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51 Hilarious Russian Idioms That Will Make You Giggle

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51 Hilarious Russian Idioms and Russian Expressions
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Learning Russian stressing you out? “Don’t rush the horses“, “the first pancake is always a blob”. Speak like a native with these 51 Russian idioms and expressions translated into English.

Russians aren’t known for their humour. When it comes to Russian grammar, you can’t help but laugh at its complex rules and trying to get your head around all those declinations for each case. Learning Russian can be quite challenging. At times, it’s so confusing that there’s no other way to express your frustration but to laugh! So, take a break and let these Russian idioms make you giggle for less stressful reasons.

Here are some common hilarious Russian idioms, their literal translations, meanings, and English equivalents.

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1. Быть не в своей тарелке

How it’s pronounced: byt’ ne v svoyey tarelke
Literal translation: to be not in one’s own plate
Similar English idiom: to be like a fish out of water, be out of one’s element
Meaning: If you feel ‘out of your own plate’ or out of your element, you feel uncomfortable, maybe even embarrassed. The phrase may be used when a situation you’ve never been in makes you feel weird or something embarrassing has happened. But what does embarrassment have to do with plates? The fact is, this phrase has been borrowed into the Russian Language from French. In a similar French expression, the word ‘assiette’ is used, which can mean both ‘mood, state, situation’ and ‘plate’. Somehow, a somewhat joking translation with the word ‘plate’ remained in the Russian language, instead of the more logical one.

Russian Idioms - to be not in one’s own plate2. Заткнуть (кого-то) за пояс 

How it’s pronounced: zatknut’ (kago ta) za poyas
Literal translation: to put (someone) under one’s belt
Similar English idiom: to put someone to shame, to get the better of someone
Meaning: This idiom means to surpass someone in something and be better than them at something. The roots, as is common for many idioms, lie in Russian history. In the past, wearing belts was much more common. In winter, Russian’s would take off their gloves or mittens when they were inside and temporarily place their gloves under their belts. Similarly, various craftsmen would place their tools under their belt as well. Thus a comparison arises: something (or someone) you put under your belt is something not very useful.

Russian Idioms - to put under one’s belt

3. Остаться с носом 

How it’s pronounced: astat’sya s nosam
Literal translation: be left with the nose 
Similar English idiom: be left holding the bag, be duped
Meaning: If you are ‘left with the nose’, you have been duped, or have failed, achieved nothing. What do noses have to do with failing? Actually, nothing. The ‘нос’ in the idiom comes from the Russian verb ‘носить’, meaning to carry or to bring. If you wanted to achieve anything in Old Rus’, you often had to bring bribes to people. Such a bribe was called ‘нос’. If the person didn’t accept your bribe, you were left with what you had brought and no hope for success. 

Russian Idioms - be left with the nose4. Водить за нос 

How it’s pronounced: vadit’ za nos
Literal translation: to lead (someone) grabbing at their nose
Similar English idiom: to make a fool of somebody, to lead somebody a (merry) dance
Meaning: Unlike the previous idiom, this one has a lot to do with noses. Imagine someone coming up to you, grabbing your nose and pulling – what is going to happen? Well, first of all, you are probably going to feel quite foolish. Secondly, you will follow the person pulling you, at least until you understand what the heck is going on. This is what this idiom means, only figuratively: to manipulate somebody into doing something by lying to them. And when the truth is discovered, the person being deceived might end up feeling pretty foolish, as if someone has just pulled them by their nose.

Russian Idioms - to lead someone grabbing at their nose5. Я тебе покажу, где раки зимуют

How it’s pronounced: ya tebe pokazhu gde raki zimuyut
Literal translation: I will show you where lobsters (crawfish) spend the winter
Similar English idiom: I’ll teach you a lesson; I’ll give you something to remember me by 
Meaning: When someone promises to show you where crawfish spend the winter, don’t get too excited. This is not a promise of an educational trip but of severe punishment. In the past, rich Russian pomeshchiks (literally translated as “landed estate owners”) sent their peasants to hunt for crawfish in winter in frozen lakes and rivers as a form of punishment. 

