Photo: Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

30 Expressions That Show the Russian Soul

Russia Languages
by Aliya Izbassarova Jul 3, 2017

Every nation cherishes its language, but we Russians refer to our language as, “The great and mighty.” You might have heard of the ‘mysterious Russian soul’, a term coined by the great classic Russian writers. If you haven’t — look it up before your trip to Russia, so you have understanding of this essential part of the Russian psyche. Here is a list of expressions that can demonstrate the breadth of the mystery and give you your first taste of the great and mighty.

1. Ждать с моря погоды

“To wait for the weather by the sea.”

To sit and wait for a change that might never come. Usually people tell each other this to encourage someone to stop waiting futilely.

2. Выносить из избы мусор

“To take trash out of the house”

That is usually said with condemnation for someone letting everyone know of problems that should be kept and resolved inside a family.

3. Игра не стоит свеч

“The game isn’t worth the candles.”

Meaning that something isn’t worth the effort. It comes from the card players who referred to a bet so small, that the even the win would cost less than the candles used to illuminate the room for the game.

4. Взять себя в руки

“To take yourself in your hands”

A Russian way to say, put yourself together and wo/man up!

5. Работа – не волк, в лес не убежит

“Work is no wolf, it won’t run away into the woods.”

It’s a great saying to use when you need a break from all the work.

6. Делу – время, потехе – час

“The time is for business, the hour is for fun.”

And if you start to take a bit too long with that break, someone could call on you to go back to work with this one.

7. В деньгах родства нет

“There is no kinship in money.”

Meaning, when it comes to money, it’s best to be careful — even if you are dealing with friends and/or family

8. Бальзам на душу

“A balm for the soul.”

Something really pleasing, especially if some upsetting things have been happening before.

9. Муж – голова, а жена – шея

“A husband is a head, a wife is a neck.”

The husband may be the ruling one in the family, but the wife is the one who rules him.

10. Кот наплакал

“What a cat has cried”

Cats aren’t known as very sentimental creatures, so that simply means not much.

11. Под лежачий камень вода не течёт

“Water does not run under a lying stone.”

There are lots of saying in Russian to tell that only hard work pays. This one is more like, “If you don’t do anything, nothing will change.”

12. Гром-баба

“A thunder woman”

What sounds like a superhero name, refers to a strong, usually sturdy woman who won’t take nonsense from anyone.

13. Базара нет

“No bazaar”

A popular gangster slang born in the 90s, it’s a way of saying that you agree and there is nothing more to talk about on the matter.

14. У него семь пятниц на неделе

“He has 7 Fridays in a week”

Somehow, this refers to a person who never keeps his promises and changes his mind all the time.

15. Большая шишка

“A big pine”

A jesting way of referring to someone of importance.

16. Брать с потолка

“Take something from a ceiling”

To make information up, without any real data.

17. У страха глаза велики

“The fear has big eyes.”

My personal favourite, this means when you are scared of something, your mind will make it bigger and scarier than it really is.

18. Быть не в своей тарелке

“To not be in your own plate.”

This means to feel uncomfortable in an unknown environment.

19. Краткость – сестра таланта

“Brevity is a sister of talent.”

Like you guessed, this one praises the ability to be concise

20. Руки в ноги и вперёд!

“Legs in hands, and ahead!”

This is a funny one meaning “Go!’ or ‘Put yourself together and go’.

21. Голод – не тётка, пирожка не поднесёт

“Hunger is no auntie, it will not give you a pie.”

Essentially, it means, “Hunger is ruthless.” It’s used to explain if someone is eating or doing something they only do out of hunger.

22. Мужчины любят глазами, а женщины – ушами

Men love with their eyes, women – with their ears.

That is, a woman wins a man over with her looks, a man wins a woman with what he says.

23. Ближний сосед лучше дальней родни

A close neighbor is better than a distant relative

This one puts real relationships before blood relationships (with a relative who you don’t really know, even if you are related).

24. Голова не для шапки дана

“The head is not just given for the hat.

It’s a funny way to call on someone to start using his brain.

25. Горбатого могила исправит

A humpback will be fixed by the grave.

You can say that about someone who seems to be unable to ever change.

26. Сарафанное радио

“Sarafan radio”

With sarafan being a traditional women’s dress, this refers to word of mouth, noting that it is usually spread by women.

27. Что у трезвого на уме, то у пятого на языке

“What’s on a sober man’s mind is on a drunk man’s tongue.”

Pretty self-explanatory.

28. Вот где собака зарыта

“That’s where the dog is buried.”

You say that when you have found the root of the problem.

29. Век живи – век учись

“Live for a century; learn for a century.”

That is to say that no matter how much we learn, there is still no way to know everything.

30. С Богом

“With God”

Calling for God to be by one’s side. People say it to themselves or each other when they set out for something big.

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.