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Russian Proverbs

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A great way to improve your understanding of the Russian culture, people and history is to study Russian proverbs and sayings. A proverb refers to a short saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or belief - wisdom acculmulated by common folk.

155 facts:

Altynnogo Vora Veshayut, a Poltinnovo Chestvuyut.
One Hangs the Thief Who Stole 3 Kopecks, and Honors the One Who Stole 50.
Baba S Vozu, Kobyle Legche
It is Easier for the Horse when a Woman is off the Cart.
Moral: The work is easier when one does not get in its way.
Babushka Nadvoye Skazala to Li Dozhdik, to Li Sneg, to Li Budet, to Li Net.
Granny Told Fortunes and Said Two Things - It Will Either Rain or Snow; It Either Will or Will Not.
Moral: The outcome is still unknown despite all that's been said.
Bare Derutsya U Kholopov Chuby Treschat.
When Masters Are Fighting, Servants' Forelocks Are Creaking.
Moral: When powerful people are quarrelling, it's the commoners that suffer.
Berezhyonogo Bog Berezhyot
God Keeps Safe Those Who Are Kept Safe.
English version: The Lord helps those who help themselves
Beshenoy Sobakye Syem' Vyerst Nye Kryuk
For a Mad Dog Seven Miles is Not a Detour.
Moral: If you are passionate (or unreasonably driven) about something you will do all the extra work without noticing it
Bez Kota Mysham Razdolye
Without a Cat Mice Have No Limits.
English version: When the cat is away, the mice will play
Blizok Lokotok, Da Ne Ukusish.
Your Elbow is Close, Yet You Can't Bite It.
Moral: It only seems to be easy.
Bodlivoy Korove Bog Rog Ne Dayot
Literally: God Does Not Give Horns to a Cow That Likes to Gore
Moral: Overzealous people often don't have means to do what they would like to
Bog Dal, Bog I Vzyal.
God Gave, God Took Back.
English version: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away
Bogu Molis', a Dobra-uma Derzhis'
Pray to God, but Be Level-headed.
English version: Trust in God, but steer away from the rocks
Bol'shomu Korablyu, Bol'shoye Plavaniye
Big Voyage for a Big Ship
English version: A great ship asks deep waters
Boltun Nakhodka Dlya Shpiona.
A Chatterbox is a Treasure for a Spy.
Byla Ne Byla
There Was - There Wasn't
English version: Sink or swim
Daryonomu Konyu V Zuby Ne Smotryat.
Don't Look at the Teeth of a Horse You've Been Given.
English version: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Daryonomu Konyu V Zuby Ne Smotryat
You Should Not Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
Delit' Shkuru Neubitovo Medvedya.
Distributing the Skin of an Unkilled Bear.
English version: Don't count the chickens before they hatch
Do Boga Vysoko, Do Tsarya Dalyeko.
God is up High, the Tsar is Far Away.
Dobroye Bratstvo, Luchsheye Bogatstvo
Good Brothership is the Better Wealth.
Dolg Platezhom Krasen.
Debt is Beautiful when Repaid.
English version: One good turn deserves another
Do Svad'by Zazhivyot.
[It] Will Heal Before Marriage.
English version: You will manage
Doveryay, No Proveryay.
Trust, but Verify.
Druzhba Druzhboy, a Sluzhba Sluzhboy.
Friendship is Friendship and Business is Business.
Moral: Friendship is one thing, business another.
Druzya Poznayutsa V Bede.
Friends Are Known in Times of Trouble
Moral: When you are in hard times, your true friends will be the ones that help you.
Durakam Zakon Ne Pisan.
There is No Law for Fools
Gde Tonko, Tam I Rvyotsya.
Where It is Thinnest - There It Snaps.
English version: The chain is no stronger than its weakest link
Gol' Na Vydumku Khitra.
Poverty is Crafty.
English version: Necessity is the mother of invention
Golod Ne Tyotka, Pirozhka Nye Podnyesyot.
Hunger is Not Your Aunt (it Will Not Bring You a Pie).
Moral: If you are in need, help yourself and don't count on situation improving by itself
Golodny, Kak Volk.
As Hungry As a Wolf
Gorbatogo Mogila Ispravit
Only Death Will Change the Hunchback
English version: The leopard cannot change his spots
I Khochetsya I Koletsya
It is Wanted and Repellent.
