Russian idioms

Each language has its idioms that sound completely meaningless to every foreigner. While using such phrases, you can convey your thoughts better, adding imagery and expressiveness. 

Here, we have collected popular idioms and set expressions in Russian so that you can distinguish them in speech and then use them in suitable situations.


Russian idioms Literal meaning English equivalent
Белая ворона[b’élaj’a varóna] A white crow A black swan
Биться как рыба об лёд[bit’sỳa kak r̀yba ab lyod] To beat against the ice like a fish To pull the devil by the tail
Вешать лапшу на уши[v̀eshat’ lapsh̀u na ̀ushi] To hang noodles on the ears To pitch a line; to pour banana oil in the ear
Вилами на воде писано[v̀ilami na vadỳe p̀isana] Written with a pitchfork on the water It’s still all up in the air
Витать в облаках[vit̀at’ v ablak̀ah] To be hovering in the clouds To daydream, to be miles away
Водить за нос[vadít’ z̀a nos] To lead someone by the nose To pull someone’s leg
Глаза разбегаются[glaz̀a razbig̀ayutsya ] Eyes scatter Overchoice; one doesn’t know where to look first
Дать зуб[dat’ zub] To give a tooth To swear; to cross one’s heart
Два сапога пара[dva sapag̀a para] Two boots is a pair To be cut from the same cloth
Делать из мухи слона[delat’ iz m̀uhi slaǹa] To make an elephant out of a fly To make a mountain out of a molehill
Денег куры не клюют[den’ik k̀ury ni klyuỳut] The hens don’t peck at the money To roll in money
Дойти до ручки[dayt̀i da r̀uchki] To reach the handle To be at the end of one’s rope
Душа ушла в пятки[dush̀a ushl̀a f pỳatki] One’s soul has gone into one’s heels One’s heart sank into one’s boot
Закинуть удочку[zak̀inut’ ̀udachku] To cast a line To put a line out
И ежу понятно[I jezh̀u panỳatna ] Even a hedgehog understands Sure as eggs are eggs
И на старуху бывает проруха[i na star̀uhu byv̀ayet prar̀uha] Even the old woman can make a mistake Everyone makes mistakes; it is a good horse that never stumbles
Капля в море[k̀aplya v m̀orye] A drop in the sea A drop in the bucket
Когда рак на горе свистнет[kagda rak na gar̀e sv̀isnit] when a crawfish whistles on the mountain Tomorrow never comes
Кот наплакал[kot napl̀akal] Cat wept Dribs and drabs
Купить кота в мешке[kup̀it’ kat̀a v meshk̀e] To buy a cat in a sack To buy a pig in a poke
Не в своей тарелке[ni f sv̀ayej tar̀elki] (to be) not in one’s plate To be like a fish out of water
Ни рыба ни мясо[ni r̀yba ni mỳasa] Neither fish nor meat Wishy-washy
Остаться с носом[ast̀at’sya s ǹosam] To be left with the nose To miss the boat
Первый блин комом[p̀ervyj blin k̀omam] The first pancake is always lumpy You must spoil before you spin
Плевать в потолок[pliv̀at’ f patal̀ok] To spit at the ceiling To idle away one’s time
Положить зубы на полку[palazh̀it’ z̀uby na p̀olku] To put the teeth on the shelf To tighten one‘s belt
Проще пареной репы[pr̀osh’e p̀arenoy r̀epy] Easier than a steamed turnip As easy as falling off a log
Спустя рукава[spustỳa rukav̀a] With sleeves rolled down Let things slide
Убить двух зайцев[ubit’ dvuh z̀aytsef] To kill two hares To kill two birds with one stone
Утро вечера мудренее[̀utra v̀echera mudreǹeye] Morning is wiser than evening To sleep on it


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When you want to describe a situation with a single bright phrase, without going into details, idioms will help. To practice and learn how to use them in the right situations, it is better to train with experienced teachers. At the School of Russian Language “Leader”, you can choose a convenient learning format and start your lessons as soon as possible.


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