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    I am interested in idioms from all Slavic languages. Please be free to add yours. Here are some examples from Polish

    Just like English, Polish idioms have evolved to have their own meaning, and while many of these reflect the meaning of an English idiom, and many even sound the same, there are also a whole host of unique and new idioms in the Polish language. Not only can they be great fun to learn, but using them can give your speaking a real twist that will impress the native speaker no end; in-fact, language teachers often use idioms as an indicator of an advanced language level in their students.

    Some Polish Idioms
    Below are a list of common (and some not so common) Polish idioms, their literal translations (in []), their closest English counterpart (if there is one!), and, if it might be needed, a hint towards their meaning.

    Jest to cnota nad cnotami trzymać język za zębami. [The best virtue among all virtues is to keep one’s tongue behind one’s teeth] (Silence is golden).


    Jak sobie pościelisz, tak się wyśpisz. [The way you made your bed is the way you will sleep in it] (You made your bed now lie in it, you reap what you sew).

    Nudne jak flaki z olejem. [Dull as tripe in oil] (Dull as dishwater): Meaning something is extremely boring.

    Jasne jak słońce. [Clear as the sun] (In English we could say either ‘Clear as day’ or ‘crystal clear’).

    Kopnąć w kalendarz. [Kick the calendar] (Kick the bucket).

    Darowanemu koniowi w zęby się nie zagląda. [Don’t check the teeth of a horse you received as a gift] (Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth).


    Zrobili mnie w konia. (I was taken for a ride)

    Zimny jak głaz. [As cold as stone] (As cold as a cucumber)

    Złej baletnicy przeszkadza rąbek u spódnicy. [A bad ballerina blames the hem of her skirt] (A bad workman always blames his tools)

    Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu. [Do not call the wolf from the forest] (Let sleeping dogs lie)


    Widzieć świat w różowych okularach. [See everything in bright colours] (Always look on the bright side of life)


    Tonący brzytwy się chwyta. [A drowning man clutches at a cut-throat razor] (The drowning man clutches at straws)

    Porywać się z motyką na słońce. [To jump at the sun with a hoe] (To bite off more than you can chew)

    Raz na ruski rok. [Once in a Russian year, meaning very rare, because Russian year is apparently ‘longer’ than ours] (Once in a blue moon, or once in a while)

    It is all very well learning these by heart, but it’s also important to understand where and when they are appropriate. Imagine using an idiom like ‘kick the bucket’ during a funeral speech in English; it definitely wouldn’t go down to well, and it’s important to remember register – the tone of your language – when you try to use idioms in Polish.




    I just loved this topic because I am also learning Slavic idioms specially Russian few I have learned are:

    • В гостях хорошо, а дома лучше (meaning – East or West – home is best).
    • Цель оправдывает средства  (meaning – The end justifies the means).
    • На вкус и цвет товарищей нет (meaning – Every man to his taste).
    • Все хорошо в свое время (meaning – Everything is good in its season).

    Thank you.



    Hello, Today I have learned these few great Slavic idioms of Russian language.

    От судьбы не уйти (meaning – No flying from fate)
    Расставить точки над (meaning – i Dot your i’s and cross your t’s)
    Не все то золото, что блестит (meaning – All that glitters is not gold)
    Внешность обманчива (meaning – Appearances are deceitful)
    Как посеешь, так и пожнешь idioms (meaning – As you sow, so shall you reap)
    Каждый сам строитель своего счастья (meaning – Every man is the architect of his own fortune)
    Лучшая защита – нападение (meaning – Best defence is offence)
    Лучше синица в руках, чем журавль в небе (meaning – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)
    Дареному коню в зубы не смотрят (meaning – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth)


    Many of the examples above aren’t just idioms, but are rather proverbs/sayings. Anyway, here’s some actual idioms from Bulgaria (taken from here):

    Как я караш?  – How do you drive her?
    Meaning “How are you doing?”

    [Всичко е] ток и жица! – [Everything is] electricity and wire!
    Meaning that everything is OK, or even better than that (usually follows “How do you drive her?”)

    Боли ме фара – My lighthouse hurts
    Meaning that one doesn’t care.

