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This section of the magazine - “Moscow Vocabulary” – was born of remembering … Ronald Reagan, who appeared to be a fan – and collector - of Russian proverbs and sayings. Well, and we would like to guide you into a world of Russian idioms – just as bright and colorful.


НАЖИМАТЬ НА ВСЕ ПЕДАЛИ – nazhimat’ na vse pedali.

(To press all the pedals)

Explanation: To do everything possible and even the impossible to carry out a task, a promise…

ЗАКИНУТЬ УДОЧКУ  –  zakinut’ udochku.

(To cast a line)

Explanation: To drop a hint by the way of suggestion,  trying to find out.

ПОБЫВАТЬ В чьей-либо ШКУРЕ  –  pobyvat’ v shkure.

(To be in someone else’s hide)

Explanation: To be in the same unpleasant position or adverse circumstances as someone else.

ЛЕГОК НА ПОДЪЕМ –  logok na podyom

(Easy on the rise)

Explanation: Always ready and willing to go somewhere or to do something.

СЕМЬ ПЯТНИЦ НА НЕДЕЛЕ  – sem’ patnits na nedele.

(Someone has seven Fridays in one week)

Explanation: Someone who easily and frequently changes his/her mind, mood.

РОДИТЬСЯ В СОРОЧКЕ – rodittsa v sorochke.

(To be born with a shirt on)

Explanation: To be always successful.

ПОСТАВИТЬ кого-либо В ТУПИК – postavit’ v tupik.

(To put someone in a blind alley)

Explanation: To puzzle, to bewilder someone.

ПОД НОСОМ – pod nosom.

(Under one’s nose)

Explanation: In one’s presence, directly in front of one.

УЙТИ С ГОЛОВОЙ во что-либо –  uyti z golovoy.

(To go headlong into something)

Explanation: To be totally involved in something.

СПУТАТЬ ВСЕ КАРТЫ   – sputat’ vse karty.

(To mix up all the cards)

Explanation: To spoil or ruin someone’s plans.

ВЫЙТИ СУХИМ ИЗ ВОДЫ –  vyyti sukhim iz vody.

(To come out of the water dry)

Explanation: To escape deserved punishment.

КАК ИЗ РОГА ИЗОБИЛИЯ – kak iz roga izobiliya.

(As if out of the horn of plenty)

Explanation: In great plenty.



НАВОСТРИТЬ УШИ –  navostrit’ ushy.
(To sharpen one’s ears)
Explanation: To give sudden and intense attention to what is going to be said.

КАК ГОРА С ПЛЕЧ СВАЛИЛАСЬ  – kak gora s plech svalilas’.
(As if a mountain had fallen off one’s shoulders)
Explanation: Someone is relieved of doubt, cares.

БРАТЬ кого-либо ЗА СЕРДЦЕ/ЗА ДУШУ  –  brat’ za sertse/dushu.
(To take someone by the heart/soul)
Explanation: To move or touch deeply.

БИТЬ В ОДНУ ТОЧКУ – bit’ v odnu tochku.
(To keep striking the same spot)
Explanation: To concentrate one’s efforts on one thing.

БЕЛАЯ ВОРОНА   –  belaya vorona.
(A white crow)
Explanation: Someone unusual, an outsider.

ПАЛЬЦЕМ кого-либо НЕ ТРОНУТЬ – pal’tsem ne tronut’.
(Not to touch anyone with one’s finger)
Explanation: Not to do anyone any harm.

БЕЖАТЬ ВЫСУНУВ ЯЗЫК –  bezhat’ vysunuv yazyk.
(To run with one’s tongue hanging out)
Explanation: To run fast without pausing for breath.

ВИТЬ ВЕРЕВКИ из кого-либо   – vit’ verovki.
(To plait ropes out of someone)
Explanation: To have a strong influence on someone.

МОРЕ ПО КОЛЕНО – more po koleno.
(The sea is knee-deep)
Explanation: One is absolutely reckless.

ИГРАТЬ ПЕРВУЮ СКРИПКУ – igrat’ pervuyu skripku.
(To play the first violin)
Explanation: To play a leading role in something.

ЗОНДИРОВАТЬ ПОЧВУ  – zondirovat’ pochvu.
(To probe the ground)
Explanation: To test the views of others.

