Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (2022)

Disclosure: This site has affiliate links to language products including those on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. Thank you.

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to language learning products. We receive a commission for purchases made via these links, at no cost to you. Thank you.

Looking for some Russian proverbs, sayings and idioms?

That’s good!

Knowing these will add to your Russian range of expression. You will speak more and express yourself better.

In this post, I’ll cover 10 Russian idioms (or sayings – whatever you want to call them) and provide English translations and explanations so you know when and how to use them.

Hey, if you REALLY want to learn & speak Russian, I suggest RussianPod101.You get 1,000+ audio/video courses, lessons by Russian teachers and a whole learning system. Sign up at RussianPod101 (click here) and start learning! I recommend ’em as a teacher & learner.

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (1)

1. How to say “Good Luck” in Russian

  • Ни пу́ха, ни пера́
  • Ni puha, ni pera
  • Literal meaning: neither fur, nor feather

This isn’t a direct translation of “good luck.”

“Ни пу́ха, ни пера́” is a saying that literally means “neither fur, nor feather” but is always used as “good luck” before anything, such as a test, job interview, and other things you’d use the phrase for.

(Video) TOP 10 RUSSIAN PROVERBS to use in everyday conversation | RUSSIAN PROVERBS for EVERYDAY LIFE

The origin of this phrase comes from Russian hunters and is in fact, somewhat sarcastic/ironic.

Feathers was slang for “birds” and “fur” meant animals, so the hunters were really told “Hope you don’t get any birds or animals, haha” to which they replied “К чёрту” (k chertu) meaning “to the devil” or rather, “the hell i won’t.
Key Russian vocab:

  • пух – puh – fuzz, furr, fluff
  • перо – pero – feather

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (2)

2. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” in Russian.

  • Друг познаётся в беде́.
  • English pronunciation: Droog poznayesta v bede.
  • Literally means: A friend is known in time of need.

This idiom pretty much means that a true friend will reveal themselves when you’re in need of something. They’ll be there for you whereas others, upon signs that you need something, will walk.

Key Russian vocab:

  • Друг – droog – friend
  • познаётся – poznayotsa – is known
  • беда – beda – misfortune, trouble

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (3)

3. “There’s no place like home” or “home, sweet home” in Russian.

  • В гостя́х хорошо́, а до́ма лу́чше.
  • English pronunciation: V gostyah horosho, a doma lutshe.
  • Literally means: Visiting is good, but home is better.

“Visiting” sounds a bit awkward in English but it merely refers to coming over someone else’s house as a guest – whether you’re hanging out with friends, having a house party, or coming over for dinner. So, while it’s nice to be over someone else’s place, home is best.

Key Russian vocab:

  • гость – gost’ – guest or visitor
  • дом – dom – house or home

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (4)

4. “Whatever happens, happens” in Russian.

(Video) Russian Proverbs pt.1 | Russian Language

  • Была́ не была́.
  • English pronunciation: Bila ne bila.
  • Literally means: There was and there wasn’t.

This saying is using the verb “быть” (bit’), or to be, to express uncertainty at whatever will happen after you do something. You’d use it for situations you’re about to attempt something and don’t know how it will end up – such as starting a business, confessing love, or skydiving.

Key Russian vocab:

  • быть – bit’ – to be

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (5)

5. “No pain, no gain” in Russian.

  • Без труда́ не вы́тащишь и ры́бку из пруда́.
  • English pronunciation: Bez truda, ne vitashish i ribku iz pruda.
  • Literal meaning: Without effort, you won’t pull a fish out of a pond.

Everything worthwile requires push and effort. You won’t learn Russian on Facebook. You won’t learn it by passively listening to audio material. You need to sweat, look up words, memorize them, and use them. And such, without effort, you won’t be catching any fish.

Key Russian vocab:

  • Без – Bez – Without
  • труд – trud – work, labor, effort
  • вытащить – vitashit – to pull
  • пруд – prood – pond

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (6)

6. “Better late than never” in Russian

  • Лу́чше по́здно, чем никогда́.
  • English pronunciation: Lutshe pozdno, chem nikogda
  • Literal meaning: Better late, than never.

See? Russian language has some positivity in it. So, if you didn’t do that homework, you can still hand it in. And if you haven’t done your taxes – it’s better to be late than never. Same thing with learning Russian, that is, if you apply proverb #5.