Russian Idioms - I will show you where lobsters spend the winter6. Дать зуб 

How it’s pronounced: dat’ zub
Literal translation: to give (somebody) a tooth 
Similar English idiom: cross my heart 
Meaning: This idiom is usually used in the form of a promise: ‘Зуб даю!’ (I’m giving you my tooth!) By saying this, the speaker wants to show that they are so confident in their words that they are even ready to sacrifice a tooth. The idiom most likely originates from prison jargon. In prison, a person has nothing of value to use as a guarantee of their promise, but they can ‘give a tooth’, in other words, promise to pull out a tooth if what they say is not true. 

Russian Idioms - to give somebody a tooth

7. Дойти до ручки 

How it’s pronounced: dayti da ruchki
Literal translation: to reach the handle 
Similar English idiom: to run into the ground, to hit rock bottom
Meaning: The meaning of ‘reaching rock bottom’ seems to be much clearer than ‘reaching the handle’. What is this handle and why is reaching for it so bad? The explanation, again, lies in Russian history. The kalach – a traditional form of Russian bread, a small soft loaf – used to be made with a handle, which made it a convenient form of street-food. People didn’t usually eat the handle, as it was made from lower-quality dough and it was actually quite unhygienic as it was touched by bare hands. The handle was usually thrown to dogs or beggars, so if you are ready to eat the handle of a kalach, other people’s hands have touched you are probably at a very low place in your life.

Russian Idioms - to reach the handle

8. И ежу понятно

How it’s pronounced: i izhu panyatna
Literal translation: even a hedgehog can understand (this)
Similar English idiom: it’s a no-brainer, this isn’t rocket science 
Meaning: Hedgehogs are small forest animals that can roll themselves into a ball when threatened, sticking out rather sharp needles. Hedgehogs are cute, but they are also rather primitive and not particularly intelligent. So, when even a hedgehog can understand something, it must indeed be very simple. 

Russian Idioms - even a hedgehog can understand this

9. Ни рыба ни мясо 

How it’s pronounced: ni ryba ni myasa
Literal translation: neither fish nor meat
Similar English idiom: neither fish nor flesh (nor good red herring) 
Meaning: Imagine eating something that is neither fish nor meat, has no clear taste. It doesn’t sound too terrible, but it also doesn’t sound like a delicious and memorable meal. In Russian, this idiom is usually used to describe people – not food, but the meaning is similar: an average person who has nothing ‘delicious’ or outstanding about them, not memorable, totally mediocre. Occasionally, it also implies the person is rather wimpy and unable to make tough decisions. 

Russian Idioms - neither fish nor meat

10. Кот наплакал 

How it’s pronounced: kot naplakal
Literal translation: a cat has wept 
Similar English idiom: not enough to swear by, as scarce as hen’s teeth 
Meaning: Have you ever seen cat tears? (Or hen’s teeth, for that matter?) They don’t exist. So if you say something like ‘У нас денег – кот наплакал’ (We have so little money as if it was wept by a cat) there is so little money it’s virtually nonexistent. This Russian idiom is used when something is incredibly rare, extremely difficult, or impossible to find. A little scientific fact: cats do have tear ducts and their eyes can tear up because of some medical reasons, but it is not really weeping, and even if you try to collect the tears, it will still be very very little.

Russian Idioms - a cat has wept

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11. Два сапога пара 

How it’s pronounced: dva sapaga para 
Literal translation: two boots a pair 
Similar English idiom: birds of a feather, cut from the same cloth
Meaning: What do two boots in a pair or two pieces cut from the same cloth have in common? Practically everything. This idiom suggests that two people are so similar with regard to their personality traits and behaviours, that they must have the same origins. This Russian idiom usually carries negative or undesirable connotations.

Russian Idioms - two boots a pair12. Денег куры не клюют 

How it’s pronounced: denig kury ne klyuyut
Literal translation: (even) chickens don’t peck at the money 
Similar English idiom: rolling in money, (somebody) has money to burn 
Meaning: This idiom is used when you want to say that someone is filthy rich – so rich, in fact, that even chickens won’t peck at, i.e. eat, their money. On one hand, the expression is based on a joke – after all, chickens don’t really eat money. On the other hand, it is based on a real observation that chickens are quite gluttonous and would eat practically anything. So, if someone is so rich that even their chickens won’t eat money anymore… Well, they must be super rich!

Russian Idioms - even chickens don’t peck at the money13. Глаза разбегаются 

How it’s pronounced: glaza razbigayutsya
Literal translation: eyes scatter 
Similar English idiom: embarrassment of riches
Meaning: Imagine yourself at a free buffet lunch, an open bar, or in your favourite store that’s running a huge sale. There are so many things you want to grab at once, you don’t know what to start with, and your eyes keep darting all over the place. There is too much choice! This is exactly the feeling and the situation the idiom describes: so much choice, so many great things, you don’t know where to look first.