English version: The cat would eat fish and would not wet her feet
I Na Starukhu Byvayet Prorykha
Even an Old Lady Makes Mistakes.
English version: Everyone makes mistakes
Ishchi Vetra V Pole.
Look for Wind in a Field.
English version: The wind cannot be caught in a net
Ispodvol' I Ol'khu Sognyosh'.
You Can Bend an Alder-tree, if You Do It Gradually.
English version: Time conquers all
I Volki Syty, I Ovtsy Tsely.
The Wolves Are Sated, and the Sheep Are Intact.
Moral: Everyone has gotten what they want.
Kak Ayknetsya, Tak I Otkliknetsya.
How Echo is Prompted, It Will Bounce Back.
English version: People get what they deserve
Kak Dvazhdy Dva, Chetyre
As Twice Two is Four
English version: As sure as eggs is eggs
Kak Dve Kapli Vody.
Like Two Drops of Water.
English version: As alike as two peas in a pod
Kak Nazhito, Tak I Prozhito.
As Earned, Spent.
English version: Easy come, easy go
Kaplya V More.
A Drop in the Sea.
English version: A drop in the bucket
Kashu Maslom Ne Isportish
Porridge Cannot Be Spoiled With Butter.
English version: You can't spoil a good thing. Plenty is no plague
Kazyonnovo Kozla Za Khvost Poderzhat - Mozhno Shubu Sshit'
Having Held a State Goat's Tail One Can Make a Fur-coat.
Moral: The official can make a lot of money by bribes.
Khudoi Mir Luchshe Dobroy Ssory.
Bad Peace is Better Than a Good Quarrel.
English version: A bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit.
Klin Klinom Vyshibayut.
One Uses a Wedge to Knock out a Wedge.
English version: Fight fire with fire. One nail drives out another
Kogda Den'gi Govoryat, Togda Pravda Molchit.
When Money Talks, then Truth Stays Silent.
Moral: A bribed official doesn't care about the truth.
Komu Na Meste Ne Siditsya, Tot Dobra Ne Nazhivyot.
Those Who Are Discontent to Remain in One Place Will Not Accumulate Much.
English version: A rolling stone gathers no moss
Kozla Boysya Speredi, Konya; Szadi, a Likhogo Cheloveka; So Vsekh Storon.
Beware of the Goat from Its Front Side, the Horse - from Its Back Side, and the Evil Man from Any Side.
Kto Rano Vstayot, Tomu Bog Podayot.
God Gives to Those Who Wake up Early.
English version: The early bird catches the worm
Kuram Na Smekh.
To Make the Hens Laugh
English version: It is enough to make a cat laugh
Kurnitsa Nye Ptyitsa, Baba Nye Chelovyek.
A Chicken Isn't a Bird, a Woman is Not a Human Being.
Lbom stenku ne rasshibyosh'. -- You cannot break a wall with your forehead. -- English version: Use the correct tool for the job.
Kuy Zhelezo, Poka Goryacho.
Strike While the Metal is Hot.
English version: Strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines
Lbom Stenku Ne Rasshibyosh.
You Cannot Break a Wall With Your Forehead.
Moral: Use the correct tool for the job. Also: Don't deal with stubborn people.
Les Rubyat, Shchepki Letyat.
When Chopping Down a Tree Woodchips Fly.
English version: You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs
Likha Beda Nachalo.
Trouble is the Beginning of Disaster.
English version: A good beginning makes a good ending.
Lozhka Dyogtya V Bochke Meda.
A Spoonful of Tar in a Barrel of Honey.
English version: A fly in the ointment.
Luchshe Odin Raz Uvidet', Chem Sto Raz Uslishat'
It's Better to See Once Than Hear a Hundred Times
English version: A picture is worth a thousand words
Luchshe Pozdno, Chem Nikogda.
Better Late Than Never.
Luchshe Sinitsa V Rukakh, Chem Zhuravl' V Nebe
Better a Titmouse in the Hand Than a Crane in the Sky.
English version: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Luchsheye, Vrag Khoroshego.
The Best is the Enemy of the Good.
Lyubish' Katat'sya, Lyubi I Sanochki Vozit'.
If You Enjoy Riding, Enjoy Pulling the Sleigh.
English version: He that would eat the fruit must climb the tree; No pains, no gains.