НАБРАТЬ В РОТ ВОДЫ  – nabrat’ v rot vody.
(To fill one’s mouth with water)
Explanation: To remain silent.


ПОДПИСЫВАТЬСЯ под чем-либо ОБЕИМИ РУКАМИ – podpisyvattsa obeim rukami.
(To sign something with both hands)
Explanation: To willingly agree to something.

НАХОДИТЬСЯ НА ТОЧКЕ ЗАМЕРЗАНИЯ – nakhodittsa na tochke zamerzaniya.
(To be at freezing-point)
Explanation: To be at a standstill.

БРОСАТЬ КАМЕШКИ В чей-либо ОГОРОД– brosat’ kameshki v ogorod
(To throw pebbles into someone’s garden)
Explanation: To make an implied criticism.

ЗЕЛЕНАЯ УЛИЦА – zel’onaya ulitsa.
(A green street)
Explanation: Used to indicate that there’s nothing standing in one’s way.

СМОТРЕТЬ кому-либо В РОТ – smotret’ v rot.
(To look someone in the mouth)
Explanation: To listen attentively and servilely to what one says.

ВКЛАДЫВАТЬ ДУШУ во что-либо – vkladyvat’ dushu.
(To put one’s soul into something)
Explanation: To do something whole-heartedly.

УДАРИТЬ ПО РУКАМ – udarit’ po rukam.
(To strike each other’s hands)
Explanation: To confirm an agreement or a business deal.

ПО ГОРЯЧИМ СЛЕДАМ – po gorachim sl’edam.
(While the tracks are hot)
Explanation: Without losing time.

ЧЕРНЫМ ПО БЕЛОМУ – chornym po belomu.
(In black on white)
Explanation: To declare or state something clearly.

ЗАРУБИТЬ НА НОСУ – zarubit’ na nosu.
(To make a notch on one’s nose)
Explanation: To remember something forever.

ЛИТЬ КАК ИЗ ВЕДРА – lit’ kaki iz vedra.
(To pour as from a pail)
Explanation: To rain heavily.

КАК РЫБА В ВОДЕ – kak ryba v vode.
(Like a fish in water)
Explanation: To feel free and easy.


СМОТРЕТЬ СКВОЗЬ РОЗОВЫЕ ОЧКИ – smotret’ skvoz’ rozovyye ochki.
(To look through rose-coloured glasses)
Explanation: To take too optimistic view of someone or something.

РУКОЙ НЕ ДОСТАНЕШЬ кого-то – rukoy ne dostanesh.
(You can’t reach someone with your hand)
Explanation: Someone (usually said of someone in a high position) is out of reach.

РУБИТЬ СУК, НА КОТОРОМ СИДИШЬ – rubit’ suk na kotorom sidish.
(To cut down a bough on which you’re sitting)
Explanation: To act in such a way as to do oneself harm.

СТАВИТЬ ВО ГЛАВУ УГЛА – stavit’ vo glavu ugla.
(To put something in the vertex of an angle)
Explanation: To consider something to be indispensible.

СТАНОВИТЬСЯ НА ДЫБЫ – stanovittsa na dyby.
(To stand up on one’s hind legs)
Explanation: To resist.

СПАТЬ БЕЗ ЗАДНИХ НОГ – spat’ b’ez zadnikh nog.
(To sleep without one’s hind legs)
Explanation: To sleep soundly.

НАЛОМАТЬ ДРОВ – nalomat’ drov.
(To break up some firewood)
Explanation: To make a mess of things.

ПОСТАВИТЬ ВОПРОС РЕБРОМ – postavit’ vopros rebrom.
(To put a question edgewise)
Explanation: To ask something in directly.

КЛЕВАТЬ НОСОМ – klevat’ nosom.
(To peck with one’s nose)
Explanation: To nod.

УЙТИ С ГОЛОВОЙ во что-то – uyti z golovoy.
(To go into one’s own self)
Explanation: To become withdrawn.

Что-то ГОРИТ В РУКАХ – cho-to gorit v rukakh.
(Something is burning in one’s hands)
Explanation: The work is going fine.

ЗАТКНУТЬ ЗА ПОЯС – zatknut’ za popoyas.
(To stick someone behind one’s belt)
Explanation: To outdo someone.