Russian Idioms - eyes scatter

14. Одной левой 

How it’s pronounced: adnoy levay
Literal translation: with one left (hand)
Similar English idiom: with one hand tied behind one’s back, with one’s eyes closed 
Meaning: This idiom describes doing something using just your left hand (or with one hand tied behind your back, or with your eyes closed) which is rather difficult. So, if you can do something this way, it must either be really easy or something you’re really good at. This Russian idiom, in particular, is based on the fact that most people are right-handed and are not used to doing things ‘одной левой’. 

Russian Idioms - with one left hand

15. В ус не дуть 

How it’s pronounced: v us ni dut’
Literal translation: not to blow into one’s mustache 
Similar English idiom: not to turn a hair, to be as cool as a cucumber 
Meaning: When you don’t have a care in the world, when you are indeed as cool as a cucumber, you also probably breathe calmly – there is no hyperventilating, no huffing or puffing. Even if you have a mustache, you don’t ‘blow into it’. In the past, it was much more common for Russian men to have luscious beards and mustaches, and this is most likely how the idiom was born.

Russian Idioms - not to blow into one’s mustache16. Спустя рукава 

How it’s pronounced: spustya rukava
Literal translation: with sleeves rolled down 
Similar English idiom: half-heartedly, in a slipshod manner 
Meaning: Have you ever rolled your sleeves up before doing something, like cleaning your apartment or gardening? This idiom is the opposite of that. Historically, traditional Russian shirts and jackets could have very long sleeves – sometimes they reached the person’s knees or even lower, when not rolled up. Imagine working with such sleeves rolled down! You’d hardly be able to do anything properly. That is why when you see a person working sloppily, not really caring about what they are doing, you can say that they are working ‘спустя рукава’ – even if they are not actually wearing any long sleeves. 

Russian Idioms - with sleeves rolled down17. В шоколаде 

How it’s pronounced: v shekalade 
Literal translation: in chocolate 
Similar English idiom: to be set (as in ‘set for life’), bed of roses 
Meaning: The full phrase is usually ‘everything is in chocolate’ or ‘everything will be in chocolate’ – when things are going great or you are promising someone that they will be going great soon. It seems that being covered in chocolate is nothing to be happy about – it’s sticky and can leave stains – but the meaning of the idiom is, of course, figurative. Good chocolate was – and still is – quite expensive and associated with a comfy luxurious life. So if you are ‘в шоколаде’, you have a comfy life and are probably also rather well-off.

Russian Idioms - in chocolate

18. Работа не волк, в лес не убежит

How it’s pronounced: rabota ne volk, v les ni ubezhit
Literal translation: work is not a wolf, it won’t escape into the forest
Similar English idiom: never do today what you can put off until tomorrow
Meaning: There are two interpretations of this idiom that contradict each other. Both are based on the fact that if you put off work for a while, it won’t get done. Historically, in Tsarist Russia, it meant that no matter what you do, no matter how much you put off your work – it won’t get done by itself and you’ll have to do it anyway. Later, a more ‘lazy’ interpretation developed, that eventually became more popular: it’s okay to put off work for a while, it will still be there after you take a break. Still makes one wonder: why is the word ‘wolf’ used in the idiom, were Russians so bad at keeping wolves from running away? 

Russian Idioms - work is not a wolf it won’t escape into the forest19. Вот где собака зарыта

How it’s pronounced: vot gde sabaka zaryta
Literal translation: that’s where the dog is buried
Similar English idiom: that’s the crux of the matter; that’s where the shoe pinches
Meaning: There are animal-related idioms in many languages, and some of them are rather morbid. To discover the truth behind something is like discovering a buried dog! It’s figurative, of course, but still rather dark. There is no one clear interpretation of how the idiom came to be. Some believe the word ‘dog’ was used by treasure-hunters instead of the word ‘treasure’ to hide their true intentions. 

