Russian Idioms That Are Used In Everyday Speech

:question: :grey_question: :question: Let’s remember what an idiom is :question: :grey_question: :question:

An idiom is a group of words which have a different meaning when used together from the one they would have if you took the meaning of each word separately.
Like in English, there a lot of idioms in Russian. And some of them are frequently used in our everyday speech.

  • For example, an idiom “валять дурака” literally means “to topple a fool” which is kinda confusing. But it has a figurative meaning that is “to goof around”. Let me explain the origin of this idiom to make you understand why these words are used together to mean that. This idiom is associated with a children’s toy - a tumbler toy. In Russian it is called “Ванька-встанька” that usually represents “Ivan the Fool” (the character in Russian literature who is the youngest and silliest son in a family):
    So the main aim while playing with this toy is to knock it down. And playing with a toy itself means you do nothing or idle. That is why “валять дурака” means “goof around”.

  • Another idiom that I want to share with you and that is used very often is “семь пятниц на неделе” which literally means “seven Fridays a week”. But this idiom is used when we talk about a person who can’t be relied on, who can’t be trusted as he often changes his decisions and doesn’t keep his promises.

    Why is so??? :astonished:

    This expression appeared among the Slavic peoples many centuries ago. At that time, Friday was a non-working day, and therefore it was a market day. On Friday, a person took the goods and promised to pay for it in a week. Or vice versa: on Friday the customers made orders that the seller promised to bring to the next fair. But these market commitments were often violated by both parties.

    And little by little Friday began to be associated with empty promises. And while talking about a person who always changes decisions and doesn’t keep the promises, they began to say “У него семь пятниц на неделе!” (“He has seven Fridays a week!”)

Guys, what other Russian idioms have you met? Or maybe you can tell me a little bit about interesting idioms in your language? :blush:


Hello there!

A Russian idiom that I find quite interesting is “Я тебе покажу где раки зимуют”. The literal meaning is “I’ll show you where the crabs hibernate”, while figuratively it’s used as a thread towards someone.
Why is that?
In Czarist Russia, winter crabs were a gourmet dish. Catching these cold-water crabs was a serf’s job, as they were very hard to find and, by taking so long looking for them, one could get seriously ill. On the other hand, the person who did know where the crabs wintered was associated with someone wise, with knowledge of nature. Hence, “showing someone where the crabs hibernate” is intended to threaten someone of being punished by a more astute person.

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