Mir Da Lad, Bol'shoy Klad
Peace is Great Treasure
English version: Plenty is no plague
Mnogo Budesh' Znat', Skoro Sostaritsya.
If You Learn a Lot, You'll Age Soon.
English version: Too much knowledge makes the head bald
Mnogo Shuma Iz Nishego.
Much Noise from Nothing
English version: Much ado about nothing
Myagko Stelet, Zhyostko Spat'.
Makes Bed Soft but Hard to Sleep.
English version: Iron fist in a velvet glove
Nashla Kosa Na Kamen'.
The Scythe Has Hit a Stone.
English version: You have met your match
Nazvalsa Gruzdem, Polezay V Kuzov.
If You Call Yourself a Milk-mushroom Get Into the Basket!
English version: In for a penny, in for a pound
Na Bezryb'ye I Rak, Ryba.
On a Fishing Lull, Even a Lobster is Considered Fish.
English version: Something is better than nothing
Na Boga Nadeysya, a Sam Ne Ploshay
Hope for God, but Do Not Be Reliant.
Na Boga Polozhish'sya, Ne Oblozhish'sya
If You Rely on God, You Won't Fail
Ne Budi Likha, Poka Likho Spit.
Don't Wake up Trouble While Trouble is Sleeping.
English version: Let sleeping dogs lie
Ne Bylo U Baby Khlopot, Tak Kupila Porosya.
A Woman Farmer Had No Trouble, So She Bought a Piglet.
English version: You are asking for trouble
Ne Imey Sto Rubley, a Imey Sto Druzey.
Don't Have a Hundred Rubles, but Have a Hundred Friends.
Ne Kladi Vsye Yaytsa V Odnu Korzinu.
Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Nem, Kak Ryba.
Mute As a Fish
English version: Silent as a grave
Ne Mytyom, Tak Katanyem.
If Not by Washing, then by Rolling Around
English version: By hook or by crook
Ne Oshibayetsa Tot, Kto Nichego Ne Delayet.
Only He Who Never Does Anything Never Makes Mistakes
English version: He that never climbed, never fell; No guts, no glory.
Ne Plyuy V Kolodets, Prigoditsya Vody Napit'sya.
Do Not Spit Into a Well, It May Be Useful to Drink Water.
English version: Never cast dirt into that fountain where you drink
Ne Poyman, Ne Vor.
Weren't Caught, Not a Thief.
English version: Innocent till proven guilty
Ne Roy Drugomu Yamu, Sam V Neyo Popadyosh'.
Don't Dig a Hole for Someone Else, As You Will Fall in It.
English version: Curses like chickens come home to roost
Ne Tak Strashen Chyort, Kak Ego Malyuyut.
The Devil is Not As Scary As They Paint Him.
English version: The devil is not so black as he is painted
Net Dyma Bez Ognya.
There is No Smoke Without Fire
English version: Where there is smoke, there is fire.
Net Khuda Bez Dobra.
There's No Bad Without Good.
English version: Every cloud has a silver lining
Net Plokhikh Sudov, Net Plokhikh Vetrov, Yest' Plokhiye Kapitany.
There Are No Bad Ships or Winds, There Are Bad Captains.
Ne Uchi Uchyonogo.
Do Not Teach a Taught Person.
English version: Do not teach an old dog new tricks
Ne Vsyo Zoloto, Chto Blestit.
All That Glitters is Not Gold.
Nezvany Gost' Khuzhe Tatarina
An Unsolicited Guest is Worse Than a Tatar (the Enemy).
Nezvany Gost' Luchshe Zvanogo
An Unsolicited Guest is Better Than a Solicited One.
Ni K Selu, Ni K Gorodu.
Not for Village, Not for Town.
English version: Neither here nor there
Ni Ryba, Ni Myaso.
Neither Fish nor Meat.
Novaya Metla Metyot Po-novomu.
A New Broom Sweeps a New Way.
English version: A new broom sweeps clean
Na Vore Shapka Gorit.
A Thief's Hat Burns.
English version: A guilty mind betrays itself
Na Vsekh Ne Ugodish.
You Cannot Please Everybody.
Na Vsyakogo Mudretsa Dovol'no Prostoty.
For Each Wise Man There is Plenty of Fools.
English version: Every man has a fool in his sleeve
Odin V Pole Ne Voin.
One in a Field is Not a Warrior.
English version: Clothes don't make the man.
