12 Famous Russian Sayings, Quotes and Proverbs Every Russian Language Learner Should Master (2024)

12 Famous Russian Sayings, Quotes and Proverbs Every Russian Language Learner Should Master (1)

By 12 Famous Russian Sayings, Quotes and Proverbs Every Russian Language Learner Should Master (2)Kelly Virginia Phelan Last updated:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” —”Hamlet” by William Shakespeare.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” —”Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” by John Lennon.

“The buck stops here.” —Sign on President Harry S. Truman’s desk in the Oval Office.

There are countless examples of well known and famous sayings in every language. Sayings get passed down through generations, become recognized due to the popularity of media or pop culture and are sometimes even misappropriated as a result of mistakes or urban legend.

When John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963 he used the phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) in a speech. Reports of the incident were exaggerated and embellished into an urban myth, stating that the president erroneously declared “I am a jelly donut” and was subsequently laughed at by the crowd. In truth, he proclaimed “I am a Berliner” in grammatically correct German and was cheered by the audience.

All Russians have their любимая русская поговорка (favorite Russian saying). Given the appreciation Russians have for history, art and literature, many famous sayings originate from renowned writers, composers and political figures.

However, there are also plenty of contemporary and funny quotes, proverbs and mottos that you may find amusing and useful as you progress in your Russian studies.

In this post, you’ll find a sampling of the most interesting, entertaining and unusual Russian sayings to add to your arsenal.

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The One and Only Political Quote Every Russian Language Learner Must Know

1. Доверяй, но проверяй.

English meaning: Trust but verify.

Доверяй, но проверяй is an old Russian proverb that was made famous in English by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Reagan used the phrase frequently with Mikhail Gorbachev when discussing nuclear disarmament towards the end of the Cold War, so many people believe the phrase was an American creation. In truth, it’s an old Russian proverb that’s still used and was recently repeated in the popular HBO mini-series, “Chernobyl.”

Famous Quotes from Russian Literature

Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov and many more Russian authors have provided dozens of famous quotes from their literary work over the centuries. If you aren’t ready to read classical literature in the original Russian, there are plenty of easy Russian readers to get you started.

Regardless of your comfort level with Russian literature, here are three of the most famous quotes from the greats you should know:

2. Мой дядя самых честных правил.

Literal translation: My uncle is of the most righteous rules.

English meaning: My uncle, what a worthy man.

12 Famous Russian Sayings, Quotes and Proverbs Every Russian Language Learner Should Master (3)

“Eugene Onegin” is considered a classic in Russian literature. Written by Alexander Pushkin and published in 1833, the novel was written in verse using a rhyming scheme. There are a number of famous quotes from the book which are now a part of everyday Russian language, but the first line may be the most popular and widely used.

This phrase is used to describe an individual who considers himself to be better than others or simply the benchmark against which others should model their behavior.

Pushkin is a must-know name from Russian literary history, so it’s worth learning more about his life and works. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Russian who can’t recite at least a part of one of his poems!

3. Не хочу учиться, а хочу жениться!

English meaning: I don’t want to study, I want to marry!

Denis Fonvizin was a Russian playwright and is best known for two comedies: “The Brigadier-General” and “The Minor.” “The Minor” was a satire about uneducated country gentry and generated a number of popular sayings that were regularly cited by other authors, including Alexander Pushkin.

This proverb is used to make fun of someone who fails to plan appropriately and is often used by school teachers as a means of scolding lazy pupils.

4. Тварь я дрожащая или право имею?

English meaning: Am I a trembling creature or do I have the right?

After spending 10 years in exile in Siberia, Fyodor Dostoevsky published “Crime and Punishment,” one of the most prominent works of world literature. In the novel, the main character, Rodion Raskolnikov, asks this question to justify murdering a dishonest pawnbroker for her money.

This phrase is used to convey when someone finally decides to do something they were frightened to do for a long time.