Use it as you would use it’s English equivalent.

Key Russian vocab:

  • Лу́чше – Lutshe – Better
  • по́здно – pozdno – late
  • чем – chem – than
  • никогда́ – nikogda

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (7)

(Video) The Best Russian Proverbs and Sayings | Ancient Russian Quotes and Aphorisms You Don't Want To Miss!

7. “Live and learn” in Russian.

  • Век живи́ — век учи́сь.
  • English pronunciation: Vek zhivi, vek uchis.
  • Literal Meaning: Live for a century, learn for a century.

In English, live and learn has a slight negative connotation to it.

You’d usually use it after someone has screwed, wronged you or you made a mistake. This Russian proverb however is a lot more positive and it’s meaning is more direct – life is a learning process, so as you live, you will learn.

The focus here is on the importance of education and learning for as long as you’re alive.

Key Russian vocab:

  • Век – Vek – Century

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (8)

8. “Still waters run deep” in Russian.

  • В тихом омуте черти водятся.
  • English pronunciation: V tihom omute cherti vodyatsa.
  • Literal meaning: In a quiet pond/lagoon, devils dwell.

This proverb matches its English equivalent exactly. “Still waters run deep” means “a quiet or placid manner may conceal a passionate nature.” And similarly in Russian, under calm waters, devils dwell, which refers to a crazy or extreme characteristic of a person’s personality you hadn’t anticipated.

Basically, this means that someone has a secret quality that doesn’t fit your general impression of them or does something that you didn’t think they would do. Like if you’re living in the middle of nowhere, USA and start learning Russian. That’s pretty surprising.

Key Russian vocab:

  • тихий – tihiy – quiet
  • омут – omut – lagoon, pond
  • черт – chyort – devil/demon

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (9)

9. “Every dog has his day” or “The sun will shine on our street too” in Russian.

(Video) The Best Russian Folk Proverbs and Sayings, which are Ashamed not to Know | Quotes, Aphorism

  • Будет и нанашей улице праздник!
  • English pronunciation: Budet i na nashey ulitse prazdnik.
  • Literal meaning: There’ll be a party on our street too.

Another hopeful, positive proverb. It pretty much means that a better time is coming. If you look over at your neighbor and they’re having a party on their street and getting turned up, and you aren’t … well good sir, there’ll be a party on your street too.

Key Russian vocab:

  • Будет – budet – there will be
  • нашей – nashey – our
  • улица– ulitsa – street
  • праздник – prazdnik – celebration, party

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (10)

10. “Love is blind” in Russian.

  • Любо́вь зла́, полю́бишь и козла́.
  • English pronunciation: Lybuov zla, polyubish i kozla.
  • Literal meaning: Love is so cruel that you could even fall in love with a goat.

In Russian slang, a goat (козел, kazol), refers to a dead-beat man, hence the saying.

Just in case you were wondering otherwise.

I’m not sure where this proverb comes from as I kind of like to choose people I like. But I guess I’m too rational for my own good. This proverb would apply to people married or in relationships with total assholes that they still love regardless. Love is cruel, isn’t it?

Key Russian vocab:

  • Любо́вь – Lyubov – Love
  • зло – zlo – evil
  • полюбить – polyubit – to fall in love
  • козел – kazol – goat

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (11)

What do you think?

Make sure to leave a comment and share this post. Should I add more? Read part 2 here.

Want to learn to Russian with effective lessons? Sign up for free at RussianPod101 and start learning and speaking Russian!

(Video) Russian Proverbs & Sayings by SAPIENS LIFE

>> Click here to sign up for free and learn Russian at RussianPod101!

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings (12)

FAQs

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings? ›

Top 10 Russian Idioms, Proverbs & Sayings
  • “Whatever happens, happens” in Russian. ...
  • “No pain, no gain” in Russian. ...
  • “ ...
  • “Live and learn” in Russian. ...
  • “Still waters run deep” in Russian. ...
  • “Every dog has his day” or “The sun will shine on our street too” in Russian. ...
  • “Love is blind” in Russian.
Jul 27, 2014

Does the Russian language have idioms? ›

If you're wondering does, Russians have idioms in their native language. The answer is a definite yes! And frankly, (apart from patois, pidgins, and creoles), it's pretty unusual to know a human language that does not have a creative form of expressions like idioms and proverbs.

