You will find here 11 Russian idioms which are very popular among native Russian speakers for everyday life. Do you want to sound like a native Russian speaker? Then don’t hesitate to take a look at this article and practice the idioms with your italki teacher or language partner.



1. Вопрос жизни и (или) смерти

Literal translation: a question of life and death.
Meaning: an extremely important matter.


  • Example: Я решился непременно, во что бы то ни стало снова найти этого человека. Отыскать его — это сделалось для меня вопросом жизни или смерти.
    • I made the decision to definitely find this person once and for all, no matter what. The search for him has become an extremely important matter to me.



2. Перемывать косточки (сплетничать as a synonym)

Literal translation: wash up bones, rewash bones.
Meaning: to gossip unkindly about someone.


  • Example: Вы, ребята, пытаетесь от меня избавиться, чтобы спокойно перемыть мне косточки?
    • Guys, do you want to get rid of me so that you can easily gossip about me behind my back?



3. Вертеться (кружиться) как белка в колесе

Literal translation: to go round and round like a squirrel in a wheel.
Meaning: to be extremely busy, to be as busy as a bee.


  • Example: С раннего утра и до позднего вечера Василий вертится как белка в колесе, чтобы обеспечить семью, так как его жена в декретном отпуске.
    • All day long Vasiliy is as busy as a bee earning money (to make provisions) for his family because his wife is on maternity leave.



4. Как рыба в воде

Literal translation: like a fish in water.
Meaning: to feel comfortable, natural, free and easy; or to feel like a duck in water.


  • Example: На этом мероприятии было очень весело и шумно, и Анна почувствовала себя как рыба в воде.
    • It was very joyful and noisy at this event, and Anna felt like a duck in water (felt very comfortable).



5. Вести себя (держаться / быть) тише воды, ниже травы

Literal translation: to behave quieter than water and lower than grass.
Meaning: to be as quiet as a mouse (to be very quiet).


  • Example: Он чувствовал свою вину, потому вёл себя тише воды, ниже травы.
    • He felt at fault; therefore, he was very quiet and discreet.



6. Взять быка за рога

Literal translation: to take the bull by the horns.
Meaning: to act resolutely, come straight to the point; or immediately and bravely addressing the most essential, difficult aspects of the matter.


  • Example: Мы к вам по важному делу. Давайте возьмём быка за рога.
    • We came to you with an important matter. Let us deal with it immediately.



7. Попасть пальцем в небо

Literal translation: to point a finger to the sky.
Meaning: to answer irrelevantly, make an assumption that turns out to be incorrect and absurd.


  • Example: Никогда не следует спешить и суетиться, ибо, спеша и волнуясь, мы девяносто девять раз из ста рискуем попасть пальцем в небо (Салтыков-Щедрин. Недоконченные беседы).
    • You should never be in a hurry, because when you are pressed for time and impassioned, there is a risk to take the wrong sow by the ear 99 times out of 100.



8. Спать без задних ног

Literal translation: to sleep without hind legs.
Meaning: to have a deep sleep.


  • Example: Он проснулся сегодня в 5 утра, чтобы встретить друга на вокзале. За день он так устал, что сейчас спит без задних ног.
    • He woke up today at 5 A.M. to meet his friend at the railway station. He was so tired during the day that he is currently in deep sleep.



9. Водить за нос

Literal translation: to lead by the nose.
Meaning: to deceive, to fool, to cheat, to delude.


  • Example: Она водила его за нос долгое время, а он и не замечал этого, так как был в неё влюблён.
    • She was deceiving him for a long time, and he wasn’t able to notice as he was in love with her.



10. Ежу понятно

Literal translation: even a hedgehog understands (something).
Meaning: very simple information, everyone is able to understand it, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand (something).


  • Example: Даже ежу понятно, что надо бросить курить, если ты начал регулярно бегать по утрам.
    • Everyone understands that you must give up smoking if you have started to jog regularly in the morning.



11. Заварить кашу

Literal translation: to make (to cook) porridge.
Meaning: to make a problem, to create a situation with negative and unfavourable consequences.


  • Example: Я не беру ответственность за эти последствия. Ты сама заварила эту кашу.
    • I don’t take responsibility for the consequences. You created this problem by yourself.
  • If someone is responsible for creating a situation with negative consequences, people may tell this person, Сам заварил кашу, сам и расхлёбывай. This Meaning “you created this problem by yourself, and therefore, you should solve it by yourself.”



So, we have covered 11 popular Russian idioms in this article. Don’t forget to practice them when you speak Russian! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments. Bye. Until next time!


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