If you’re looking for a challenge but might be a little apprehensive about tackling “Crime and Punishment” yourself, you could always consider reading the side-by-side English and Russian version.

Everyday Russian Sayings about Love and Luck

5. Любовь зла, полюбишь и козла.

Literal translation: Love is so cruel, you could fall in love with a goat.

English meaning: Love is blind.

Козел is the Russian word for goat but in slang, it’s another way to refer to a male in a less than favorable manner. As a result, this saying means that love is so blind that it could make you fall in love with the wrong guy.

6. —Ни пуха, ни пера. —К чёрту!

Literal translation: “Neither fur, nor feather.” “To the devil!”

English meaning: “Good luck.” “Don’t jinx it!”

Ни пуха, ни пера sounds almost like a Russian tongue twister, but in truth, it’s a common saying that was traditionally used by hunters. One hunter would say “Ни пуха, ни пера” to another when he set out on a hunting expedition as a way of wishing his friend “Good luck.” In response, the departing hunter would say “К чёрту!”

It’s important that anyone who’s told “Ни пуха, ни пера” responds with “К чёрту!” because otherwise, it’s considered bad luck.

Russian Proverbs About Food

If you need to review your Russian food vocabulary, these phrases may help:

7. Яблоко от яблони недалеко падает.

English meaning: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Similar to the English version, this saying suggests that children grow up to be like their parents.

8. Первый блин—комом.

Literal translation: The first pancake is a lump.

English meaning: Not bad for the first time. / Practice makes perfect.

In Russia, блины are pancakes often eaten with sour cream, caviar or salmon. When making блины, the первый блин (first pancake) is often a ком (a lump) because the consistency of the dough may not be quite right.

These pancakes are usually pretty large and very thin (similar to French crepes), which gives them the tendency to turn into lumps in the first place. Hence, the origin of this saying.

Russian Advice from the Animal Kingdom

There are lots of Russian sayings that involve animals, and these two are a great example of that!

9. Делать из мухи слона.

Literal translation: To make an elephant out of a fly.

English meaning: To make a mountain out of a molehill.

In other words, if someone takes something small and exaggerates it until it becomes a big deal, this is the phrase to express that sentiment.

10. Работа не волк—в лес не убежит.

Literal translation: Work isn’t a wolf—it won’t run away into the woods.

English meaning: Don’t worry, the work will still be waiting for you tomorrow.

This quote is from the 1965 movie, “Операция ‘Ы’ и другие приключения Шурика” (Operation “Y” and Shurik’s Other Adventures). In the film, one of the characters is accused of being lazy for being unwilling to complete his assigned duties in construction. In response to the accusation, he states this phrase, indicating the work will always be there, so there’s no need to rush it.

Useful Russian Sayings to Assist in Your Language Learning

Finally, since this is a language learning blog, after all, there’s a lot of valuable information out there to guide your studies. Here are two useful quotes to keep in mind while pursuing your Russian studies:

11. Слово—серебро, молчание—золото.

Literal translation: A word is silver, silence is gold.

English meaning: Listen and learn. / Talk is cheap.

Granted, you need to speak in order to learn Russian, but sometimes it’s helpful to just listen and absorb the language.

12. Тише едешь—дальше будешь.

Literal translation: The quieter you go, the further you’ll get.

English meaning: Slow and steady wins the race.

Lots of people aim to learn a language as quickly as possible, and there are lots of resources out there if this is your goal. Of course, if you remember the parable of the tortoise and the hare, it was the slow and steady tortoise who ultimately prevailed!

Armed with these famous Russian sayings and proverbs, you not only know a little bit more Russian, but also a little bit more about Russian culture!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

12 Famous Russian Sayings, Quotes and Proverbs Every Russian Language Learner Should Master (2024)

FAQs

What is Russian motto? ›

The Russian motto "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" was coined by Count Sergey Uvarov and adopted by Emperor Nicholas I as official ideology.