Oreshek Ne Po Zubam.
The Teeth Are No Match for the Nut.
English version: A hard nut to crack
Ot Dobra Dobra Ne Ishchut.
Do Not Look for Further Good from Good.
English version: Leave well enough alone.
Ot Lyubopytstva Koshka Sdokhla.
Curiosity Killed the Cat.
Ot Sumy I Ot Tyurmy Ne Zarekaysa.
Don't Swear off of Begging and Jail.
Otsutstviye Novostey, Khoroshaya Novost'.
No News is Good News.
Ovchinka Vydelki Ne Stoit.
The Lambskin Isn't Worth the Currying
English version: The food isn't worth the fire
O Vkusakh Ne Sporyat.
Tastes Are Not Debated.
English version: Tastes differ
Pervy Blin Komom.
The First Pancake is a Blob.
English version: Things Don't work the first time
Plokhaya Molva Na Kryl'yah Letit
A Bad Rumour Flies on Wings.
English version: Bad news travels fast
Pogonishsya Za Dvumya Zaytsami, Ni Odnogo Ne Poymayesh.
If You Run After Two Hares, You Will Catch Neither.
Moral: If you grasp at all, you will lose all
Poshol Za Sherst'yu, a Vernulsya Strizhenym.
Went to Get Wool, but Returned Sheared.
Moral: If you plan to hurt others, be ready to be hurt yourself instead. English version: If planning revenge, dig two graves
Posledny, No Ne Meneye Vazhny.
Last, but No Less Important.
English version: Last, but not least
Posle Draki Kulakami Ne Mashut.
You Don't Wave Your Fists After a Fight.
English version: What's done is done
Pospeshish', Lyudey Nasmeshish'.
If You Rush, Others Will Be Only Amused.
English version: Hasty climbers have sudden falls
Prishla Beda, Otvoryay Vorota.
Trouble is Here, So Open the Gates.
English version: Misfortunes never come alone
Pri Tsare Gorokhe.
In the Times of Czar Goroch
Czar from fairy tales; English version: Since Adam was a boy
Privychka, Vtoraya Natura.
Custom is a Second Nature.
Puganaya Vorona Kusta Boitsya.
A Scared Crow is Afraid of a Bush.
English version: Once bitten, twice shy
Ruka Ruku Moyet
One Hand Washes the Other.
English version: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours
Rybak Rybaka Vidit Izdaleka
A Fisherman Sees a Fisherman from Afar.
English version: Birds of a feather flock together
Sdyelal Dyelo, Gulyay Smyelo.
Task Accomplished, Disport Bravely.
S Volkami Zhit', Po-volch'i Vyt'
You Live With Wolves, You Howl Like a Wolf.
English version: Who keeps company with the wolves, will learn to howl.
Svoyey Teni Ne Obgonish'.
You Won't Speed Past Your Shadow.
Tishe Yedesh', Dal'she Budesh'
The Slower You Go, the Farther You'll Get.
English version: Slow and steady wins the race.
Tserkov' Blizko, Da Idti Sklizko, Kabak Daleko, La Idti Legko.
Church is Close, but the Road is Slippery; the Pub is Far, but the Road is Easy.
Umny V Goru Ne Poydyot, Umny Goru Oboydyot.
A Clever Man Will Not Go up a Mountain; a Clever Man Will Go Around It.
V Chuzhoy Monastyr' So Svoim Ustavom Ne Khodyat.
Do Not Go to Another Monastery With Your Own Charter.
English version: When in Rome, do as the Romans do
V Dome Poveshennovo Ne Govorat O Veryovke.
Don't Talk About Ropes in the Home of the Hanged Person.
V Dozhd' Izby Ne Kroyut, a V Vyodro I Sama Ne Kaplet
When It Rains One Doesn't Roof the Cottage, and It Doesn't Pour in the Bucket.
Moral: People tend to delay their job until it's too late to do it.
Vek Zhivi, Vek Uchis'.
Live for a Century, Learn for a Century.
English version: Live and learn
Veselo Vesel'ye, Tyazhelo Pokhmel'ye.
Revelry is Jolly, Hangover is Heavy.
V Gostyakh Khorosho, a Doma Luchshe.
Visiting is Good, but Home is Better.
English version: There is no place like home.
Vidna is Kremlya Vsya Sovetskaya Zemlya.