Russian Idioms - that’s where the dog is buried20. Дружба дружбой, а табачок — врозь

How it’s pronounced: druzhba druzhbai, a tabachok — vroz’
Literal translation: friendship is friendship, but let’s keep our tobacco apart
Similar English idiom: friends are OK when they don’t get in the way
Meaning: The meaning of this Russian expression is that there are limits to any friendship. There are things that you simply won’t share, even with friends. Very often this Russian idiom is used in the financial sense, such as ‘don’t lend money even to friends’ or ‘we are friends, but I won’t pay for you’. Although nowadays it is not too uncommon for smokers to give a cigarette or two to a stranger who asks, in the past, tobacco used to be a luxury item that was both rare and very expensive, which most likely resulted in such this stingy idiom. 

Russian Idioms - friendship is friendship, but let’s keep our tobacco apart

21. В семье не без урода

How it’s pronounced: v sim’ye ni bez uroda
Literal translation: there’s an ugly person in every family
Similar English idiom: there’s a black sheep in every flock; there’s always one bad apple 
Meaning: This Russian idiom is similar in meaning to the ‘black sheep’ one: it describes a person who stands out from their family or another group through their appearance or character, usually in a negative way, from the point of view of the speaker. It is quite an unkind idiom – the word ‘урод’ (an ugly person) has very strong negative connotations in the Russian language.

Russian Idioms - there’s an ugly person in every family

22. Дураков не сеют, не жнут, сами родятся

How it’s pronounced: durakov ni seyut, ni zhnut, sami rodyatsya
Literal translation: fools are neither sown nor reaped, they appear by themselves
Similar English idiom: fools grow without watering 
Meaning: This one is quite sassy and funny, but be careful using it – it can also sound very rude. This expression is used when someone does something stupid, meaning that you don’t need a special talent to do stupid things,  many people do them. 

Russian Idioms - fools are neither sown nor reaped, they appear by themselves

23. Говорят, что кур доят

How it’s pronounced: gavaryat, chto kur doyat
Literal translation: they say they milk chickens
Similar English idiom: ‘they say so’ is half a lie
Meaning: Don’t believe everything you hear, especially if someone starts a phrase with ‘they say’ and offers no proof – anyone can say anything but it doesn’t make it true. Next time you hear someone spouting rumours or unfounded opinions, you can reply with this ironic Russian idiom, ‘говорят, что кур доят’. 

Russian Idioms - they say they milk chickens

24. Исподволь и ольху согнёшь

How it’s pronounced: ispadvol’ i al’khu sagnyosh’
Literal translation: you can bend an alder-tree if you do it slowly
Similar English idiom: little strokes fell great oaks
Meaning: Alder-trees, belonging to the birch family, are rather tall and strong. You can’t just go up to one and bend it (although it is true for practically any tree if it’s not a young sapling, but Russians do love their birches – in their idioms as well!). However, with enough time and patience, little by little, you can achieve anything – even bend or fell a giant tree. 

Russian Idioms - you can bend an alder tree if you do it slowly

25. Первый блин всегда комом

How it’s pronounced: p’erviy bl’in vsigda komam
Literal translation: the first pancake is always a blob
Similar English idiom: it is the first step that is troublesome; practice makes perfect 
Meaning: Russian pancakes, called blini, are different from their western counterparts: they are larger in diameter (typically pan-sized) and are very thin, just a couple of millimeters. Turning over such thin batter to fry it from both sides is hard and requires practice. In reality, not only the first – but the second, and the third, and the fourth pancake can come out as a blob. And it’s fine! They can still be quite tasty blobs, and with some practice, you will learn to do it effortlessly. This is true not only about turning over pancakes: beginnings are hard and it’s okay, but practice indeed makes perfect. Have some patience, and you’ll make some perfect pancakes in no time!

Russian Idioms - the first pancake is always a blob

26. Не гони лошадей! 

How it’s pronounced: ni gani lashad’ei!
Literal translation: don’t rush the horses!
Similar English idiom: hold your horses; don’t rush the matter; slow and steady wins the race 
Meaning: This is an obvious one. Doing things in a rush rarely brings good results. Rushing the horses results in a bumpy ride and can even lead to an accident. Rushing a job can result in mistakes; even if you manage to save some time, you’ll have to spend it correcting them. So, don’t rush your horses, literally or figuratively, and everything will be fine. 

Russian Idioms - Don’t rush the horses!