How do you comfort someone in Russian? ›

Всё будет хорошо (Fsyo búdet harashó)

"Всё будет хорошо" is an impersonal, nice and common way to cheer up a person or a group of people in Russian. It can be used in different situations, when somebody is in trouble, in doubts, is afraid of something that might happen. It is both formal and informal.

What does yolki Palki mean? ›

(Yolki-palki.) Direct translation: Tree sticks. Meaning: A general expression of surprise or annoyance, like “oh my god.”

Why do Russians say blind? ›

Literally blin means pancake. But most often blin is used as an euphemism for a very rude Russian word "blyat". In that sense, it expresses a wide range of emotions, mostly negative: disappointment, frustration or distress. The closest translation to that would be damn!

What does Z mean in Russia? ›

The Latin-script letter Z (Russian: зэд, зи, IPA: [zɛd, zi]) is one of several symbols (including "V" and "O") painted on military vehicles of the Russian Armed Forces involved in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is speculated that the Z helps task forces distinguish themselves from other forces.

What is Russia's symbol? ›

The National Emblem

The double-headed eagle has regained its status as the centerpiece of Russia's state seal, testifying to the continuity of Russian history. The State Seal of the Russian Federation is a rectangular red heraldic shield. At the bottom, it has rounded corners and a pointed middle.

What is the Russian symbol called? ›

The hammer and sickle (Unicode: "☭") is a symbol meant to represent proletarian solidarity – a union between agricultural and industrial workers. It was first adopted during the Russian Revolution, the hammer representing workers and the sickle representing the peasants.

How does Russia show affection? ›

Show Some Affection

Traditionally, Russians would kiss three times on the cheek when meeting. Now, one kiss is more common, but a hug will also be expected. This might not be such a strange act for women, but men from other countries sometimes find it odd.

How do you say love in Russian? ›

How to Say "Love" in Russian | Russian Language - YouTube

What is the most romantic thing to say in Russian? ›

30 Romantic Russian Phrases to Express Your Love. Level A2+
  • Я люблю́ тебя́! - I love you!
  • Ты мне (о́чень) нра́вишься. - I like you (very much).
  • Я не могу́ (жить) без тебя́. - I can't live without you.
  • Ты сво́дишь меня́ с ума́. ...
  • Я сгора́ю от любви́. ...
  • Ты мне нужна́. ...
  • Ты мне ну́жен. ...
  • Ты мне сни́шься ка́ждую ночь.

What is most powerful quote? ›

1. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi. “Live for what's worth dying for, and leverage technology to create the world you wish to see.”

Where lobsters spend the winter? ›

Most lobsters spend the winter hibernating in deep waters, but by June they have come to the shallows, where lobstermen are waiting.

What does Blat mean in Russian? ›

In Russian, blat (Russian: блат) is a form of corruption, which is a system of informal agreements, exchanges of services, connections, Party contacts, or black market deals to achieve results or get ahead. A similar term, "protektsiya", literally means protection, but with more incline to patronage.

What does Cheeki Breeki mean in Russian? ›

The phrase cheeki breeki was derived from a Russian phrase, “А ну, чики-брики и в дамки.” In phonetic English, the full quote is pronounced “A nu cheeki breeki iv damke.” The simple meaning of Cheeki breeki on its own means that everything is alright.

What does ponyo mean Russian? ›

"Ya ponyo"

I've heard Russian speakers mention something that sounds like "ya ponyo" a lot. I figure it means "I understand".

What does the Russian V mean? ›

The V symbol: This is yet another letter used widely during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Many experts have said that it stands for victory for Russia. But according to The Scotsman, “V” is closely aligned with Russian phrased which mean “power of truth” and “task will be completed”.

What does the letter Z mean in the Bible? ›

Z in Hebrew is Zayin and it means 'sword' or 'a weapon of the spirit.

