running very slowly. Anything that is 'running like a dog' means it is slow.

On the ELU SE:

I've used the phrase "runs like a dog" to mean that my car is on its last legs and can't, sometimes, run anywhere near as fast as a dog can.

In the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang, the phrase is said to be Australian slang for "to run or perform slowly", but it is fairly widely used in the UK too.

Other examples:

checked sooo many times new crank shaft sensor and pick up, new tandem pump (old one leaking) ran of seperate fuel supply all no good, no codes stored[,] it thinks its running fine but its running like a dog, let it go cold again and eveything is fine till it hits temp then back to running like a dog (ross-tech.com)

Is eBay running like a drunk slug? ... Yep its running like a dog for me too. Griffin DSL 8Meg, the ebay pages are running at dial up speed tonight.... (pistonheads)

WTF are you guys doing? I've spent about 2800 hours in Ark, way too much, I've seen a lot of patches. This is quite possibly your worst patch ever. 10 mini patches in a day! So many server crash bugs fixed, and you still havent got them all, our server is crashing constantly. You've ruined fps somehow, it[']s running like a dog. (steamcommunity discussion)

  • 4
    Worth noting that this phrase is not idiomatic in the US (at least not the parts I've ever lived in).
    – Catija
    Sep 19, 2017 at 22:32
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    @Catija Yes, worth noting. Slang is sometimes restricted to certain nations or regions. What about "crawls" as an alternative? "A low end G4 trumps a P III 1.2Ghz because of how slow windows crawls compared to OS X which hands off the window rendering to the graphics card." ( 68kmla.org/forums/index.php?/topic/… )
    – rjpond
    Sep 19, 2017 at 22:49
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    It's a strange expression to me, because dogs run pretty fast
    – samgak
    Sep 19, 2017 at 23:47
  • I think that's the polite way of saying it. In the UK at least I believe it's running like a pile/piece of dog excrement - generally said with cruder words. Sep 21, 2017 at 8:40

In my experience as a software engineer and avid gamer, there isn't a word we can use like that to denote that software is slow an all contexts, except the word slow itself.

The words / phrases I hear commonly used to describe / convey that software is slow are:

  • Lag / Laggy
    • Used almost exclusively in the context of networked software; ie. games / media
    • Sometimes references less than desirable frame rates in games as well
    • Sometimes used as a general term for "slow software" by gamers
    • Commonly prefixed with an expletive to denote one's frustration while playing a video game, specifically when poor network / hardware performance causes one to feel like they are at a disadvantage
  • Choppy
    • Often references noticeable frame-rate dips in gaming / media software
    • Specifically, the "image" conveyed by this word involves periods of unresponsiveness:
      • In gaming or in a video, this would be noticeable pauses / stuttering while audio may or may not continue.
      • In the context of a user interface, this could represent periods of unresponsiveness / stuttering within the app itself
  • Slow
    • More general, ie. office / productivity. Most common outside of gaming / media minded users
    • Can be prefixed with "painfully" or an expletive to denote one's annoyance with the lack of performance
    • Can be used in place of any word in this list without losing the general meaning
  • "Takes forever"
    • A common hyperbole used to denote that the software takes way longer than it should to accomplish a task.
    • This phrase is essentially synonymous with "painfully slow"; can use it almost anywhere.
  • Bloated
    • In the context of operating systems, this refers to too much software being installed, causing the system to noticeably slow down, even when performing tasks while the system is "idle".
    • Similarly, in something like Google Chrome or World of Warcraft, or other software that can include addons / plugins, this references there being too many plugins that slow things down.
    • In the context of general software, such as Microsoft Word, it doesn't make sense for an average user to say that a particular application is "bloated" - they wouldn't have an understanding of the underpinnings of the software to make such an assessment. Just calling it "slow" is more appropriate.

Example Phrases:

  • "OpenOffice runs really slow"
  • "Internet Explorer takes forever"
  • "Opera is painfully slow"
  • "They said Windows lags behind Linux in terms of performance"
  • "This game is really laggy"
  • "That video is too choppy; I almost can't watch it!"
  • "I tried to edit the sound clip, but the preview was too choppy"
  • "His new PC runs really slow; it's loaded with bloatware"
  • "Her new PC takes forever to boot; it's really bloated"


"The internet is really crawling today. It took more than fifteen seconds to load this page."

"Windows really crawls compared with Linux."


For slang, potato or potato quality is becoming more popular. It is usually used to refer to old or out of date hardware that works poorly, but can be used to refer to software as well. To refer to software specifically, use phrases like "runs like a potato". The idea is that the thing you're referring to is so outdated or low tech that it may as well be a potato.

It's most often used to refer to cameras, microphones, or video recording equipment.

For example, to say that a picture was taken with an old phone:

"Sorry about the terrible photo, I took it with a potato."


Americans may call that software poky:

Merriam-Webster quotes a technical use of the verb form:

The maximum reported download speed was 93 Mbps; the upload max was a far pokier 8 Mbps, which would help explain the snags with the FaceTime calls.

By example, one might say "Windows is pokier than Linux" or "Microsoft Word is poky."

While I might also use sluggish, I reserve poky for derisive needs: poky denotes the slowness is annoying, while sluggish merely states a fact (being "slug-like").

From a cultural perspective, I learned this word when I was very young, from the book The Poky Little Puppy. In the book, the titular character lags behind the others, taking its time to observe. According to Wikipedia,

As of 2001, The Poky Little Puppy was the single all-time best-selling hardcover children's book in the U.S., having sold nearly 15 million copies.

Since so many American children have read this book, and have associated the word poky with slow, it's reasonable to assume an American audience would fully understand its usage in this form.
Cover image of The Poky Little Pupply

However, note that when describing a place, poky also means small and cramped. Apparently to "English" English speakers, the "small and cramped" definition also applies to vehicles. While I feel poky conveys the derision you're wanting from the Russian тормоз, you have to be aware that readers from different regions may recognize this word from its other definitions.

  • 1
    @bishop: in "English" English, poky means quite the opposite. Something "poky" means fast, speedy. Commonly used of hot hatch cars. I normally call it slugware. Sep 20, 2017 at 8:25
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    To me, "poky" means "small", not "slow". eg a poky apartment is one that is small to the point of being uncomfortable to live in.
    – Simba
    Sep 20, 2017 at 10:22
  • As a North American English speaker, I've never heard poky used in the context of "slow". If you used it that way to me in conversation I wouldn't catch your meaning. Sep 20, 2017 at 18:35

In this particular context I would say that the nearest equivalent word is bloated. "Windows is bloated" not only conveys the fact that Windows is slow, but also accurately describes why Windows is so slow.

Software professionals frequently use the word bloated to describe software that is very slow because it is too big and fat, usually because it is over engineered or has a lot of legacy baggage.

  • Bloated doesn't mean slow. If I heard a piece of software being described as bloated, I would understand that it was excessively large; ie it takes up more disk space and/or memory space than would be reasonable for an application of its type. I may also infer that it might be slow, but that wouldn't be explicit simply by saying 'bloated'. I would typically say "slow and bloated" if I wanted to be clear that it was both.
    – Simba
    Sep 20, 2017 at 10:17

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