70 famous Russian proverbs and sayings, and their meaningsRussians love their old proverbs and sayings. They are often used as the wisdom of ages that can be relied upon. “For ages” (ispokon vekov) is a good enough reason to justify the way things operate: Since it’s a proven method, it should be worthy.

In general, the modern Russian culture values tradition above innovation and especially over foreign influences. Thus, “traditional values” are in vogue since the early 2000s. They are the base for revival of the national idea. Naturally, it affected the dating rules and courting culture as well. Patriarchy is revered, feminism is frown upon. The main idea of a male-female relationship is expressed in the so called “hunter-prey” courtship model. (Yes, it’s “courtship” not dating. Think of 1950s in America, that’s how Russian women would like you to behave today.)

Here are some popular Russian proverbial sayings that most locals know and use. Remember they are at least 100-200 years old. If the saying is self-explanatory, no meaning is provided.

88 famous Russian proverbs

  1. Dont go to another monastery with your own rules. (В чужой монастырь со своим уставом не ходят.)
  2. Visiting as a guest is good but it’s better at home. (В гостях хорошо, а дома лучше.)
  3. It’s good where we are not present. (Хорошо там, где нас нет.) It may seem nicer elsewhere but in reality it may be not any better.
  4. Every sandpiper praises its own swamp. (Всяк кулик свое болото хвалит.) People tend to have high opinion about the place the place where they live.
  5. Where you are born, it’s where you are useful. (Где родился, там и пригодился.) You are the most suited to be useful where you were born.
  6. Don’t dig a hole for someone else or you will fall into it yourself. (Не рой яму другому – сам в нее попадешь.)
  7. Husband is a head, wife is a neck. (Муж – голова, жена – шея.) The head looks to where the neck turns.
  8. Without work, [one] cannot pull a fish out of a pond. (Без труда не выловишь и рыбку из пруда.) Anything you do requires effort.
  9. No water runs under an idle stone. (Под лежачий камень вода не течет.)
  10. Work is a wolf, it will not run away to the woods. (Работа не волк — в лес не убежит.) No need to hurry working, the job is not going anywhere.
  11. Work loves fools. (Работа дураков любит.) People who love working are not too smart.
  12. If you are given something, take it; if you are being beaten, run. (Дают — бери, а бьют — беги.)
  13. Doing [something] takes time, having fun [takes] an hour. (Делу время, потехе час.)
  14. Live with wolves, howl like a wolf. (С волками жить — по-волчьи выть.)
  15. Word is silver, silence is gold. (Слово — серебро, молчание — золото.)
  16. Gray hair in a beard, devil in ribs. (Седина в бороду — бес в ребро.) A guy getting to the age of grey hair often becomes mischievous (middle age crisis?).
  17. Ride slower, advance further. (Тише едешь — дальше будешь.) Don’t hurry up, you will reach further distances by going slower.
  18. If he beats you, he loves you. (Бьет значит любит.) In older times it was considered a duty of the husband to teach his wife, which included physical beating. The saying, unfortunately, is still used today.
  19. Husband and wife are one Satan. (Муж да жена — одна сатана.) Don’t get between a husband and his wife, as they are one entity.
  20. Work is afraid of a master. (Дело мастера боится.) It’s easy for a specialist to complete a job.
  21. Eyes are scared but hands do. (Глаза боятся, а руки делают.) Don’t be afraid by looking how much you need to accomplish; simply start doing it.
  22. A spoon is expensive just before the dinner. (Дорога ложка к обеду.)
  23. Fears eyes are large. (У страха глаза велики.)
  24. A Russian harnesses slowly but rides fast. (Русский медленно запрягает, да быстро едет.)
  25. Don’t teach a wizard. (Не учи учёного.)
  26. An apple doesn’t fall too far from the apple tree. (Яблоко от яблони недалеко падает.)
  27. A goose is not a friend to a pig. (Гусь свинье не товарищ.)