How did Russia get so much land? ›

How Did Russia Get So Big? - YouTube

What is Russia's national flower? ›

Russia. The national flower of Russia is chamomile.

What is the national fruit of Russia? ›

Apple is the most popular fruit in Russia. We cook different dishes with apples, for example apple pie, duck with apple, apple pancakes, apple jam and so on. However, it's rather hard question…still I would answer that apple is the national Russian fruit!

Why is Russia called bear? ›

The Russian Bear (Russian: Русский медведь, romanized: Russky medved) is a widespread symbol (generally of a Eurasian brown bear) for Russia, used in cartoons, articles and dramatic plays since as early as the 16th century, and relating alike to the Russian Empire, the Russian Provisional Government and Russian ...

What is Russia's national food? ›

Pelmeni. Pelmeni is considered the national dish of Russia. They are pastry dumplings are typically filled with minced meat and wrapped in a thin, pasta-like dough. They can be served alone, slathered in butter and topped with sour cream, or in a soup broth.

What are Russia's colors? ›

horizontally striped white-blue-red national flag. Its width-to-length ratio is 2 to 3. Tsar Peter I the Great had ambitious plans to transform Russia into a modern state.

Why does Russia still use the red star? ›

During the 1930s, Soviet publications encouraged the practice of decorating a New Year's tree, known as a yolka (Russian: Ёлка). These trees were often decorated with a red star, a practice that has continued in Russia since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

How do Russians express anger? ›

Here are the most common angry Russian phrases you can use to tell people what to do (or not to do!).
  1. Заткнись (Zatknis') ...
  2. Прекрати (Prekrati) ...
  3. Оставь меня в покое (Ostav' menya v pokoye) ...
  4. Проваливай (Provalivay) ...
  5. Я больше не хочу тебя видеть (Ya bol'she ne khochu tebya videt') ...
  6. Не лезь ко мне (Ne lezʹ ko mne)
May 10, 2020

How do you yell in Russian? ›

Learn the Top 10 Phrases to Use When You're Angry in Russian

How do you express a surprise in Russian? ›

ого Another of my favorites is ого, which sounds like "oh-hoh!" This word expresses surprise, shock, or disbelief.

What do you say in a Russian accent? ›

How To Speak With A Russian Accent - YouTube

How do you say F word in Russian? ›

The context is similar to the word 'f*ck'. For example, Иди на хуй ('Idi na hui') means 'Go f*ck yourself' and Хуй знает ('Hui zna-et') means 'Who the f*ck knows? '

How do you say no in Russian? ›

How to Say "No" in Russian | Russian Language - YouTube

How do you say yes in Russian? ›

The most common way to say yes in Russian is Да ("dah").

What does Bleen mean in Russian? ›

It's блин, literally "pancake". It's a minced oath for блядь (literally "whore"), a Russian swear word.

How do you tell someone to stop in Russian? ›

How to say "Stop" in Russian - YouTube

How do you express disappointment in Russian? ›

Expressing disappointment: Это ужасно!

If you are disappointed by something, or want to explain how bad a situation is, you can use this common Russian expression.

What is a Russian exclamation? ›

ёлки-палки! euphemism for an obscene expression; exclamation, expresses surprise or disappointment. Podcast: Ёлки зеленые! ёлки зелёные! euphemism for an obscene expression; exclamation, expresses surprise or disappointment.

How do you get someone's attention in Russian? ›

How to get someone's attention in Russian - YouTube

What is a common Russian greeting? ›

1. Здравствуйте/Здравствуй The workhorse of Russian greetings, здравствуйте is the most common way to say hello. It may be a mouthful, but is definitely worth taking the time to learn. Здравствуйте is often used in the most formal situations.

How do you say daddy in Russian accent? ›

Say "Mother" & "Father" in Russian | Russian Language - YouTube

What does Ruski mean? ›

sometimes disparaging + offensive. : a native of Russia : russian.

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