НАЖИМАТЬ НА ВСЕ КНОПКИ – nazhimat’ na vse knopki.
(To press on all the buttons)
Explanation: To use every direct or indirect means in order to attain a goal.

ГЛАДИТЬ кого-либо ПО ГОЛОВЕ – gladit’ po golove.
(To stroke someone’s head)
Explanation: To show approval.

НАВОСТРИТЬ ЛЫЖИ – navostrit’ lyzhy.
(To sharpen the ski)
Explanation: to run away.

ВОТ ГДЕ СОБАКА ЗАРЫТА! – vot gde sobaka zaryta.
(Here’s where the dog’s buried)
Explanation: That’s the main point!

КАК ПО МАСЛУ – kak po masly.
(Like sliding on oil)
Explanation: Things are going well, smoothly.

ПОДНЯТЬ ВСЕХ НА НОГИ – podn’at’ vsekh na nogi.
(To raise everybody to his feet)
Explanation: To make everyone be more active.

ЛОМАТЬ ГОЛОВУ над чем-то – lomat’ golovy.
(To break one's head over something)
Explanation: To think hard.

НАШЛА КОСА НА КАМЕНЬ – nashla kosa na kamen’.
(The scythe has struck a stone)
Explanation: A clash of interests, opinions.

РАЗБИВАТЬСЯ В ЛЕПЕШКУ – razbivattsa v leposhku
(To smash oneself into a flat cake)
Explanation: To do next to impossible to attain one’s end.

НИ ЗА КАКИЕ КОВРИЖКИ – ni za kakie kovrizhki.
(Not for any gingerbreаd)
Explanation: Not for anything.

НЕ ЗА ГОРАМИ – ne za gorami.
(Not beyond the hills)
Explanation: Something’s going to happen very soon.

КАК ДВАЖДЫ ДВА ЧЕТЫРЕ – kak dvazhdy dva chetyre.
(Like two times two is four)
Explanation: Obvious to everyone.


НА ЛБУ НАПИСАНО – na lbu napisano.
(It’s written on the forehead)
Explanation: Something about a person is pretty obvious by the look on his face.

ДУША НЕ ЛЕЖИТ к чему-либо/кому-либо – dusha ne lezhit.
(One’s soul doesn’t lie for something or someone)
Explanation: One feels no inclination toward something or somebody, one has a distaste for something.

РОДИТЬСЯ ПОД СЧАСТЛИВОЙ ЗВЕЗДОЙ – rodittsa pod schastlivoy zvezdoy.
(To be born under a lucky star)
Explanation: To be lucky, successful.

СДАТЬ В АРХИВ – sdat’ v arkhiv.
(To relegate to the archives)
Explanation: to bury in oblivion as something obsolete or useless.

СЕТЛАЯ ГОЛОВА – svetlaya golova.
(A bright head)
Explanation: A clear intellect.

CВОРОТИТЬ ГОРЫ – svorotit’ gory.
(To shift mountains)
Explanation: To do something very important.

САДИТЬСЯ НЕ В СВОИ САНИ – sadittsa ne v svoi sani.
(To get into someone else’s sleigh)
Explanation: To occupy a post for which one is unsuited.

РАЗРЯДИТЬ АТМОСФЕРУ – razr’adit’ atmosferu.
(To discharge the atmosphere)
Explanation: To relieve tention.

ПОПАСТЬ НЕ В БРОВЬ, А В ГЛАЗ – popast’ ne v brov’ a v glaz.
(To hit not the eyebrow but the eye)
Explanation: To guess right.

ПОКАЗАТЬ, ГДЕ РАКИ ЗИМУЮТ – pokazat’ gde raki zimuut.
(To show someone where the crayfish winter)
Explanation: To punish someone.

ПАЛЬЧИКИ ОБЛИЖЕШЬ – palchiki oblizhesh’.
(You’ll lick your fingers clean)
Explanation: Delicious, tasty.

СМОТРЕТЬ В КОРЕНЬ – smotret’ v koren’.
(To look into the root)
Explanation: To look deep into the matte.


СНЯТЬ перед кем-то ШЛЯПУ – sn’at shlapu.
(To take off one’s hat before someone)
Explanation: To express admiration for a person’s achievements

СЛЫШНО, КАК МУХА ПРОЛЕТИТ – slysho kak mukha proletit.
(One could hear a fly flying past)
Explanation: It’s absolutely quiet.