How do you say proverbs in Russian? ›

"proverb" translation into Russian
  1. volume_up. олицетворение
  2. пословица

What is Russian motto? ›

The Russian motto "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" was coined by Count Sergey Uvarov and adopted by Emperor Nicholas I as official ideology.

Why do Russians say blind? ›

Literally blin means pancake. But most often blin is used as an euphemism for a very rude Russian word "blyat". In that sense, it expresses a wide range of emotions, mostly negative: disappointment, frustration or distress. The closest translation to that would be damn!

What does yolki Palki mean? ›

(Yolki-palki.) Direct translation: Tree sticks. Meaning: A general expression of surprise or annoyance, like “oh my god.”

How do Russians express anger? ›

Here are the most common angry Russian phrases you can use to tell people what to do (or not to do!).
  1. Заткнись (Zatknis') ...
  2. Прекрати (Prekrati) ...
  3. Оставь меня в покое (Ostav' menya v pokoye) ...
  4. Проваливай (Provalivay) ...
  5. Я больше не хочу тебя видеть (Ya bol'she ne khochu tebya videt') ...
  6. Не лезь ко мне (Ne lezʹ ko mne)
May 10, 2020

How do you yell in Russian? ›

Learn the Top 10 Phrases to Use When You're Angry in Russian

What do you say in a Russian accent? ›

How To Speak With A Russian Accent - YouTube

What is Russia known for? ›

Russia is the world's largest nation with a rich history and several dozen ethnic groups. Its history is dominated by invasions, monarchies and a the authoritarian 20th-century Soviet regime. Its current politicians are often at odds with Western values and clash with both Europe and the United States.

What does chicken mean in Russia? ›

“In fact, if you call someone a chicken in Russia, that is a person that gets raped in prison – in male prison. That's what a chicken is in Russia. And Khabib knows that, and everybody knows that. It is a very, very, severe insult.”

What do you say in Russian when someone dies? ›

выражать свое соболезнование кому-л.

What does it mean to call someone a goat in Russian? ›

But what's important to know here is that the Russian word for “goat” – kozol – is also a slang term for a dead-beat man. Try to induce a smile with this one next time a friend is heartbroken or complaining about another dumb dude.

How do Russians express anger? ›

Here are the most common angry Russian phrases you can use to tell people what to do (or not to do!).
  1. Заткнись (Zatknis') ...
  2. Прекрати (Prekrati) ...
  3. Оставь меня в покое (Ostav' menya v pokoye) ...
  4. Проваливай (Provalivay) ...
  5. Я больше не хочу тебя видеть (Ya bol'she ne khochu tebya videt') ...
  6. Не лезь ко мне (Ne lezʹ ko mne)
May 10, 2020

How do you yell in Russian? ›

Learn the Top 10 Phrases to Use When You're Angry in Russian

What does chicken mean in Russia? ›

“In fact, if you call someone a chicken in Russia, that is a person that gets raped in prison – in male prison. That's what a chicken is in Russia. And Khabib knows that, and everybody knows that. It is a very, very, severe insult.”

How do you express a surprise in Russian? ›

ого Another of my favorites is ого, which sounds like "oh-hoh!" This word expresses surprise, shock, or disbelief.

How do you say F word in Russian? ›

The context is similar to the word 'f*ck'. For example, Иди на хуй ('Idi na hui') means 'Go f*ck yourself' and Хуй знает ('Hui zna-et') means 'Who the f*ck knows? '

How do you say no in Russian? ›

How to Say "No" in Russian | Russian Language - YouTube

How do you say yes in Russian? ›

How to Say "Yes" in Russian | Russian Language - YouTube

Videos

1. Ancient Russian Proverbs
(ECHO OF WILL)
2. TOP 25 wise Russian folk proverbs and sayings!
(ARTonTVEN)
3. 5 useful Russian proverbs and sayings to sound like a native
(Rimma Davydova)
4. 🇷🇺 Ancient Russian Proverbs and Sayings About Life | Quotes, Aphorisms & Wise Thoughts | QuotesPedia
(QuotesPedia)
5. BASICS of Russian Grammar | Russian grammar overview | ESSENTIAL Russian language rules
(Language Nerd)
6. Top 10 Advanced English Proverbs You MUST Know
(Up your English with Nader)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated: 11/19/2022

Views: 5590

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.