The Whole Soviet Country is Visible from the Kremlin.
Moral: The government sees all.
Vino Vinu Tvorit.
Wine Causes Guilt.
Vkrute I Vyaz Perelomish
Together It is Possible to Break Even an Elm
English version: There is strength in numbers.
V Ogorode Buzina, a V Kiyeve Dyad'ka.
Elder-berry is in the Kitchen-garden, Therefore Your Uncle is in Kiev.
Moral: You're jumping to conclusions; Your story doesn't add up; So what does it matter?
Volkov Boyat'sa, V Les Ne Khodit'.
If You're Afraid of Wolves, Don't Go to the Forest.
English version: If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
Voron Voronu Glaz Ne Vyklyuyet.
The Raven Won't Peck out the Eye of Another Raven.
Vot Gde Sobaka Zaryta
That's Where the Dog is Buried
English version: That's where the shoe pinches. That's the crux (the rub)
Vot V Chyom Zagvozdka
That's the Snag!
English version: That's where the shoe pinches. That's the crux (the rub)
Vremya Luchshiy Doktor.
Time Makes the Best Healer.
English version: Time heals all wounds. Modern mockery: Time is the best healer, but a terrible cosmetologist.
Vsego S Soboy Ne Unesyosh.
You Can't Take Everything With You.
English version: The one who dies with most toys, still dies.
V Sem'ye Ne Bez Uroda.
No Family is Without an Ugly Member.
English version: There is a black sheep in every flock
Vsyak Kulik Svoyo Boloto Khvalit
Every Sandpiper Praises His Own Swamps
English version: Every cook praises his own broth
Vsyakomu Ovoshchu Svoyo Vremya.
Every Vegetable Has Its Time
English version: Everything is good in its season
Vsyo Khorosho, Chto Khorosho Konchayetsa.
All is Well That Ends Well
V Tikhom Omute Cherti Vodyatsa.
Devils Inhabit Still Waters.
V Tulu So Svoim Samovarom (ne Yezdyat).
Going to Tula With Your Own Samovar
Tula is where the best samovars are made. English version: Carrying coals to Newcastle (Newcastle being a mining town.)
Vzyalsya Za Guzh, Ne Govori, Chto Ne Dyuzh.
If You Took the Tug, Don't Say You're Not Strong Enough.
Moral: If you began doing something, you should complete it.
Yabloko Ot Yabloni Nedaleko Padayet
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Apple Tree.
English version: Like father like son
Yaytsa Kuritsu Ne Uchat
Eggs Cannot Teach a Hen.
Moral: Do not give advice to someone more experienced than you
Yazyk Do Kiyeva Dovedyot
Your Tongue Can Get You to Kiev.
Moral: You can achieve almost anything by asking for help from others
Yesli by Da Kaby Da Vo Rtu Rosli Griby
If Mushrooms Grew in the Mouth
English version: If wishes were horses, then I'd be King
Yesli Khochetsya Rabotat', Lyag, Pospi, I Vsyo Proydyot.
If You Feel the Need to Work, Take a Nap and the Need Will Pass.
Zakon Chto Dyshlo, Kuda Povernyosh - Tuda I Vyshlo.
Law is Like a Shaft of a Cart, It Points Wherever You Turn It To.
Moral: Powerful, rich or smart people can make the law work for them.
Zanyatoy (trydolyubivy), Kak Pchela.
As Busy As a Bee
Zastav' Duraka Bogu Molyitsya, Tak on Syebye I Lob Rasshibyot.
If You Force a Fool to Pray, He Will Do It So Enthusiasticaly He Will Hurt His Head Bowing to the Floor.
Moral: Better to understand underlying reasons, and make your own educated decisions.
Zhizn' Korotka.
Life is Short.
Zhizn' Prozhit', Ne Pole Pereyti.
To Live Life is Not to Walk Through a Meadow.
English version: Life was never meant to be easy.
Za Morem Telushka Polushka, Da Rubl' Perevoz.
Overseas, a Cow Costs a Quarter of Kopeck, but Will a Rouble to Ship It Here.
Moral: This offer is great by itself, but strings attached to it kill the deal.
Za Odnovo Bitogo Dvukh Nebityh Dayut.
In Exchange for a Beaten One They Give Two Unbeaten Ones.
English version: Experience is worth it

Facts contributed by:

Gokie Gary

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