27. Заруби ceбe на носу

How it’s pronounced: zarubi sib’e na nasu
Literal translation: make a notch on your nose
Similar English idiom: mark my words; put that in your pipe and smoke it 
Meaning: The meaning of this idiom lies very deep in history. When writing was beginning to appear in Russia, but there was still no paper. One of the things used for ‘writing’ on the go was a small piece of wood that you could carry around with you. To carry in Russian is ‘носить’ (nos’it’) and the piece of wood was thus called ‘нос’ (nos). To make a note of something, you could make notches ‘on the nos’. So, no worries, you don’t actually have to hurt your nose to mark someone’s words!

Russian Idioms - keep your tail up like a gun!

28. Держи хвост пистолетом! 

How it’s pronounced: derzhi khvost pistal’etam!
Literal translation: keep your tail up like a gun!
Similar English idiom: keep your chin up 
Meaning: You can say this to someone who you want to cheer up. Guns aren’t really associated with cheering people up but somehow this idiom came to be. There’s no clear explanation of the origin, but it most likely has to do with an image of an animal (for example, a cat) holding their tail straight up when they are happy and confident. Similar expressions are ‘держи хвост трубой / морковкой’ (derzhi khvost truboi / markovkai) – keep your tail up like a pipe / carrot.  

Russian Idioms - keep your tail up like a gun!

29. Без царя в голове

How it’s pronounced: bez tsarya v galav’e
Literal translation: without a tsar in (one’s) head
Similar English idiom: scatter-brained; a bit weak in the top storey, the lights are on but nobody’s home. 
Meaning: You can use this very Russian idiom to describe a person who is reckless, troublesome, and not very smart. But who is this tsar and why do you need one in your head? In Old Rus, the Tsar was considered the wisest person in the land. If you have ‘no tsar in your head’, you lack wisdom and common sense.  

Russian Idioms - without a tsar in ones head

30. Валять дурака

How it’s pronounced: valyat’ duraka
Literal translation: lie/wag the fool
Similar English idiom: play the fool; fool around 
Meaning: The meaning of this Russian idiom is pretty similar to its English counterparts: to behave foolishly, to idle around. But why is it ‘lie/wag the fool’? There are at least two possible explanations. One has to do with trying to lie down a Van’ka-the-fool – a Russian tilting doll that can be laid down – and the other, with wagging small pieces of wool leftover from making valenki – Russian snow boots. Both are pointless activities, and whether the idiom originated from one or the other, the meaning doesn’t change. 

Russian Idioms - lie or wag the fool

31. Ёлки-палки

How it’s pronounced: yolki-palki
Literal translation: fir-trees and sticks
Similar English idiom: for crying out loud! dear me! what do you know?!
Meaning: This is a common colloquial Russian exclamation that can express practically anything: disappointment, anger, surprise, happiness, or even admiration. The exact origin of the phrase is unknown. One of the possible explanations is based on the tradition to decorate fir-trees for the New Year, that after the holiday dry out and become ‘sticks’ to be thrown out.

Russian Idioms - fir trees and sticks

32. Блин! 

How it’s pronounced: bl’in!
Literal translation: Pancake!
Similar English idiom: Shoot! Frick! Bugger! 
Meaning: This exclamation is used to express negative emotions, such as anger or disappointment. Pancakes are tasty treats though, so why would they be used in such a negative way? Similar to the English ‘shoot’ and ‘frick’, it begins with the same letters and has a similar length as a Russian swear word that is very rude and unacceptable in many situations – instead of saying it, you can say ‘блин’. 

Russian Idioms - Pancake

33. Заморить червячка

How it’s pronounced: zamorit’ chervyachka
Literal translation: to kill the worm
Similar English idiom: stay one’s hunger 
Meaning: This is actually not a Russian expression but a French one. The French idiom ‘tuer le ver’ literally means ‘to kill the worm’, however, its original meaning was quite different: to drink some alcohol on an empty stomach. Somehow, when it traveled from one language to another, the idiom changed its meaning to ‘to eat something to satisfy one’s hunger’. 

Russian Idioms - to kill the worm

34. Заложить за воротник

How it’s pronounced: zalozhit’ za vorotnik
Literal translation: shove it under the collar
Similar English idiom: to tank up
Meaning: This idiom means ‘to get drunk’ and originated in the times of Peter the Great. When he was building his fleet, he ordered the best workers be rewarded with a special mark placed on the neck or near the collarbone (under the collar). They could show this mark in drinking establishments and drink for free. 