    Работа му е майката – Work is its mother
    Meaning that working is the base for success

    Карай да върви! – Drive to go!
    This is used when something unforeseen has happened; one understands everything perfectly, but can’t do anything to improve the situation

    Внимавай в картинката! – Pay attention to the picture!
    This phrase is more of a warning. If someone tells you this, you have to be really careful what you do or say.

    Тъп като ръб – Dumb like an edge
    This one is used to call someone dumb as a rock

    Да си вдигаме чуковете /чукалата/ – Let’s pick our hammers
    Да вдигаме гълъбите  – Let’s pick up the pigeons
    Meaning that it is time to go

    Уйде коня у реката – Went the horse into the river
    This means that something unexpected occurred and one can’t help it [modern dialectic slang, the word-order is distorted on purpose]

    Голям праз! – Big leek!
    Meaning that nothing that serious has happened [rather more like the English “big deal!”, i.e. “So what? / I don’t care!”]

    The comments there have  even more examples, btw, including classics like:
    X отиде на кино (X went to the cinema) – Meaning something has gone bust, kaputt, down the drain
    [Всичко е] Шапка на тояга ([Everything’s] Hat on a stick) – Meaning things are going great
    Гладна мечка хоро не играе (A hungry bear doesn’t dance the horo) – That one’s actually a saying, I think the meaning is relatively obvious (you can’t work on an empty stomach or without pay, depending on context)
    Като дупе и гащи (Like a butt and (under)pants) – Used either for inseparable friends or for things which fit perfectly to each other, “joined at the hip”
    Ти откри топлата вода (You discovered hot water) – Sarcastic remark about someone pointing out something obvious or well-known (You discovered America is a somewhat rarer alternative)
    Кърти мивки (Breaks off sinks) – A modern slang phrase, describing something epic and/or really cool
    Сгазвам лука (I’m trampling the onions) – I’m getting into trouble

    And there are some more proverbs and common idioms here (often without the literal translation though):
    Спукана ми е работата (My work is cracked) – I’m in deep trouble, I’m a goner
    Изчезва яко дим (Disappearing like smoke) – Someone disappearing/running away very fast (one of the rare cases in modern Bulgarian where the old word iако is still used in its original context)
    Навивам обръчите на някого (Winding up someone’s hoops) – Persuading someone to do something, slowly and methodically
    Луд за връзване (Mad for tying) – Totally insane, complete wacko
    Изгърмяха ми бушоните (My fuses burned out) – I lost my nerves
    Ни вест, ни кост от него (Not a word, nor a bone from him) – Used for someone who’s been out of touch for a long time
    Да си плюя на петите (To spit on my heels) – To run away as quickly as possible
    Хлопа му дъската (His board is knocking) – He’s crazy
    Главата му е пълна с бръмбари (His head is full of bugs) – He’s insane
    Ни в клин, ни в ръкав (Neither in a legging, nor in a sleeve) – Used for something inappropriate, untimely
    Ни лук ял, ни лук мирисал ([He’s] Neither eaten onions, nor smelled onions) – When someone’s pretending he has no idea he’s done something wrong, acting innocent
    Като света вода ненапита (Like a holy water undrunk from) – Someone pretending to be pure innocence
    Като две капки вода (Like two drops of water) – Two people or things which look very much alike
    След дъжд – качулка (A hood after the rain) – Taking actions when it’s already too late
    От трън – та на глог (From a thorn – to a hawthorn) – Escaping from one bad situation only to find one’s self in an even worse situation, “out of the frying pan and into the fire”
    За всеки влак си има пътници (Every train has its passengers) – For every possible thing or idea, there will be people to like it



    I’m told I could speak Serbian when I was two years-old, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten all of it except “krooshka”/”pear”.  (My only memory of my Grandfather Baich, who died when I was 2 1/2, is of him sitting at his desk in the basement of his “Balkan Clothing Store” and cutting me a slice of krooska.)  I do recall Grandma Baich having a number of colorful expressions in Serbian, and my mother would occasionally use them too.  

    With the help of Google Translate, and mylanguages.org cyrillic converter, I have compiled this collection.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy and authenticity of these translations, but they are fun and interesting.

    Неко ко се не плаши вас – Nyeko ko sye nye plashi vas – Someone who is not afraid of you (I can almost claim to remember this!) – In Other Words: Her!