ПРИНИМАТЬ ЗА ЧИСТУЮ МОНЕТУ – prinimat’ za chistuy mone’etu.
(To take for a pure coin)
Explanation: To take something seriously.

ОТКРЫВАТЬ кому-либо ДУШУ/СЕРДЦЕ – otkryvat’ dushu/sertse.
(To open one’s soul/heart)
Explanation: To tell someone frankly of one’s true feelings.

СТОЯТЬ ГОРОЙ – stoyat’ goroy.
(To stand for someone or something like a mountain)
Explanation: To stand firmly for someone or something.

ХОДИТЬ ВОКРУГ ДА ОКОЛО – khodit’ vokrug da okolo.
(To walk round and about)
Explanation: Not to come to the point.

ГОТОВ СКВОЗЬ ЗЕМЛЮ ПРОВАЛИТЬСЯ – gotov skvoz' zemlu provalittsa.
(Ready to fall through the ground)
Explanation: Ones feels so ashamed that he wishes that the earth would swallow him up.

ГОВОРИТЬ ПОД РУКУ – govorit’ pod ruku.
(To speak to someone’s hand)
Explanation: To say something at the wrong time.

КАК РУКОЙ СНЯЛО – kak rukoy sn’alo.
(As if taken off by the hand)
Explanation: Completely disappeared as if by magic.

ВЫБРОСИТЬ ИЗ ГОЛОВЫ – vybrosit’ iz golovy.
(To throw something out of one’s head)
Explanation: To give up the idea.

ЖИТЬ НА ШИРОКУЮ НОГУ – zhit’ na shirokuyu nogu.
(To live on a broad foot)
Explanation: To live in luxury.

ИДТИ В ГОРУ – idti v goru.
(To go uphill)
Explanation: To gain influence.


ПОГНАТЬСЯ ЗА ДВУМЯ ЗАЙЦАМИ – pognattsa za dvum’a zaytsami.
(To run after two hares)
Explanation: To persue two different aims simultaneously.

СМЕЯТЬСЯ В КУЛАК – smeyattsa v kulak.
(To laugh into one’s fist)
Explanation: To laugh secretly to oneself while being outwardly serious.

СТРЕЛЯТЬ ИЗ ПУШКИ ПО ВОРОБЬЯМ – str’el’at iz pushki po vorob’yam.
(To fire a cannon at sparrows)
Explanation: To make a great effort for a small gain.

ХОДИТЬ ПО СТРУНКЕ – khodit’ po strunk’e.
(To walk on a string)
Explanation: To be completely under someone’s authority.

НЕ УДАРИТЬ В ГРЯЗЬ ЛИЦОМ – ne udarit’ v gr’az’ litsom.
(Not to strike the mud with one’s face)
Explanation: To try to appear at one’s best.

ТЕПЛОЕ МЕСТО – t’oploye mesto.
(A warm place)
Explanation: A highly paid appointment or job.

СПУТАТЬ ВСЕ КАРТЫ – sputat’ vse karty.
(To mix up all the cards)
Explanation: To spoil or ruin someone’s plans.

СИДЕТЬ СЛОЖА РУКИ – sidet’ slozha ruki.
(To sit with one’s arms folded)
Explanation: To be idle

РУКИ ЧЕШУТСЯ – ruki cheshutsa.
(One’s hands are itching)
Explanation: Someone’s anxious to do something.

НЕ ЧУЯТЬ НОГ ПОД СОБОЙ – ne chuyat’ nog pod soboy.
(Not to feel one’s feet under oneself)
Explanation: To be very happy!

ЦЕНЫ НЕТ – tseny n'et.
(There’s no price on someone or something)
Explanation: Someone or something is priceless


Pictures by Anastasia Saifulina


Founder: Department for External Economic and International Relations of the Government of Moscow

Address: Voznesenskiy Pereulok, 22, Moscow, 125009

Ph: +7 (495) 633-68-66, Fax: +7 (495) 633-68-65


Acknowledgements to:

PHOTO –,, ITAR TASS Agency, RIA-Novosti, Getty Images Russia, companies and organizations, represented in the issue.

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Published with support from the Department for External Economic and International Relations of the Government of Moscow