Russian Idioms - shove it under the collar

35. Когда рак на горе свистнет

How it’s pronounced: kogda rak na gore svistn’et
Literal translation: when a lobster whistles from the top of a mountain
Similar English idiom: when pigs fly
Meaning: When do lobsters whistle on mountain tops? About the same time when pigs fly – that is, never! When you stress that something is never ever going to happen, you can say it will happen ‘когда рак на горе свистнет’.

Russian Idioms - when a lobster whistles from the top of a mountain

36. Ни пуха ни пера

How it’s pronounced: ni pukha, ni pera
Literal translation: neither down/fur nor feather
Similar English idiom: break a leg
Meaning: The reasoning behind this idiom is similar to the one behind ‘break a leg’, it originates from hunting jargon, not theatre. By wishing a hunter good luck, you can jinx them and they won’t catch anything, that’s why (of course!) you need to wish them the opposite – to catch neither an animal (fur) nor a bird (feather).

Russian Idioms - neither down fur nor feather

37. Руки не доходят

How it’s pronounced: ruki ne dokhodyat
Literal translation: my hands don’t reach it
Similar English idiom: I never gott around down to doing it
Meaning: This is another Rusian idiom that is based on a literal meaning turned figurative. When your hands can’t reach something, you can’t do anything with that object. When you can’t seem to find time to complete a task and keep putting it further and further off, you can also say ‘руки не доходят’ to do it, although it has nothing to do with your physical distance to the object or task. So, now, if you ever need to make an excuse why you haven’t done something yet, you know what to say! 

Russian Idioms - my hands don’t reach it

38. Делать из мухи слона

How it’s pronounced: d’elat’ iz mukhi slana
Literal translation: to make an elephant out of a fly
Similar English idiom: to make a mountain out of a molehill
Meaning: Even if there are no elephants in Russia, this idiom is quite common. It exists in other languages as well, with the same meaning: to exaggerate something, to make a problem seem more serious than it is. The explanation is simple: this idiom has roots in Ancient Greece; from there it ‘travelled’ to other languages, Russian included.

Russian Idioms - to make an elephant out of a fly

39. Без кота мышам раздолье

How it’s pronounced: bez kata misham razdol’ye
Literal translation: without a cat, mice will feel free
Similar English idiom: when the cat’s away, the mice will play
Meaning: Without supervision, people don’t work that well and don’t want to follow the rules – ‘running around’ enjoying themselves, just like mice in a house without a cat. It is unclear why the English and Russian phrases are almost exactly the same, but it may just be that different people years ago made very similar observations.

Russian Idioms - without a cat, mice will feel free

40. Любовь зла, полюбишь и козла

How it’s pronounced: lyubov’ zla, pal’ubish’ i kazla
Literal translation: love is evil, you could fall in love with a goat
Similar English idiom: love is blind
Meaning: The English idiom seems significantly nicer, it just states that love is blind – and doesn’t elaborate. The Russian one not only calls love ‘evil’, but elaborates further: if you are not that lucky, you can even fall in love with a goat (anything is possible in Russia!). The message, however, is the same: we don’t choose who we love. 

Russian Idioms - love is blind

41. Что посеешь, то и пожнёшь

How it’s pronounced: chto paseyesh’, to i pazhnyosh’
Literal translation: what you sow, you will reap
Similar English idiom: you reap what you sow
Meaning: Not all idioms are about lazy people, fools, or ‘evil love’, some of them teach us valuable life lessons, for example, that our actions have consequences. The Russian and the English variants are nearly identical because they have one and the same source: the Bible. 

Russian Idioms - what you sow, you will reap

42. В ногах правды нет

How it’s pronounced: v nogakh pravdy nyet
Literal translation: there is no truth in (your) legs
Similar English idiom: it is as cheap sitting as standing; sit downtake the weight (the loadoff your feet; make yourself at homet
Meaning: This idiom is a multi-layered one. It sounds funny: why would you even look for truth in someone’s legs? The meaning is a polite one: you can say this phrase when you invite a guest to sit down instead of standing. The origins of the idiom are actually quite cruel. ‘Pravda’ in Old Rus’ meant debt and a person who owed money to a boyar (a member of the old aristocracy in Russia, next in rank to a prince) was punished by being hit on the legs with metal rods. This hardly brought desired results because after such punishment the person not only couldn’t pay the debt but was also unable to work! The expression ‘в ногах правды нет’ was born, and the punishment was later abolished. 