    Без обзира да ли то желе или не, ви сте га добили – Byez obzira da li to ʐyelye ili nye, vi stye gua dobili – Whether you want it or not, you’ve got it (I think Grandma had a “slang” version of this one?) – Eat!
    Ја не жваћем купус двапут. – Јa nye ʐvaćyem koopoos dvapoot – I don’t chew my cabbage twice (This must be fun to say.) – You heard me!
    Ко је “ми”. Имаш миша у џепу? – Ko јye “mi”. Imash misha oo dʒyepoo – Who is “we”.  You got a mouse in your pocket? (A dookhovit odguovor if there ever was one!) – Says who?
    And my all time favorite Serbian saying:  Although it’s generally used in the literal sense, concerning food, it has that quintessentially yeguzistyentziјalni Serbian feel to it:

    Због свог ништавила, запахи – Zbogu svogu nishtavila, zapakhi – It smells because of its nothingness. – Who gets the last piece of strudel? / Wish in one hand…

    That was the expression I had the most trouble translating.  Oddly, the Serb word for “nothingness” was easy to come by, but “it/it’s/its” was tough for Google.  

    I would be glad to hear from any Serb speakers who can offer corrections.

    Најбоље жеље за све, осим Турака
    Stevan Baich Baker



    I never heard none of these and I live in Serbia whole my life. They must be a bit archaic or/and specific to a certain area your family came from, you mentioned that Serbs came to that area over 100 years ago, right? Especialy last one with the Turks, we haven’t had a direct war with them in 100 years, since 1912.
    Serbian in unique among European languages because it has two standard scripts Cyrillic and Latin. I know you tried to give people a clue how it’s pronounced, but you could’ve used ž inestead of ʐ and dž instead of dʒ and when you write oo at the end of the word it gives impression that last syllable is accented, there are no accents on last syllables in Serbian.
    “Без обзира да ли то желе или не, ви сте га добили” should probably be “Без обзира да ли то желите или не, Ви сте га добили” (Bez obzira da li to želite ili ne, Vi ste ga dobili) and all of this you’ve written is a to formal for grandmother-grandson conversation in Serbian, especially if it’s the grandmother speaking. Vi/Vama/Vas, prular second face (correct me if I’m using the wrong term) is used when your being respectful to someone, a senior, teacher, adults not close (socially) to you etc. basically situations in which you would use Mr/Miss/Mrs. So it could be “Без обзира да ли то желиш или не, ти си га добио” (Bez obzira da li to želiš ili ne, ti si ga dobio”



    Thanks for the info.  I used the internet services mentioned for my translations, from English to Cyrillac to Latin and then back the other way to check for accuracy, and I’m certain something was “lost in the translation”?  I’m sure they’re a LOT more formal than my Grandma was.  She could barely read and write, and came here as a 15 year-old orphan / indentured servant.  That the first time in her life she even wore shoes!  

    I wrote this mostly for my cousins a few years back, and they can’t speak much more Serbian than me.  One reason I came to this site is to learn more about the language in anticipation of a trip we plan to make in 2017 to visit our ancestral home. (some have made previous visits, but that’ a future story.)  While this part of Minnesota still has a fairly large population of Serbs, Croats and other Slavic groups, most of us are now 3rd and 4th generation, and few ever learned our languages.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

    BTW: My grandfather Baich was from Virhovine, and came over 10 years ahead of my grandmother.  We suspect she was something like a mail-order bride, (Family name: Hydukovich), and she kept house for some relatives of my grandfather’s to pay her way until her turned 18 and got married.  She was from a small town named Brinje.  Anyway, that’s what she told us.  But when my cousins who reside in the Netherlands visited, they learned that she actually from the even smaller town of “Vodotec”!



    Just a note – it’s
    НаБивам обръчите – not – навивам
    Cheers, m8 :D



    My mother was the last person I knew who could read Cyrillac.  I must rely of the computer … at least for now.  Thanks.



    @“Stevan Baich Baker” don’t worry, aaaaa wrote in Bulgarian, not Serbian 🙂 



    Είναι όλα ελληνικά για μένα !



    ^ It’s all greek to me.

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