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16 Colorful Idioms That'll Sell You On The Russian Language

In Mother Russia, wacky idiom eat you. Here are some funny Russian phrases for current and would-be language learners.

Russian is notoriously difficult for native English speakers to learn, but it’s also equally rewarding.

Case in point: these idioms you’re about to learn. The Russian language is rife with bizarre, colorful phrases that don’t translate very well to English — even if they do translate to concepts that defy literal explanation.

If you want to speak like a real local (or maybe just discover an extra reason to learn Russian), take stock of these phrases.

В ногах правды нет. (V nogakh pravdy nyet.)

Direct translation: There’s no truth in standing on your feet.
Meaning: This is something people often say as a gesture of hospitality. Basically, you’re encouraging someone to sit down and make themselves at home.

Не гони лошадей! (Ne goni loshadyei!)

Direct translation: Don’t rush the horses!
Meaning: Don’t be in such a rush.

Руки не доходят! (Ruki ne dokhodyat!)

Direct translation: The hands/arms don’t reach.
Meaning: I don’t have the time/bandwidth to do this!

Заруби ceбe на носу. (Zarubi sebye na nosu.)

Direct translation: Make a notch on your nose.
Meaning: Take notice of what I’m saying and drill it into your memory.

Делать из мухи слона. (Dyelat’ iz mukhi slona.)

Direct translation: To make an elephant out of a fly.
Meaning: This is essentially the Russian version of "make a mountain out of a molehill."

Держи хвост пистолетом! (Derzhi khvost pistolyetom!)

Direct translation: Keep your tail up with a gun!
Meaning: Believe it or not, this is something you would say to someone in order to encourage them not to give up.

Без царя в голове. (Bez tsarya v golove.)

Direct translation: Without a tsar in the head.
Meaning: The subject of this comment is mindless; brainless.

Валять дурака. (Valyat’ duraka.)

Direct translation: Lie/wag the fool.
Meaning: Fool around/do nothing.

Уши вянут. (Ushi vyanut.)

Direct translation: My ears are wilting.
Meaning: Whatever I just heard was so rude or obscene, I’m having a hard time processing it.

Я тебе покажу, где раки зимуют. (Ya tebe pokazhu gde raki zimuyut.)

Direct translation: I will show you where lobsters spend the winter.
Meaning: This is essentially a threat (stop, or else).

Когда рак на горе свистнет. (Kogda rak na gore svistnyet.)

Direct translation: When the lobster whistles on the mountain.
Meaning: Can you tell Russians like lobsters? This is similar to when Americans say "when pigs fly." It’s something you say to convey that it’s never going to happen.

Вот, где собака зарыта. (Vot gde sobaka zaryta.)

Direct translation: Here’s where the dog is buried.
Meaning: That’s the root/essence of the issue.

Ёлки-палки. (Yolki-palki.)

Direct translation: Tree sticks.
Meaning: A general expression of surprise or annoyance, like "oh my god."

Блин! (Blin!)

Direct translation: Pancake!
Meaning: Like the above, it’s a softer version of a curse word.

Заморить червячка. (Zamorit’ chervyachka)

Direct translation: Kill the worm.
Meaning: Satisfy one’s hunger.

Заложить за воротник. (Zalozhit’ za vorotnik.)

Direct translation: Shove it under the collar.
Meaning: Get really drunk.

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