  28. Cant hide a bradawl in a bag. (Шила в мешке не утаишь.) Can’t hide something that will make itself obvious quickly.
  29. Chicks are counted in autumn. (Цыплят по осени считают.) It’s best not to check scores too early.
  30. The elbow is close but you cannot bite it. (Близок локоток, да не укусишь.)
  31. The first pancake is a lump. (Первый блин — комом.) When you do something for the first time, it’s usually imperfect.
  32. One is not a warrior in a field. (Один в поле не воин.)
  33. Out of fire into a blaze. (Из огня да в полымя.) Got out of one trouble, only to get into another.
  34. The child of seven nannies has no eye. (У семи нянек дитя без глазу.) Too many people responsible for the same thing all act irresponsibly.
  35. An old friend is better than two new ones. (Старый друг лучше новых двух.)
  36. Patience and work will grate anything. (Терпенье и труд всё перетрут.) With patience and hard work you can accomplish anything you want.
  37. Learning is light, and absence of learning is darkness. (Ученье свет, а неученье тьма.)
  38. A word is not a sparrow, if it flew out, you cannot catch it. (Слово — не воробей, вылетит — не поймаешь.) Be careful of what you say as it’s not possible to get it back.
  39. Measure seven times, cut once. (Семь раз отмерь — один отрежь.) Be careful before you do something that cannot be changed.
  40. From a mangy sheep [get] at least a lock of wool. (С паршивой овцы — хоть шерсти клок.) Get at least something, even if you get a lousy opportunity.
  41. Own shirt is closer to the body. (Своя рубашка ближе к телу.) One’s own interests are the most important.
  42. Out of sight, out of heart. (С глаз долой — из сердца вон.)
  43. Don’t complain about the mirror, if the face is skew. (Нечего на зеркало пенять, коль рожа крива.)
  44. You don’t know where you will find or lose. (Не знаешь, где найдёшь, где потеряешь.)
  45. Hope for God but don’t do badly yourself. (На Бога надейся, а сам не плошай.)
  46. Scythe over a stone. (Нашла коса на камень.) The force came over a stronger force.
  47. Truth pricks eyes. (Правда глаза колет.) Honest opinions are unpleasant.
  48. For a drunk, the sea is to his knees. (Пьяному море по колено.) Drunk people don’t see dangers.
  49. What a sober person thinks, the drunk says. (Что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке.)
  50. A try is not a torture. (Попытка — не пытка.) Try it at least, it’s not going to hurt you.
  51. A friend is found out in a misfortune. (Друг познаётся в беде.) Misfortunes help to test if your friendship is real.
  52. Friendship is friendship, and service is service. (Дружба дружбой, а служба службой.) Even though we are friends, I have to fulfill my job responsibilities.
  53. Love to ride, love to pull the sled. (Любишь кататься — люби и саночки возить.)
  54. Better to have a tomtit in hands than a crane in the sky. (Лучше синица в руках, чем журавль в небе.)
  55. Better late than never. (Лучше поздно, чем никогда.)
  56. No bad without good. (Нет худа без добра.) If something bad happened, look for a silver lining.
  57. Can’t glue a broken cup. (Разбитую чашку не склеишь.) Some things could be broken irreparably and nothing can fix them.
  58. An affectionate calf sucks from two mothers. (Ласковый теленок двух маток сосёт.) Being nice helps you get benefits from different people.
  59. Strike while the iron is hot. (Куй железо, пока горячо.) Use the opportunity while it’s possible, or lose it.
  60. Dont delay until tomorrow what you can do today. (Не откладывай на завтра то, что можешь сделать сегодня.)
  61. You reap what you have sawn. (Что посеешь, то и пожнешь.)
  62. Who gets up early, gets a handout from God. (Кто рано встаёт, тому Бог подаёт.)
  63. Who didn’t come in time, came late. (Кто не успел, тот опоздал.)
  64. Horses aren’t changed when crossing a river. (Коней на переправе не меняют.) Don’t change major things in the middle of a job.
  65. As the call, so is the echo. (Как аукнется, так и откликнется.)
  66. Not everything is gold that shines. (Не всё то золото, что блестит.)