Russian Idioms - there is no truth in your legs

43. Взять себя в руки

How it’s pronounced: vzyat’ sebya v ruki
Literal translation: to take oneself in one’s hands
Similar English idiom: to pull oneself together
Meaning: This Russian expression has a double meaning. You can say it to someone freaking out or about to have an emotional meltdown: ‘возьми себя в руки’, pull yourself together. It can also be used when you see someone lacking control in their life and want to motivate them to be more focused and goal-oriented.

Russian Idioms - to take oneself in one’s hands

44. Без муки нет науки

How it’s pronounced: bez muki n’et nauki
Literal translation: without torture, there is no science
Similar English idiom: no pain, no gain; knowledge has bitter roots but sweet fruits
Meaning: Is science torture? Well, it might be for some, but the idea behind this idiom is slightly different: you need to work hard to achieve real results. When things are difficult for someone, this is a helpful reminder that patience and perseverance can lead to better things.

Russian Idioms - without torture, there is no science

45. Подковать блоху

How it’s pronounced: padkavat’ blakhu
Literal translation: to shoe a flea
Meaning: This is one of the few Russian idioms that doesn’t really have an English equivalent, even a rough one. It comes from a Russian tale about a man who was so skilled that he was able to put tiny horseshoes on a flea. The phrase is used when someone is really talented, especially at a craft that requires meticulous and detailed work.

Russian Idioms - to shoe a flea

46. Вешать лапшу на уши

How it’s pronounced: veshat’ lapshu na ushi
Literal translation: to hang noodles on one’s ears
Similar English idiom: to pull wool over someone’s eyes; to pull someone’s leg 
Meaning: You may think that noodles have nothing to do with lies, and you’ll be right. There are several versions of the origin of this idiom, and none of them include actual noodles. According to one of the versions, the phrase developed from a Russian verb ‘облапошить’ (‘oblaposhit’) meaning ‘to cheat’ and sounds very similar to the word ‘лапша’ (noodles). 

Russian Idioms - to hang noodles on one’s ears

47. Уши вянут

How it’s pronounced: ushi v’yanut
Literal translation: my ears are wilting
Similar English idiom: it makes one sick to hear 
Meaning: Imagine hearing something so disgusting, so rude that it makes your ears wilt! The idiom is based on the unpleasant physical sensations that obscenities can cause. If someone is swearing too much (or droning annoyingly on and on) you can ask them to stop because they are making your ears wilt.

Russian Idioms - my ears are wilting48. Без сучка, без задоринки

How it’s pronounced: bez suchka, bez zadorinki
Literal translation: without a hitch
Similar English idiom: like clockwork; as clean as a whistle; go off without a hitch
Meaning: When something goes smoothly, with no unexpected difficulties, you can say that it went swimmingly – and now you also know how to say it in Russian: ‘без сучка, без задоринки’. 

Russian Idioms - without a hitch

49. Без труда не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда

How it’s pronounced: bez truda ni vytashchish’ i rybku iz pruda
Literal translation: without effort, you won’t pull a fish out of a pond
Similar English idiom: a cat in gloves catches no mice; no sweet without sweat
Meaning: This is yet another way of saying ‘no pain, no gain’ or if you’re too polite or cautious, you may not get what you want. No matter in Russian or in English, things that are really worth achieving – like, say, learning a foreign language – require some effort.

Russian Idioms - without effort you won’t pull a fish out of a pond50. Одна нога здесь, другая там

How it’s pronounced: adna naga zdes’, drugaya tam
Literal translation: one foot/leg here, another there
Similar English idiom: make it snappy; show your heels 
Meaning: This expression can be a promise such as ‘I’ll be back soon’, ‘одна нога здесь другая там’. It can also be a command where you order someone to go and fetch something or quickly run an errand.

Russian Idioms - one foot or leg here, another there

51. Выпрыгивать из штанов

How it’s pronounced: vyprygivat’ iz shtanov
Literal translation: to jump out of one’s pants
Similar English idiom: like a dog with two tails 
Meaning: Have you ever been so happy it made you jump a little? Turn this feeling up a notch and you’ll get the image behind this idiom; you’re so happy it makes you jump out of your pants!

Russian Idioms - to jump out of ones pants

Over to you!

Which one of these Russian idioms is your favourite? Was it ‘keep your tail up like a gun!‘ or ‘don’t rush the horses‘ – the act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair. Share your favourites in the comments. Can you think of any other Russian idioms words? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

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