In Russian, there are a lot of body idioms. Let me ask you a question. Where do Russian people keep their idioms? They keep them in dictionaries, on their computers and, of course, in their heads. Today, we will speak about the part of the body that isn’t just frequently used in Russian idioms, but also helps us not to forget these idioms.


And today we will speak about…We will speak about... By the way, what are we going to speak about? Please, don’t leave this page! Just give me a minute and I’ll recall it. The topic of my article is just running through my head. In Russian, if we try hard to remember something well-known and familiar that we need right now to continue our conversation, but can’t do it because it escapes our memory, we can say Вертится в голове (to run through one’s head).


Example sentence: Тема моей статьи вертится в голове.


More examples:

  • вертеться в голове / вертится в голове.*
  • Как по-английски  будет слово «умный»?
  • Умный…умный …Вертится слово в голове, но никак не могу вспомнить.
  • Михаил Петрович нервно курил и пытался вспомнить имя дамы, с которой провёл несколько незабываемых летних дней  в Одессе. Имя крутилось в голове, но попытки вспомнить были тщетны.


*There is an alternative idiom with the same meaning and usage: вертеться на языке\вертится на языке (It’s on the tip of my tongue).


The Good Student Alexey


Oh, yes, we are speaking about the head. Let me tell you about one good boy who was very bright. What do first grade male students normally think about? Maybe how to pass all their exams without too much effort? Or perhaps where to eat? Or even how to find a pretty girl who will not be too demanding? At least, this is what Russian students think about. But Alexey Petrov wasn’t such a student. There were no girls in his dreams and all his breakfasts, lunches and suppers were cooked carefully by his mother. Alexey liked studying very much and spent all his free time in the University’s chemical laboratory. So, we wouldn’t be lying if we said he was plunged deeply into his studies. In Russian, if we want to say that someone flings himself into an undertaking, we use the idiom Уйти с головой.  


Example sentence: Алексей с головой ушёл в учёбу.


More examples:

  • уйти с головой / уйти с головой во (в) что-то / с головой уйти во (в) что-то.
  • После смерти жены Александр Петрович с головой ушёл в работу. Он стремился к тому, чтобы каждая минута была чем-то занята, и страшные мысли не проникали в его голову.
  • Как только у Николая появился компьютер, он с головой ушёл в компьютерные игры.


Alexey Meets Petrova Anna


One day, when Alexey was trying to turn three pinches of chemical stuff into something great by mixing it with water, he noticed the presence of another person in the room. The person was a new laboratory assistant Petrova Anna. She quickly and awkwardly apologized for disturbing him and ran out. She was running at breakneck speed as she thought that Alexey would be angry with her and would tell the dean of the University about her late presence in the laboratory. In Russian, if we want to say that someone is running really fast and impetuously we use the idiom Бежать сломя голову.


Example sentence: Петрова Анна бежала сломя голову.


More examples:

  • Я мчался к тебе сломя голову в надежде хоть на минуту тебя увидеть, а ты даже на порог меня не пускаешь.


Alexey Falls in Love


And can you imagine what happened to Alexey later? He could not breathe, could not eat and sleep, he was not able to study properly any more. He just lost his head about that girl. In Russian, if we want to say that someone falls passionately in love with someone and sometimes starts acting strangely we use the idiom Потерять голову.  


Example sentence: Алексей увидел Анну и потерял голову.


More examples:

  • терять голову / потерять голову / потерять голову от чего-то.
  • Евгения уже 7 лет была замужем за Михаилом, но, встретив умного и интеллигентного Евгения потеряла голову. К счастью, её любовь не была взаимной, и семья не распалась.*



*This idiom has additional meanings:


To lose one’s poise and to not know how to act in a difficult situation. From my point of view, we don’t use the idiom with this meaning too often now, but classically it has been used quite often.


Example sentence: Ани очень больна, доктор говорит, что может быть воспаление. Я одна теряю голову. Княжна Варвара не помощница, а помеха. (Анна Каренина- Л. Толстой).


To get a false sense of self-importance from success, fame, etc.


Example sentence: Король одерживал одну победу за другой. От своих многочисленных успехов он окончательно потерял голову и считал себя не просто великим правителем своей страны, а посланником Бога.


Alexey Looks for an Answer


For two days, Alexey was racking his brain over asking the girl out. He actually knew nothing about relationships between men and women. If we rack our brains and do not know what to do, we say ломать голову (puzzle one’s brains over something).


Example sentence: Алексей ломал голову над тем, как пригласить Анну на свидание.


More examples:

  • ломать голову\ломать голову над чем-то.
  • Мама долго ломала голову над тем, что приготовить на обед, и в конце концов,  решила приготовить гречневую кашу с тушенкой.



Alexey Gets the Girl


Soon he came up with an idea of a wonderful and amazing romantic date. He really had a good head on his shoulders and not only became Ann’s husband two years later, but was also able to open his own chemical laboratory together with her. In Russian, if we want to say that someone is not only smart, but also wise and quick-witted and is able to make good decisions, we use the idiom иметь голову на плечах (to have a good head on one’s shoulders).


Example sentence: У Алексея была голова на плечах, и через два года он не только женился на Анне, но и сумел открыть с ней на пару собственную химическую лабораторию.


More examples:

  • голова на плечах\иметь голову на плечах\ у него (у неё) есть голова на плечах.
  • У нашего директора есть голова на плечах – он догадался не подписать столь убыточный для нашей фирмы контракт.


For more Russian idioms visit my YouTube channel:


Image Sources


Hero Image by Tambako the Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0)