  67. Lovers’ quarrel is just fun. (Милые бранятся — только тешатся.) Thus, don’t interrupt with a couple’s argument or fight, it’s a good thing for them.
  68. God doesn’t give horns to the caw who loves butting. (Бодливой корове Бог рог не даёт.)
  69. Everything [is given] its own time. (Всему своё время.)
  70. A crow is not pecking at anothers crows eye. (Ворон ворону глаз не выклюет.)
  71. Live for hundred years, learn for hundred years. (Век живи — век учись.)
  72. Trust but check. (Доверяй, но проверяй.)
  73. You don’t look at the teeth of the horse that was gifted. (Дарёному коню в зубы не смотрят.)
  74. God endured, and told us [to do the same]. (Бог терпел и нам велел.)
  75. In a quiet lake, there are demons. (В тихом омуте черти водятся.)
  76. Don’t denounce prison or poverty. (От тюрьмы и от сумы не зарекайся.) Anyone can lose all their money or be thrown in jail, no matter how they live or behave.
  77. A law is like a pole: as it turned, so is the result. (Закон что дышло: как повернешь, так и вышло.) Any law can be turned around to achieve an opposite result.
  78. [One] can’t jump over the head. (Выше головы не прыгнешь.) There is a limit to one’s abilities.
  79. With a beloved [person], it’s paradise in a hut. (С милым рай и в шалаше.)
  80. Love is not potatoes, [one] cannot throw it in a window. (Любовь не картошка, не выбросишь в окошко.) Love is something you cannot get rid of.
  81. Love is cruel, you will even fall in love with a goat. (Любовь зла, полюбишь и козла.) Love can play a joke on you, you may fall in love with a completely wrong person.
  82. [You] can’t escape destiny. (От судьбы не уйдешь.) No matter what you do, your fate is predetermined, and what is destined to happen will happen.
  83. Marriages occur in heaven. (Браки совершаются на небесах.) Marriages are decided upon by higher forces, which should be surrounded to.
  84. Endure, [and you will] fall in love. (Стерпится, слюбится.) You may not like your partner at first but as you go through challenges together, you will learn to love each other. This saying was used to soothe young husbands or wives that didn’t like partners that parents found for them, or the ones who fell out of love after the wedding.
  85. From love to hate, a hand [can] reach. (От любви до ненависти рукой подать. ) If you love someone, you can start hating them very quickly.
  86. Everything new is well forgotten old. (Новое — хорошо забытое старое.)
  87. Done the task, stroll bravely. (Сделал дело, гуляй смело.) Once you have completed the assigned task, you can relax and do whatever you want.
  88. Every person is the blacksmith of their own destiny. (Каждый кузнец своего счастья.)
70 Russian proverbs

Up to now all these proverbs are used by Russians in their everyday life.

 

Read also:russian-superstitions

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Olgab12
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The more you begin to understand life, the more you begin to value wisdom of ages. I rediscovered proverbs not long ago though I’m 26 now. But it’s not just learning these sayins and proverbs by heart at school. It’s about understanding that experience comes with time. People put it to proverbs giving us the chance to use this experience. One just needs to understand where to use it.

David
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I grew up hearing #17, but I heard that through “The Tortoise and the Hare,” #55, #61, and #72, but I’ve heard #61 in a religious context as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “what comes around, goes around,” and as karma.

angelika89
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Russian proverbs contain wisdom of our ancestors, so it would be unreasonable to ignore them. Studies have shown that the average IQ of modern people is not much higher than IQ of our ancient relatives. However, we are lucky to use all the information collected by generations. Knowing that, I am gladly using Russian proverbs. Moreover, I will teach my children the same attitude.

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